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City of Santa Barbara
Land Development Team Bulletin
Volume #160, 9/7/17




The LDT Bulletin is one way we are increasing communication between the City and our customers. These bulletins will also be located in our lobby area at 630 Garden Street.

We hope you'll find the contents of this issue useful. However, if you prefer not to receive this publication in the future, simply send us an email to:


A city’s Floodplain Management Ordinance (FMO) is a key regulatory tool used to mitigate and/or avoid flood hazard losses in a community. An FMO applies to all parcels that are within a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) special flood hazard area, also known as flood zone. FEMA requires communities to officially adopt an FMO as a condition of offering subsidized flood insurance through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Federal lending institutions require owners of properties within flood zones to purchase FEMA NFIP insurance as a condition of offering and purchasing loans. This has influenced communities throughout the nation to participate in the FEMA NFIP and adopt an FMO. Like many U.S. cities, the City of Santa Barbara made that choice in 1978 and today, more than 1,500 properties within the City are insured through the FEMA NFIP program.

During a 2016 floodplain management audit by FEMA and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), it was discovered that the City’s current FMO was outdated and did not contain all of the current and mandated federal and state text. City staff committed to updating the City’s FMO and delivering that updated Ordinance to FEMA by September 2017 in order to better protect the more than 3,000 parcels within flood zones and to avoid sanctions from FEMA.


The FMO that was attached to the August 1, 2017 City Ordinance Committee hearing item included changes that FEMA and DWR mandate and that cannot be avoided. On August 1, 2017, the City’s Ordinance Committee directed staff to remove all voluntary text from the proposed FMO and include the voluntary options in the September 12, 2017 City Council Report instead of the proposed ordinance.  Consequently, on September 12, 2017, City Council will be given 3 additional voluntary changes that staff recommends be added to the proposed Ordinance in order to increase the flood resiliency of our community. Those voluntary changes included:

  • Requiring flood resistant construction to be used in new construction that is below the base flood elevation;
  • Requiring one foot of freeboard for one- and two-family buildings in accordance with the national standard ASCE 24; and
  • Specifying the most effective locations on a structure for locating flood vents

It is important to note that one to two feet of freeboard was mandated in the state’s adoption of the 2016 California Building Code, Section 1612.4 by referencing the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publication 24 (Attachment 4). This action by the state makes freeboard mandatory for all buildings other than one- and two-family buildings. Attachments to the September 12, 2017 City Council report lists the regional communities that have a freeboard requirement for new and substantially improved one- and two-family buildings.  

During the development of the proposed Ordinance, staff engaged stakeholders and affected property owners for their review and input. The following meetings were facilitated by staff prior to the City’s August 1, 2017 Ordinance Committee review of the proposed ordinance:

  • Internal City stakeholder meetings (2)
  • External private civil engineer meetings (2)
  • Review and comment by FEMA & State DWR   
  • Public meeting with parcel owners that are in a flood zone

Staff will be returning to City Council on September 12, 2017 for a public hearing on the adoption of the City Ordinance Committee approved Floodplain Management Ordinance.  Please contact Chief Building Official, Andrew Stuffler ( or Senior Plans Examiner, Curtis Harrison ( or call (805) 564-5485 for more information. 

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City of Santa Barbara/Community Development
630 Garden Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
T. (805) 564-5485, ext. 2653