SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — One of San Francisco’s most famous residents, former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, is suing the city over its “antiquated” and flawed sewage system.
Montana, his wife, and dozens of other Marina residents are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit after their homes were flooded with raw sewage during relentless rainstorms last winter.
Powerful atmospheric rivers drenched the city with rain in December of 2022 and January 2023. “A mix of raw sewage and storm water flowed in and around plaintiffs’ properties, permeating the soils, walls, and floors, and depositing highly contaminated and toxic fecal and other raw sewage matter in and around plaintiffs’ homes,” according to the lawsuit, filed on August 24.
During one storm, more than five inches of rain dumped on San Francisco is less than 24 hours. Photographs shot on New Year’s Eve show knee-high murky brown water flooding around the Marina.
More than 50 residents who joined the lawsuit live along on Marina Boulevard.
“San Francisco is unusual among major cities in the Western United States, in that its sewage and storm water system is combined. The part of this system that runs through the Marina is antiquated. The system routinely gets overwhelmed, overflows, and inundates plaintiffs’ properties and neighborhood with untreated sewage and contaminated water,” according to the suit filed by the Law Offices of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, and Schoenberger.
The lawsuit states, “The inadequacy of San Francisco’s combined sewage and storm water system to handle the storm water and sewage created by even modest winter storms is well known to the city.”
The city was allegedly aware of storm drainage and sewer system shortfalls around the Marina from past winter storms in 2014, 2016, and 2021, attorney Douglas Saeltzer wrote. In October 2021, a rainstorm passed through San Francisco that allegedly resulted in 4.5 million gallons of untreated wastewater inundating homes in the Marina, according to the suit.
“The city knew, or should have known, that the Marina district was a specifically vulnerable neighborhood,” Saeltzer wrote. The situation went from bad to worse when the city closed the Pierce Street Outfall in May of 2021. The outfall had previously allowed overflow sewage from the Marina to flow directly into the Bay.
“City officials knew, or should have known, that decommissioning the Pierce Street Outfall would further increase destructive inundations of properties located in the Marina neighborhood, because the decommissioning of the Pierce Street Outfall would increase both maximum inundation depth and enclosed flood volume on Marina Boulevard in the event of heavier precipitations,” Saeltzer wrote.
A significant number of the components of the storm drainage and sewer system were constructed over 100 years ago, the lawsuit claims. The system is so old and deteriorated that it is unable to handle even “modest winter storms,” the suit states.
Jen Kwart, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, described the New Year’s Eve storm of 2022 as “almost unprecedented.”
“The intensity and duration of the storm that hit the City on December 31, 2022, was almost unprecedented. It was the strongest storm to hit San Francisco in more than 170 years. The storm, and not the city’s infrastructure, was responsible for widespread flooding throughout the city. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in court,” Kwart wrote.
The civil lawsuit accuses the city and county of San Francisco, Public Works Department, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission of negligence, causing a nuisance, creating dangerous conditions, and failing to maintain public improvement. The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial and compensation for property damages.