A Chula Vista family says the city is to blame for flooding that trashed their home during last December's rainstorms, and they're suing for nearly $700,000 to cover the cost of the damages.
The Melendrez family says the city of Chula Vista is not maintaining a drain canal that runs near their home on First Avenue behind Hilltop Park.
They say the canal backs up when it rains due to debris clogging the flow of water. During a torrential rainstorm last December, three feet of water flooded the first floor of the Melendrez’s home. Most of their belongings on the first floor, some of them priceless, were ruined.
Six months and thousands of dollars later, the Melendrez’s home is repaired. What’s still not fixed, they say, is the source of the problem. The canal.
“It just seems like it's just a seasonal thing, every season it's something different and I'm tired. I'm tired of having to worry about it now,” Lucy Ludwig-Melendrez said.
The Melendrez family says the city has no kept up with their duty to maintain the canal, and they fear further devastation will happen the next time it rains.
“Everything just starts to get overgrown. There's Palm trees in that canal,” Sergio Melendrez said.
An NBC 7 camera crew spotted two palm trees, a shopping cart, and overgrown vegetation in the canal upstream from the Melendrez’s home.
“The week after we flooded in December, that was the first time that I'd seen the city come out and clean this part of the storm drain. We haven’t seen them since,” Sergio said.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family by La Jolla based attorney Evan Walker, is calling on the city to reengineer the path of overflowing water near the canal, which the family attorney says also presents a public safety hazard at the nearby park.
Meanwhile, the Melendrez’s say the city told them it isn’t responsible for the damage to their home because they bought the property so close to a drainage canal.
The suit claims the flooding has gotten worse overtime due to continued neglect, as well as development to the east that forces more water through the canal than before.
“They basically said it was our fault for buying in this zone,” Sergio said. “My response is why would the city ever issue a valid permit to build it if it was unsafe?”
The Melendrez family is asking for $672,000 to cover the repairs and loss in home equity. Though the suit has been filed, it hasn't been served to the Chula Vista City Attorney. City officials have not commented on the lawsuit.