More flood victims seeking lawsuit against City of San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — Another group of homeowners in San Diego neighborhoods impacted by last month’s catastrophic flooding announced on Monday their intent to file a class-action lawsuit against the city for the extensive damage that they say was preventable.

The suit, which has yet to be filed with the county court, is the latest in a series of legal challenges facing the city in the wake of the Jan. 22 floods that left hundreds of homes across the county with some form of water damage.

Mincing no words, local activist, Shane Harris, and former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, announced the class-action lawsuit against the City of San Diego on behalf of the homeowners impacted by the Jan. 22 flooding.

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“It’s gaslighting, that’s what he’s doing when he says, ‘this was an act of God. Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry you guys.’ No, this was an act of man, not an act of God. You could have prevented this if you got in four years ago and prioritized what you saw could potentially happen,” said Harris.

In a press conference on Monday, Harris said the suit focuses on the claimed failures by the city and that they were aware of issues with their aging storm water system, but failed to adequately address it.

He pointed to a scathing 2018 audit of the city’s storm water system and failed efforts in 2022 to close a nearly $1.6 billion deficit for critical infrastructure projects through a ballot measure as examples of San Diego officials’ awareness and inaction on the issue at the center of the suit.

“There was an effort by the storm water department, knowing this issue was looming, to bring light to their severe under funding issue,” Harris said. “Specific projects were named, including the Chollas Creek culvert expansions, which is the cause of flooding in southeastern San Diego all the way through (Barrio Logan).”

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Through the lawsuit, Harris says homeowners are seeking monetary damages for the destruction caused by the flooding and for San Diego to admit fault in failing to prevent its catastrophic impacts.

They say they have pages of evidence both from residents in the areas of southeast San Diego asking hardest hit on Jan. 22 asking the city to take care of the storm water system, as well as proposals presented to the city highlighting what could happen if the issue is ignored — some data going back 20 years.

“These are all the different instances over the years, over the last 20 years, where the city has been advised that their funding is inadequate,” explained attorney Michael Aguirre. “This is what’s called in the law an admission. An admission is binding in a court of law, and provides the basis for a judgment against the city.”

Aguirre, along with his partner Mia Severson, will be helping victims maneuver the complicated process of filing claims.

The group is also asking the court to file an injunction against the city to require it to establish a storm water utility, prioritizing the storm water issues once and for all.

“We need a new storm water system. I walked in people’s homes where their water was up to their neck, whole cars swimming in a lake in the middle of Encanto!” exclaimed Harris, adding, “don’t tell me that’s not a priority.”

FOX 5 reached out to the city who said they do not comment on pending cases.

San Diego leaders have announced other possible solutions to help close the funding shortfall, including a ballot measure to increase the water quality tax households pay from the current 95 cents.

San Diego exploring new tax measure to fund stormwater system projects

In a press conference after the Jan. 22 storm, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the real cost for the city’s storm water projects, which includes those to address flooding and water pollution, is closer to $10 each month per household.

“Rather than go to court and spend three or four years with the city hiring outside council and dragging it out, what we’re suggesting is that the city process the claims and pay the claims, making sure that they have proper safeguards,” Aguirre said.

This group has also launched a food drive, but are asking instead for donated restaurant gift cards. You can send them or drop them off at People’s Association of Justice Advocates at 6125 Imperial Ave.

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