Fortifying a Community Response to Future Floods in San Leandro

The Problem

In San Leandro, hazards such as earthquakes, winter storms, and flooding can overwhelm the city’s small staff, which does not have the capacity to respond to all emergency calls during natural disasters. This became apparent during the winter storms of 2017, when the city received many emergency calls due to flooded streets, downed trees, power outages, overflowing creek beds, and other storm-related emergencies.

The Solution

Through the Cities of Service Prepared Together program, the city connected with residents to create an integrated response that included trainings for residents, an adopt-a-drain program, and a mini-grant competition.  

  • The city began with an adopt-a-drain program, in which residents committed to cleaning and maintaining stormwater drains on a regular basis. The city built on the connections with volunteers from that program to engage residents in additional efforts.
  • The city held disaster preparedness trainings for residents, such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and Map Your Neighborhood, in which residents went block to block to learn about preparedness needs and resources in their neighborhoods–for example, who has a fire extinguisher, and who would need wheelchair assistance.
  • The city awarded mini-grants to support community resilience projects in vulnerable communities.

The Results

By connecting with citizens and building on those relationships, the city increased citizen preparedness for natural disasters and achieved the city’s highest level of volunteerism in years.

  • The city held a coloring contest with the school district to raise awareness for its adopt-a-drain program, which directly led to the adoption of 50 storm drains by community members.
  • The city also awarded mini-grants to seven community groups. The groups held cleanup events, distributed emergency kits to families and homebound seniors, planted trees, and hosted preparedness trainings for residents.
    • Friends of San Leandro Creek used a mini-grant to clear 70 pounds of invasive plants from the water and banks.
    • Mini-grant recipients removed more than 240 pounds of trash from public spaces in total.
    • In the Woodland Avenue neighborhood, residents distributed fire extinguishers and first aid kits to other community members, followed by instructional trainings.
  • Additionally, San Leandro held a number of disaster preparedness trainings, attended by more than 200 people, and Map Your Neighborhood events.  

Keys to Success

Cities of Service helped San Leandro city staff better integrate the city’s citizen engagement programs and reach new communities.

  • During Map Your Neighborhood events and CERT trainings, the city recruited volunteers to adopt drains.
  • Through its Prepared Together programs, San Leandro city staff made new connections with community members leading to increased participation in preparedness trainings. Residents have also begun to offer trainings for their neighbors.  


It’s amazing how much work volunteers can do in a couple days. Not only are they having a lot of fun but it’s a lot of benefit. That’s why we’re looking forward to working with them and extending this project.

Winston McKee, Park Supervisor, San Leandro Creek Restoration