The Battle for Pine Ave.

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 27, 2023

Los Osos resident, Kenyan Moothart, stands outside his Pine Avenue home and the wall of sandbags and railroad ties that were put out to save his and his neighbor’s homes in the Jan. 8-9 storm. Photo by Neil Farrell

The Jan. 8-9 storm that hit Los Osos caused much destruction and despair, as flooding overwhelmed homes, and a mudflow devastated homes in the Vista Court neighborhood. 

But not far away a battle royal was also being waged against the rain runoff, bringing a slew of neighbors together in a pitched battle on Pine Avenue.

Kenyan Moothart, who lives in the 1800 block of Pine Ave., contacted Estero Bay News just a day after the storm to bring attention and give thanks to the small army of volunteers that came out to help save his home, and those of his neighbors.

The worst of the storm started around 11:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, he explained. The street was already flooded and the water started entering his home and that of his neighbor’s.

“There was about a 30-minute downpour,” Moothart said. “It turned Pine into a river.”

Pine Avenue — which is a straight, downhill shot from Los Osos Valley Road to Ramona Avenue and like most of Los Osos has no gutters or storm drains — has long been controversial; first in the 1990s when the local advisory council persuaded the County to do something about speeding traffic on what had come to be called, “The Pine Avenue Raceway.”

The County put in a series of speed bumps on Pine to slow the traffic. But that led to rain runoff being directed off the roadway and into some of the homes along Pine.

This recent storm was more of the same. Moothart said that day water entered his garage and was a few inches deep at his front door. Inside, the water started coming in under their kitchen door into the house, which they were mostly able to stop with a wet/dry shop vac. “Luckily,” he said, “we still had power.”

Moothart said within just a few minutes, people started coming out to help shore up the bump curbs along Pine, against the onslaught of water.

“It was awesome,” Moothart said. “People just showed up; neighbors from up the street, from all over the neighborhood, bringing sandbags.”

Across the street is a vacant lot that had a big pile of railroad ties stacked on it. Moothart said they commandeered the wood to line the street and stacked sandbags on top of that. “We put up a layer of sandbags down the entire block,” Moothart said.

Within about 10 minutes of the sandbag wall going up, Moothart said the rain started to let up, and just in the nick of time too. “We were watching the water go back down, and thank God, because we were out of options.”

When the rain stopped, the runoff dropped over the next two hours, Moothart said. He credits the volunteers that put out the wood and sandbags and prevented a bad situation from becoming much worse. 

How did everyone know they needed help? Moothart wasn’t sure but he was listening to a radio scanner when the fire department was called out, and some social media posts too said they needed help; plus some folks just driving by noticed the problem developing. 

One guy he said, went home, put on rain gear and came back to help. And just when they thought all was lost, was when the cavalry showed up.

He feels the small curbing along Pine isn’t enough to handle a big runoff like this. “It’s not so much the amount of water,” Moothart said, “as how fast it comes down.” 

When the rain hits hard for a good amount of time, the curbs are not high enough. “There are definitely water diversion issues” on Pine, he said. 

For him though it’s the fact that neighbors, indeed many complete strangers, answered the call and came out to help. 

“I feel like the community came together and helped out,” he said. “Without these people’s help, I have no doubt we would have had 2-3-feet of water in our house.”

It should be noted that on that very same day, a storm water retention pond situated above Vista Court broke and sent a flood of mud and debris flowing downhill and into homes. 

There too, neighbors came to the rescue to help those folks, who lost most everything, dig out from the mud in an effort that has continued for days afterwards.

As for the railroad ties, Moothart promised he’d put them all back where they got them.

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