Local business blames homeless for flooding problems

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SAN DIEGO – Employees at the Tom Duffy Wood Flooring Warehouse have spent the last few days preparing the warehouse for the upcoming rainstorm.

“The rain just comes pouring through here,” said Shawn Lewis, branch manager.

Lewis showed FOX 5 the corrosion all around his Stockton-area warehouse Thursday morning.

“There’s mold and mildew. The calcium deposits are all along this wall,” said Lewis.

He said flooding in the area during heavy rains has damaged his business.

“The storm drain has never been able to handle that amount of water especially on downpours,” he said.

Lewis said it’s been a problem for more than a decade. When the storm drain overflows, the floodwater seeps into the ground and into his business.

“It seeps through the cinder block on both my west side of my building and the north side walls,” said Lewis.

He doesn’t just blame the storm drain system, but also what’s in it.

“I myself have crawled the drains and found the problems,” said Lewis.

He said the problem is the number of homeless people living inside the pipe.

“They’re actually accessing the storm drain and putting items of clothing trash, shopping carts and other forms of debris,” said Lewis.

When it rains, the items become a domino effect, washing down the drain and creating a giant clog.

“This is a problem area we have of trash debris,” said Anthony Santacroce, public information officer with the City of San Diego.

Santacroce said the city has taken proactive steps to clear the drain, despite the fact it belongs to Caltrans.

“We are out here weekly vacuuming this pipe,” said Santacroce. “We want to make sure it’s operational for the coming storms.”

Caltrans confirmed ownership of the pipe and told FOX 5 crews have been out to inspect the storm drain and did not identify any problems. The agency also said it will be closely monitoring the drain system during any heavy rainstorms.

“I’ve never been able to get a point of contact on this problem,” said Lewis.

He said to him it doesn’t matter who owns the pipe, it just comes down to keeping the homeless out.

“They need to block access to the storm drain, like prison cell bars over the opening so it still allows water go through, but it keeps people out,” said Lewis.

He said he’s in the process of filing a claim with the city. Santacroce said once that happens, a proper investigation of damage or liability can take place.