Councilor Marni von Wilpert and Mayor Todd Gloria sign a piece of pipe. Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office
Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert met with residents of the Otay Mesa neighborhood Thursday to celebrate what is being touted as a record year for the city’s underground pipe replacements.
Gloria made the decision to bolster repair teams a year ago — adding a second internal pipeline replacement team — and since then the city has replaced 3,960 linear feet of pipe.
“We need major infrastructure upgrades across San Diego because previous administrations have failed to invest properly in our neighborhoods, from road repairs to underground pipes,” Gloria said. “By hiring more pipe repair teams, we are making a down payment on our future by replacing those aging pipes now before they rupture and require costly emergency repairs later.
“I want to commend the hard work of our stormwater crews who are out there every day doing the work for the people we proudly serve,” he said.
The mayor invited residents and Stormwater Department staff working on the project to join him to sign the last piece of pipe before crews installed it to complete the three-month pipeline replacement project in a residential neighborhood south of Silver Wing Complete Recreation Center.
The second pipeline replacement team began work in January, doubling the number of people available for repairs and replacements to 30. These teams are tasked with proactively addressing pipe failures to avoid costly emergency repairs.
“When it rains, stormwater flows from rooftops, sidewalks and other urban surfaces onto city streets, picking up pollution and trash in the process and eventually entering our oceans and bays untreated. Investing in our stormwater infrastructure must be a top priority to keep our ocean healthy and clean and to preserve the natural beauty that makes San Diego our home,” said von Wilpert, chair of the council’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Adding more stormwater repair teams to our city workforce was a big step in the right direction, and now we are working with the mayor to secure state and federal funding to continue this vital infrastructure repair work,” she said.
According to Gloria – who based much of his mayoral campaign on infrastructure – most of the city’s stormwater system was built in the 20th century and has exceeded its useful life, leading to system degradation and failure. Age combined with the historical underfunding of the drainage system has increased the risk of failures that could cause flooding in the neighborhood.
The Otay Mesa project is one of 1,800 known stormwater main outages citywide that, if not repaired as a matter of priority, would likely affect the surrounding neighborhood with sinkholes, road closures and safety impacts, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. The Stormwater Department accelerated the project after a sinkhole was discovered, causing damage to two nearby properties.
To address the $1.4 billion infrastructure backlog, the department secured $54 million in federal funding for projects in South Mission Beach and Los Penasquitos Lagoon. In addition, the city council recently approved a low-interest federal loan, paving the way for an investment of up to $733 million in stormwater projects over the next five years.
“One of the great benefits of proactively replacing pipelines is that we can avoid a major outage that would require expensive emergency repairs,” said Bethany Bezak, interim director of the Stormwater Department. “The additional repair team gives us more flexibility as we prioritize projects and perform spot repairs across the city.”