Tenants of Sebastopol’s Barlow district pin flooding problems on owner
John Stewart and a team of volunteers Thursday were pumping water out of his restaurant, Zazu Kitchen and Farm, at The Barlow. They already had spent 24 hours trying to contain the floodwaters that overtook the high-end Sebastopol shopping district after floodgates were overwhelmed early Wednesday.
Down the street, Adelle Stoll was mopping out gray water from her store while taking a mental inventory of how much merchandise was destroyed. Water-logged shoes were stacked in front of the shop that bears her name. There were remnants of a shoe line she was just about to launch.
Neighboring tenants gathered at her shop, swapping stories about the damage sustained by their stores, which remained closed. A gallery owner said she lost a $100,000 painting in the flood.
Barney Aldridge, manager and owner of The Barlow, rushed across the property in knee-high rain boots Thursday, coordinating cleanup efforts as the floodwaters slowly receded from storefronts. Located along the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the shopping center was among the dozens of areas that suffered severe flooding after this week’s intense rains.
Aldridge said his team was still assessing the damage, as well as how much it would cost to clean up the muck.
A city-approved flood preparedness program crafted by Aldridge and his advisers that took six years to develop was supposed to prevent this type of extensive damage from happening if implemented correctly, Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin said.
Two weeks leading up to the storm, there were concerns at the city that parts of Sebastopol could flood if heavy rains continued, McLaughlin said, but they had no real concerns about The Barlow, despite it being located in a flood zone.
“The management side at The Barlow assured us they were ready to go and ready to institute a flood plan, and so we had no reason to doubt them otherwise,” McLaughlin said. “All the work we did to ensure that couldn’t happen and I am now saddened.”
Aldridge declined to discuss what happened in the hours leading up to the flooding at The Barlow and instead focused on the steps being taken to support the tenants and reopen stores as soon as possible.
“I wasn’t there when my team started following the flood plan, but all the flood logs were deployed,” Aldridge said Thursday, referring to the barriers meant to protect tenants’ stores when installed. “Getting these businesses to get reopened, that is our main priority.”
A flood advisory was issued for Sonoma County early Tuesday. Protocol states that when a flood advisory is in effect for Sebastopol, The Barlow managers must issue an internal flood warning to tenants urging them to prepare for possible flooding, according to the flood preparedness plan. If waters from the Laguna de Santa Rosa continue to rise, The Barlow must install flood barriers up to 10 feet in front of businesses, addressing those shops under imminent threat first, according to the plan.
When it was first approved by the city, the plan was tested from start to finish, taking 50 employees 12 hours to install all the barriers, said Glenn Schainblatt, the city’s flood plan manager.
It’s unclear whether all the barriers were installed Wednesday.