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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The City Council, Nov 17, approved amendments to chapter 18 of the Floodplain Management Plan in the Oxnard City Code.
The ordinance approved various sections of chapter 18, so it complies with the California Floodplain Management Ordinance. The Public Works & Transportation Committee approved the ordinance.
The amendments to City Code Chapter 18 include adding two new definitions, modifying five existing definitions, a clarification regarding the dates of the first flood insurance study, and the flood insurance rate maps. The city also needed to clarify the permit review process and the freeboard requirements in Zone AO. They also needed clarification on standards for subdivisions and adding a regulatory floodway within Zones A1-30 and AE.
City Engineer Tatiana Arnout presented the ordinance to the council and said Oxnard participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.
"As a participating community, the city is mandated to adopt and enforce ordinances to reduce the risk of flooding that meet or exceed the federal requirements," she said. "In return, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) makes floodplain insurance available to property owners throughout the city. We are also a community rating system class-seven city, which means that any residents who need flood insurance automatically receive a 15 percent discount. Approving these amendments help us maintain that discount for our residents."
The Oxnard City Council adopted the current floodplain management ordinance on Sept. 9, 2008.
"On Sept 30, 2016, FEMA released the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) that affect the Oxnard Coastline, in particular," she said. "On May 26, 2017, FEMA officially notified the city of the changes in the FIRMS. Shortly thereafter, FEMA held public meetings with Oxnard residents affected by the map changes."
Community members have been asking about the building height implications due to the map changes since Aug 2017.
"In a nutshell, they're losing two feet per floor of habitable space, with the existing coastal zone ordinance requirements," Arnout said. "On Sept 5, 2017, the city and the county sent a joint letter to FEMA with technical comments and appeals for the maps. Fast forward to Feb 8, 2019, the Oxnard Planning Division and the Public Works Department held a public meeting at Hollywood Elementary School to discuss the preliminary map changes. That was followed by a notice sent to the affected property owners with the change information on April 9. On June 30, I received an email from FEMA stating that the city must make revisions to the floodplain management chapter by Jan 29, 2021. The city received an official letter on July 29."
The city must comply to maintain its eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program. There were no changes to the preliminary maps because of the appeals.
"Section 18-9 of the current city code, chapter 18, already includes language that any subsequent revisions of the flood insurance study or maps are adopted by reference as the basis for establishing the areas as a special flood hazard," she said. "Therefore, we aren't seeking specific approval on that. We are required to get the approval of the FEMA recommended changes to the City Code Chapter 18, which will support the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program and maintain the city's continued eligibility in that program and the community rating system for that 15 percent discount for our residents. The implication of the changes as they relate to the development of those affected areas, now that FEMA has deemed them effective as of Jan 2021 has impacts on building heights are being discussed with the community in a couple of months."
The item does not impact the city financially.
During council comments, Bert Perello said he appreciates the city is dealing with FEMA.
"We have another area within the City of Oxnard with the SCR3 levee and FEMA and those neighborhoods, Southbank, Windsor North, River Ridge, and Sierra Linda, and I am greatly concerned," he said. "I am also concerned with SCR1 and River Park. This has been an issue. This is something that needs attention. When mother nature decides to act, there's not much you can do to hold it back. I'm grateful for the staff keeping us informed and keeping their eye on the ball. In the past, that had not happened. I support this."
The item passed unanimously.