City, MTDB Settle With 11 Families in ’83 Flood

Times Staff Writer

After two years of litigation, the City of San Diego and the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) have agreed to pay $1.5 million in damages to 11 families who were victims of a 1983 flood in south San Diego, which they claim was the result of industrial development in the area.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial Monday.

When the city built the South San Diego Industrial Park, the developer raised the land level to accommodate the park’s vast parking and storage lots. The flood victims, who lived along adjacent cul-de-sacs on Lauriston and Paxton drives, claim that this change affected the area’s ability to absorb and contain overflow water from nearby Nestor Creek.

The settlement, which was reached Thursday afternoon before Judge William Todd, calls for the construction of a $500,000 detention basin to prevent flooding. Detention basins, which are frequently used in the Los Angeles area, are new to San Diego. The basins will collect and contain overflow water until the level of Nestor Creek recedes.


According to Gary Elster, the flood victims’ attorney, the South San Diego Industrial Park was not the only cause of the flood. The San Diego Trolley route runs along an overpass that crosses Nestor Creek and blocks the water’s flow. The creek flows through pipes maintained by MTDB that run under the overpass.

During the initial stages of the industrial park development, a consulting engineer sent the city a letter warning about the inadequate pipes. According to Elster, the city ignored the letter and proceeded with the development.

The pipes were unable to handle the deluge of water that rushed through them after exceptionally heavy rains. This factor, combined with the area’s industrial developments, caused the severe flooding, the attorney said.

The catch basin will be constructed on the southernmost lot of the industrial park. The city also plans to replace the overpass drainage pipes with larger pipes.


None of the 11 families carried flood insurance, but most were able to file claims for structural damage. The city also agreed to pay $200,000 to the flood victim’s insurance companies, who had previously paid for structural damage claims.