Mk, Home Buyer in Palo Alto, CA

Flooding map and info for Palo Alto?

Asked by Mk, Palo Alto, CA Sat May 9, 2009

When driving around Palo Alto, I notice that there are quite some creeks from south to north. Some are big such as Adobe in Mitchell Park. Some are small. They all cut through the city from west (the foothill) to east (the bay). These creeks potentially can lead to flooding when they get full in a heavy rain. I remember it was pretty bad in old Palo Alto last year. One resident (a lawyer?) even went to sue the city. I heard they are categorized into several groups. Can someone here help educate me about the flooding map/zone, risk and other related info/website for the city of Palo Alto?

Thanks in advance


Help the community by answering this question:


Hi MK,
There is a site on the city web page that tells you lot's of info about flooding potential zones in PA. It is…

You can look-up any address and see if it is in a special flood zone which requires flood insurance or in a zone with the potential for floooding, but not likely to happen less than every 100 years and does not need flood insurance.

Also, some areas are in flood zones because of creeks, and some because of the bay. The creek flooding is more likely to happen, but generally less devasting. If the bay floods, which is a more remote possibility, it is potentially more serious. Most of the creeks in south palo alto have been laid with cement so those areas no longer require flood insurance unless they are subject to the bay flooding. San Francisquito Creek has not been flood proofed, and was the one that caused all the trouble in the El Nino Flood in 1998.

FEMA sets the catagories for flooding potential. If you are in catagory A or AH you need flood insurance, and in X you don't.

There is an ongoing battle over San Francisquito Creek with some people wanting to keep it in its natural state and others wanting to flood proof it. There is also a never ending battle over storm drain systems which are old and are even more likely to cause a flood than the creeks or bay.

If a home is in a special flood zone, A or AH, then any new construction, or any major remodeling requires the home to be elevated above the flood level set by FEMA. Also, you can not build a basement in a special flood zone in Palo Alto.

The areas in PA that are subject to San Francisquito Creek Flooding are north University and Crescent Park. South Palo Alto, east of Ross is subject to bay flooding. there are a few other areas, but thoose are the major ones.

Web Reference:
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 9, 2009
Dear Mk

Below is a link to the website. Enter the address of your concern in the box located on upper left corner of the page. The site will generate a Flood Map for you.…

Hope you find this information helpful. Let me know if you need anything. I'll be glad to help you out.

Joseph Chen
Keller Williams Realty
Palo Alto
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 21, 2010
Try this: input a PA address on the Site, You will find the flood zone info for that particular address as well as the overall flood-zone map in the background. However, I noticed that for a specific address it may not be as accurate as the one from the city gov. My understanding is that the whole city is at risk of flooding. The term, "non-flood" zone is used loosely and relatively.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue May 19, 2009
Marcy and others,

Thanks as always.

The city site helps. It allows to check home by home. Is there a site showing the area map so that we can roughly know the flood zone? Is west of El Camino not in the flood zone? How about St Claire Garden?

Actually, I do not quite understand the method to decide a flood zone. When I drive around, I see it is pretty much flat from Univerisity Ave, old Palo Alto, Midtown to St Garden. I am puzzled why some of them are in flood zone and some are not.

I also heard all Palo Alto are in some kind of flood zone. Is it true?


0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 17, 2009
I would not consider any of the houses in the flood zone so that I can sleep well. Some of the areas in PA are only at about three feet above sea level.…
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 14, 2009
I would like to know the opinions of others on this forum how much more they would pay for a Palo Alto house (everything else being the same) in a non-flood zone vs. a flood zone? I'm just curious to know. 10% more? 5% more?

Let's say that flood insurance is roughly $1000 per year.

10% on a $2M house is $200K
5% on a $2M house is $100K.

I'll start with my answer: I would be willing to pay 10% more, since I'm concerned enough about the Al Gore movie to think we'll see more and more flooding in Palo Alto.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 10, 2009
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