Late last month, The Barlow, a high-end boutique business district in Downtown Sebastopol, experienced extensive flooding following several days of incessant rainfall. One month later, remediation and repairs are well underway, although it is uncertain whether or not some businesses will attempt – or even be able – to reopen.
After the tenants received notice via email from the management on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 26, that the floodgates may be implemented if the rains persisted, they received no further notifications until the following morning, when The Barlow was several meters underwater.
Following the chaotic event, building officials will be conducting a comprehensive review of everything that unfolded.
While acknowledging that both the tenant and the management had certain responsibilities in the event that the flood plan would be implemented, Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin said that little went according to procedure.
“Tenants needed to evacuate early or the floodgate process [could not] even start,” he said. “Many tenants did not evacuate when they were supposed to.”
Dozens of locals flooded into the district in the days following the floods, kayaking in between buildings and down streets, feeling firsthand the gravity of just how bad the circumstances were. In some locations, waters were as deep as five to six feet.
In an interview with The Press Democrat, McLaughlin voiced his disappointment with how things unfolded during the harsh flooding.
“The management side at The Barlow assured us they were ready to go and ready to institute a flood plan, and so we had no reason to doubt them otherwise,” McLaughlin said. “All the work we did to ensure that couldn’t happen and I am now saddened.”
The tides began to shift soon after the waters receded, as Sebastopol does not consider itself to be a community that dwells on negativity.
The Barlow management team hired Belfor Property Restoration, a large international corporation specialized in disaster relief, to handle the cleanup and repairs sitewide.
In a statement released by their website last week, The Barlow expressed optimism that damaged businesses would start to reopen within the month. “Cleanup continues at The Barlow and we have several businesses reopening in the next few weeks,” they said.
Guayakí Yerba Mate, which has its headquarters in The Barlow, made available some extra storage within their warehouse so that neighboring tenants could move in their undamaged items and other goods to help expedite the cleanup and repair work.
While the devastation and heartbreak has been palpable, many businesses within the upscale business district hope to reopen in the coming months. Zazu Kitchen + Farm, Community Market, and Two Dog Night Creamery are just a few of the many.
Village Bakery, which initially stressed the difficulty ahead and considered closing its doors for good, plans to reopen within the next few months, according to Lisa Schroeder, the company’s manager.
Ownership at Crooked Goat began selling t-shirts in March in an effort to raise funds for the ongoing repairs, as well as started a GoFundMe, like many other businesses did within the district. They may open by the end of April, if all goes to plan.
McLaughlin emphasized the community effort involved in returning The Barlow to its once-pristine condition. The City of Sebastopol even expedited permits for the repair work, moving all of them “to the top of the pile,” McLaughlin said.
Although tenants and management experienced problems with the floodgates, there are currently no plans to revamp the system.
In the meantime, carpenters, electricians, painters, and tradesmen of all kinds are working long hours to ensure that these businesses open as soon as possible, with some even aiming for this week, according to McLaughlin.
As recently as a few weeks ago, the question was whether or not some of these businesses would ever open again. Now, the question is whether or not some of these businesses will open this week.