Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2021-04-02T09:04:57-07:00

Have additional questions that are not answered here? Feel free to call Foster City Public Works at (650) 286-3270. For immediate construction-related issues, please call our Project Hotline at (800) 213-6320. For questions about recreational water use, please visit the Recreational Water Use Information page.

Background and Purpose

Why are these levee improvements needed?2021-03-02T09:43:20-08:00

Although the levee has so far withstood storm/tide surge challenges, it is in need of critical upgrades and safety improvements. In 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determined that Foster City’s levee system does not meet minimum requirements for flood protection. Further, in order to obtain the necessary permits to implement needed improvements, regional regulations say that construction must meet year 2050 sea level rise protection requirements.

If no action is taken, the community would be at heightened flood risk and be designated as a flood zone. FEMA designation as a flood zone would require property owners with federally-insured mortgages to pay an estimated $2,000-$3,000 in mandatory, annual flood insurance. Rents could increase if those flood insurance costs are passed along to those renting properties.

What is the Foster City Levee Improvements Project?2021-03-02T09:43:27-08:00

The Foster City Levee, owned and maintained by the City, surrounds the majority of the outer bay-front perimeter of the City to provide flood protection. The Levee Improvements Project is the largest public works project in the City’s history and will structurally and aesthetically improve and enhance the levee.

The project will increase the height and width of the levee to improve protection against storm/tide surges, meet sea level rise projections through the year 2050, and make the levee more resistant to earthquakes. Depending on specific location, these improvements will be implemented with conventional sea wall, earthen levee, or hybrid sheet pile wall. Additionally, the project’s associated redevelopment and widening of the Levee/Bay Trail will provide the community with an enhanced, more inviting recreation destination.

What are the benefits of this project?2021-03-02T09:43:49-08:00

The project will maintain FEMA accreditation of the levee and protect Foster City homes, schools, businesses, and essential City services and infrastructure during storms and high tides, and from future sea level rise. The improved levee will be more resistant to earthquake damage, and will prevent FEMA designation of the City as a flood zone, thus avoiding requirements for homeowners to purchase expensive, permanent flood insurance.

The project includes associated redevelopment and widening of the Levee/Bay Trail, which will provide the community with an enhanced, more inviting recreation destination, maintaining the natural beauty of the levee and our scenic views. The improvements are designed to enhance levee trail access, usability, and landscaping for walkers, runners and cyclists.

How is the project funded?2021-03-02T09:44:53-08:00

Foster City voters passed the Levee Improvement Bond Measure P in 2018, authorizing the City to issue $90 million in general obligation bonds to fund these critical levee improvements ($85 million were issued on August 5, 2020). The Measure P levy will start appearing on Foster City property tax bills starting this fall (2020) and will continue for 30 years. The first-year rate will be approximately $36 per $100,000 of assessed property value. Subsequently, the rate will be an estimated $33 annually, with continuing decreases assuming assessed property valuations continue to rise.

How is the community assured that these funds will be spent responsibly?2021-03-02T09:45:06-08:00

Measure P included fiscal accountability provisions. An independent citizens’ oversight committee ensures all funds are spent as promised on voter-approved projects, and all funds stay local to improve the Foster City levee system. No funds from the measure can be used for administrators’ salaries.

Is Foster City coordinating with neighboring cities (San Mateo, Belmont, Redwood City) about improvements to their levees?2021-03-02T09:45:19-08:00

Our focus is on protecting the Foster City community, and we are in communication with neighboring communities around the common goal of flood protection. Other jurisdictions are in various stages of addressing this need. Foster City is leading the way in implementing these improvements, thanks to the foresight of our community members, who approved Measure P in order to more quickly move forward.

Where can I get background information about the project?2021-03-02T09:45:42-08:00

Please visit the project homepage or the menu above for the project description, background, and links to documents and reports related to the Levee Improvements Project.

Have other cities in the San Francisco Bay Area successfully challenged FEMA’s coastal analyses to determine flood zones?2021-03-02T09:53:17-08:00

Other municipalities have unsuccessfully challenged the scientific basis behind hydrodynamic and wave modeling studies FEMA used to determine flood hazards applicable in San Mateo and Foster City. Cities and agencies that have lost their appeals against FEMA’s San Francisco Bay coastal analysis include the City of Alameda, the City of Belvedere, the City of Redwood City, the City of San Bruno, the City of South San Francisco, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Results from recent appeals are here: https://www.floodsrp.org/panels/

Because Foster City is moving forward now with the Levee Improvements Project, we are that much closer to completing an improved levee that will better protect Foster City homes, schools, businesses, and essential City services and infrastructure during storms, high tides, and future sea level rise.

Is Foster City in a flood zone, and is flood insurance mandatory now?2021-03-02T17:39:03-08:00

No, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has temporarily placed the City in a ‘seclusion zone’ status while the City makes progress to increase the height of the levee.

Flood insurance is not presently required in Foster City. However, if the height of the levee is not increased, FEMA accreditation of the levee will be lost, and the City would be placed in a flood hazard zone when FEMA’s next Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is released. At that time, flood insurance would be required for property owners with federally backed loans. 

Construction Activities and Impacts

When does construction start, and how long will it last?2021-03-02T09:46:12-08:00

Construction will start in fall of 2020, and is anticipated to continue for approximately three years.

What are the expected construction impacts to the nearby neighborhoods?2021-03-02T09:47:03-08:00

While the City and its contractors will make every effort possible to minimize disturbances during this project, there will be some unavoidable impacts to neighborhoods near the construction. Among the impacts to be expected are an increase in noise, dust, vibration, and traffic delays in the areas near where levee work is taking place. The project team will implement measures to mitigate impacts to the extent feasible.

Additionally, use of the Levee/Bay Trail will be interrupted as significant earth moving work and other construction activities take place at various locations. We appreciate your patience and cooperation as this vital work is completed.

For your safety, do not enter any closed, fenced-off areas of the levee trail or equipment storage/staging areas, even if you don’t see active construction. Be aware of trucks and heavy equipment traveling to and from the work sites, pay attention to detours, and follow instructions from flaggers and safety signage.

What are the hours and days of construction?2021-03-02T09:47:19-08:00

Construction will take place Monday – Friday between 8 am and 5 pm. Saturday work will take place between 9 am and 5 pm. The contractor may prepare work prior to and after these hours (such as setup and staging), but will not operate any heavy machinery or equipment outside of the approved work hours.

Will I be able to walk, ride my bike, and roller blade on the levee during construction?2021-03-02T09:47:51-08:00

During construction, the contractor will need to close portions of the Levee Trail for public safety and to maintain the most efficient construction schedule (which will also result in a shorter overall construction duration and reduced length of impact to the public).

We know that this is a much-used recreational destination for our community and understand the challenges that the closure may pose. We appreciate your patience and support during construction on this vital project that will protect Foster City for generations to come.

How will neighbors in the project area be informed of construction near their properties?2021-03-02T09:48:05-08:00

The City and/or contractor will reach out to neighbors with information about what will be happening, for how long, and what impacts to expect. This outreach will typically be via email (including a weekly construction email update) and/or door-hangers. In some instances, direct mail or even personal contact (observing social distancing protocol) may be utilized. You can subscribe to receive construction updates and obtain more project information from the project website. If you have any construction related questions or concerns, please call the Levee Project hotline at (800) 213-6320.

How are the environment and wildlife being protected during construction?2021-03-02T09:48:13-08:00

The City has received permits for this project from seven different agencies at the federal, state, and regional levels. These permits and associated regulations provide the requirements for protecting wildlife and the environment during the project. The regulations address species such as the Ridgway’s rail, California black rail, and salt marsh harvest mouse; marine mammals and fish; vegetation and habitat on and around the work areas; bay water and associated wetlands. A biologist will be present to monitor temporary impacts to marsh habitat during earthen fill placement, wall installation, and restoration activities.

How will the project affect traffic in the construction area?2021-03-02T09:48:28-08:00

Construction traffic will be routed via designated haul routes. A traffic management plan will be in place for the duration of the project. Residents can expect an increase in truck traffic to and from the levee at various work locations, including temporary, lane closures on Beach Park Boulevard or East 3rd Avenue. Electronic signboards will be posted in advance to indicate any closures as well as specific time frames.

Is there access to parks that are along the bayfront, such as Port Royal Park, Sea Cloud Park or Bridgeview Park?2021-03-02T09:52:41-08:00

Currently the trails that are attached to the parks along the bay front are not open to the public. We encourage community members to explore other parts of Foster City and the surrounding areas. Right here in Foster City, we have great parks and tracks including, Vintage Park, Edgewater Park, Baywinds Park, Catamaran Park, and Leo Ryan Park, plus tracks like at Port Royal Park. You can learn about the City’s parks and recreational events by visiting https://www.fostercity.org/parksrec.

How will the City be addressing any graffiti on the K-rails?2021-03-02T09:52:49-08:00

As part of the project, the contractor is required to maintain the K-rail and handle any required K-rail clean up. Foster City residents may always report tips on graffiti to our Anonymous Tip and Graffiti Hotline at (650) 286-3323. Find more information about the hotline at www.fostercity.org/police/page/anonymous-tip-and-graffiti-hotline.

Why are the streetlights being removed along Beach Park Boulevard?2021-03-02T09:53:33-08:00

The approximately 60 streetlights on the east side of Beach Park Boulevard from Shorebird Park to Bridgeview Park must be removed because they are in the direct path of some of the Levee Improvements Project construction work, including grading and movement of construction equipment. 

The streetlights are scheduled to be removed beginning February 16, 2021. New streetlights will be reinstalled toward the end of the project, following the completion of the levee earthwork operations. (Exact dates are to be determined.) 

We recognize that this is an inconvenience and disruption to the people who live on Beach Park Boulevard. The City appreciates the community’s patience and understanding through this and other disruptions to your daily lives, as your levee is improved and upgraded. We are well on the way to having an improved levee which will better protect Foster City homes, schools, businesses, and essential City services and infrastructure during storms, high tides, and future sea-level rise – and an enhanced Levee Trail which everyone in the community can enjoy.

Are there dates for when new streetlights will be installed along the east side of Beach Park Boulevard?2021-03-02T09:53:52-08:00

The approximately 60 streetlights on the east side of Beach Park Boulevard from Shorebird Park to Bridgeview Park will be replaced toward the end of the project, following the completion of the levee earthwork operations. (Exact dates are to be determined.) 

We recognize that this is an inconvenience and disruption to the people who live on Beach Park Boulevard. The City appreciates the community’s patience and understanding through this and other disruptions to your daily lives, as your levee is improved and upgraded. We are well on the way to having an improved levee which will better protect Foster City homes, schools, businesses, and essential City services and infrastructure during storms, high tides, and future sea-level rise – and an enhanced Levee Trail which everyone in the community can enjoy.

Why does the project have to take place now and why can’t it be postponed until after the COVID-19 pandemic?2021-03-02T17:39:55-08:00

We understand that this is a difficult time for many people during the ongoing pandemic. However, it is not feasible to postpone the Levee Improvements Project, and leave the City and its residents at risk both from flood or earthquake, and additional financial burden. The City must show progress on improving the levee to comply with the requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to remain in a “seclusion zone” – i.e., temporary exclusion from being designated as a flood zone. Should progress be delayed at this point, FEMA could withdraw the seclusion zone designation, subsequently causing all of Foster City to be reclassified as unprotected (Flood Zone), requiring property owners with federally backed loans to acquire costly flood insurance. Additionally, the City has already issued $85 million in bonds as approved by Measure P, approved in 2018 with nearly 81% support.

Why can’t the trail remain open on parts of the levee where there is not active construction?2021-03-02T17:41:53-08:00

The 2017 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) assumed a five-phase construction plan in which no two contiguous (adjacent) segments of the Bay Trail would be closed at one time. Subsequent to certification of that EIR, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the regulatory agency with permitting jurisdiction over the Project, by issuance of its permit in December 2019 allowed the entire Bay Trail to be closed in a single phase. The BCDC approval relied on both the 2017 EIR and its own staff report analyzing conformance with the Bay Plan (which is a certified regulatory document under CEQA).

The BCDC staff report states that, “Given that the project can be phased only to the extent that existing access points line up with City approved haul routes for construction equipment access, completing the project in a single phase will be the shortest and most cost effective phasing alternative. A single closure will also be the safest and least disruptive to the community because it will set the detour routes for the term of the project.” Per Section 21080.5(d) and Section 15251(h) of the CEQA Guidelines, BCDC’s certified Bay Plan exempts the BCDC from the requirement to prepare an EIR on its actions and instead may rely on its staff report as the “functional equivalent” of an EIR under CEQA Guidelines Section 15252 in addition to the EIR.

Consistent with the BCDC Permit, to achieve cost, timing, and accessibility efficiencies, and to maximize public safety the contractor has developed a Bay Trail closure plan (subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances, weather, or other factors):

  • Phase 1: Southern project limit to Shorebird Park – October 2020 – January 2023
  • Phase 2: Shorebird Park to San Mateo Bridge – January 2021 – November 2022
  • Phase 3: San Mateo Bridge to northern project limit – April 2021 – December 2022
Why is work starting in the southern area of the levee, rather than in the far-north portion where there are no homes or residents who may be disturbed by the construction activity?2021-03-02T17:42:30-08:00

The southern portion of the project has the most restrictions in terms of permits and sensitive habitat considerations (primarily identification of endangered species nesting activity during certain months), which affect the allowable “windows” within which work may take place. As a result, there is less overall time to get the work done in the southern area. There are fewer such restrictions in the northern area. The contractor started in the south so that during the times impacted by those construction windows, potentially for several months, they can move to the north and continue making progress; then return to the south when the window is again open.

Additionally, the City requires one of the two trail access points to Belmont and Redwood Shores (in the southern area) to remain open at all times to reduce the impact of trail closures to residents, as well as for safety. This additional aspect also must be accounted for when sequencing the work.

Starting in the north could extend the project time significantly, thereby increasing the overall impact to residents. Sequencing the work in this way is intended to allow for completion of the project within the anticipated three years, thus reducing the overall length of impact to the community, while protecting the environment.

How will dirt fill be transported from the Sea Cloud Park staging area to the work sites?2021-03-02T17:43:08-08:00

The contractor will typically use one of two methods to transport fill: for levee areas nearer to Sea Cloud Park, they will use smaller dump trucks that can travel along the levee; for levee areas further from the Sea Cloud Park, they will use haul trucks on surface streets. The work will be sequenced so as not to damage any recently-constructed areas of the Levee Trail. Additional staging areas have been identified which will be used to minimize transport of fill on surface streets.

Will trail access to Redwood Shores, Belmont, and San Mateo be maintained during construction?2021-03-02T17:43:46-08:00

As part of the project design, two small bridges will be built at the crossings to and from Belmont and Redwood Shores. The City has ensured that during construction either the bridge/access point near Baffin Street OR the one near Rock Harbor Lane will remain open for public use. 

During construction, the southernmost trail access to the City of San Mateo (leading to La Selva Street at Kimberly Way) is closed. Access to San Mateo is available via surface streets using the crossing at East Hillsdale Boulevard.

Will the dirt bike area or “BMX Park” be accessible after the Levee Improvements Project is complete?2021-03-09T19:31:41-08:00

Once the project is complete, all of the shoreline access points to public land, including a number of trails, will be restored using a combination of stairs and ADA accessible ramps. Access points to private property in the area, which is sometimes cited as part of the “BMX Park,” however, will be available to property owners only.

We encourage community members to explore other parts of Foster City and the surrounding areas. Right here in Foster City, we have great parks and tracks including, Vintage Park, Edgewater Park, Baywinds Park, Catamaran Park, and Leo Ryan Park, plus tracks like at Port Royal Park. You can learn about the City’s parks and recreational events by visiting https://www.fostercity.org/parksrec.

Why is the Phase 3 closure starting on April 1, when it was originally planned to happen in May?2021-04-01T09:25:09-07:00

The Phase 3 trail closure from the San Mateo Bridge to Anchor Road is beginning sooner than planned due to early construction progress. Closing this section of trail will help keep sheet pile machines moving and maintain progress toward opening the trail as soon as possible.

How were residents notified about the Phase 3 closure?2021-04-01T09:26:33-07:00

The community was informed through Construction Update newsletters (first one sent out late February), press releases, social media posts and reminders, the project website and the March 11 Community Update. Signage was also in place the first week of March.

Can you describe the small-scale lightweight concrete mobile mixer anticipated to occur in the project area and what the concrete will be used for?2021-04-01T09:27:07-07:00

The small-scale lightweight concrete mobile mixer is projected to operate in the closed construction lane on the east side of Beach Park Boulevard. Lightweight cellular structural fill concrete will be mixed on site with a mobile truck and pumped with foam (air) to be used as structural backfill as part of the levee backfill along Beach Park Boulevard. It will be used in lieu of ‘dirt’ fill.

There has been discussion with the design engineer and the contractor about the mix design and that is why the lightweight structural concrete operation has not been finalized.

While the term “concrete batch plant” was mentioned in earlier project messaging, there is no stationary concrete batch plant on Beach Park Boulevard or south of Shorebird Park in the traditional sense of a concrete batch plant. If you do an internet search for “batch plant,” it brings up large stationary vessels of commercial concrete companies mixing cement, water and aggregate. These types of batch plants are much larger and typically fill concrete trucks that provide concrete for sidewalks, foundations, walls and what you may be more used to seeing as “concrete.”

The reinforced concrete caps on top of the sheet pile wall are formed with steel reinforcement, and concrete is pumped and placed from concrete trucks that have been filled with concrete from a traditional concrete batch plant from wherever the source of concrete is being mixed. The concrete used for the concrete caps of sheet piles and delivered by concrete trucks is not being mixed on Beach Park Boulevard.

Improved Levee and Trail

Where can I see detailed designs for the levee improvements?2021-03-02T09:50:29-08:00

Detailed plans are available on the project web page: Documents and Resources. If you have questions about specific design plans for the levee segment nearest to your property, you can contact Foster City Public Works staff at (650) 286-3270. Immediate construction concerns may be reported to the project hotline at (800) 213-6320.

What will the levee look like when it is finished?2021-03-02T09:50:39-08:00

Renderings of typical levee segments are available on the project About page under “What Will the Levee Look Like?

Why was a natural metal surface selected instead of a painted coating for the exposed sheet pile wall?2021-03-02T09:50:57-08:00

A natural metal surface was selected for a number of reasons:

  • Over time, a painted metal surface will exhibit ‘weeping’ through the coating, leading to streaking and staining of the wall surface, and requiring frequent paint touch-ups to maintain a uniform appearance. New paint over existing sun-worn paint can look uneven and splotchy
  • A natural metal surface will age nicely and wear more uniformly than a coated surface, minimizing localized areas of corrosion, and maintaining consistency in the overall condition of the wall. This uniformity and consistency leads to superior longevity than a painted surface.
  • The natural metal surface will save money in initial construction costs, and in annual routine maintenance costs. Over its lifetime, a painted wall would need several expensive repaints, in addition to touch ups associated with graffiti removal.
  • Removal of graffiti paint from the natural metal surface will result in a more uniform look than paint touch ups, which would be unlikely to match the existing faded paint. To address cases of graffiti, removal techniques would be applied in lieu of paint touch ups, revealing the natural metal surface and allowing it, over time, to return to its patina.
What will be the height of the levee wall?2021-03-02T17:44:30-08:00

The final height of the levee wall will vary. From Baywinds Park to the Beach Park Boulevard/Foster City Boulevard intersection, the final height of the wall, including wall cap, will be 3.5 feet above the walking surface. That is the minimum height required for safety due to the drop-off that is created on the bay side of the levee structure.

For most of the remaining levee structure, the final height of the wall will be 2.5-to-3.5 feet  or less above the walking surface. There is a short section of the levee wall north of the San Mateo bridge where the concrete wall will be nearly four feet, as the trail slopes down to existing grade. Just north of the San Mateo Bridge there is a wall which is 6.5′ high on the inboard side of the trail where we could not raise the Levee Trail underneath the bridge and maintain required clearances. By placing it on the inboard side, we preserve the bay views and avoid the “tunnel” effect that would result if it was placed on the outboard (bay) side. Some portions of the finished levee do not require a wall.

What is the projected height of the levee and wall together on Beach Park Blvd, and on which side of the pathway will it be?2021-03-02T17:44:59-08:00

The overall height of the levee and wall along Beach Park Boulevard from Bridgeview Park to Shorebird Park will generally be 5-6 feet higher than the current elevation; however, the height of the wall from the walking surface will only be 3.5 feet. The wall will be on the bay side of the pathway.

What will be the width of the Levee Trail?2021-03-02T17:45:30-08:00

The finished Levee Trail will consist of a 12-foot asphalt concrete path, plus a four-foot decomposed granite shoulder on the bay side, and a two-foot decomposed granite shoulder on the inboard (land) side (totaling 18-feet width) with the following exceptions:

  •   A section of 10-foot wide path connecting to City of San Mateo pathways (which are also 10-feet wide), and;
  •   A section with a 12-foot wide path with one three-foot shoulder from Port Royal Park to the southern end of the project.

The narrower sections are limited to trail and shoreline access ramps, which meet or exceed accessibility requirements.

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