Chapter 17.84
FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT REGULATIONS*

Sections:

17.84.010    Statutory authorization, findings of fact and purpose and methods.

17.84.020    Definitions.

17.84.030    General provisions.

17.84.040    Administration.

17.84.050    Provisions for flood hazard reduction.

17.84.060    Variance procedure.

*Prior history: Prior code §§ 9800—9816; Ords. 1093 and 1259.

17.84.010 Statutory authorization, findings of fact and purpose and methods.

A. Statutory Authorization. The Legislature of the State of California has in Government Code Sections 65302, 65560, and 65800 conferred upon local governments the authority to adopt regulations designed to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of its citizenry. Therefore, the city council of the city of San Luis Obispo does hereby adopt the following floodplain management regulations.

B. Findings of Fact.

1. The flood hazard areas of the city of San Luis Obispo are subject to periodic inundation which results in loss of life and property, health and safety hazards, disruption of commerce and governmental services, extraordinary public expenditures for flood protection and relief, and impairment of the tax base, all of which adversely affect the public health, safety, and general welfare.

2. These flood losses are caused by uses that are inadequately elevated, floodproofed, or protected from flood damage. The cumulative effect of obstructions in areas of special flood hazards which increase flood heights and velocities also contributes to flood losses.

C. Statement of Purpose. It is the purpose of this chapter to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare, and to minimize public and private losses due to flood conditions in specific areas by legally enforceable regulations applied uniformly throughout the community to all publicly and privately owned land within flood-prone, mudslide [i.e., mudflow] or flood-related erosion areas. These regulations are designed to:

1. Protect human life and health;

2. Minimize expenditure of public money for costly flood control projects;

3. Minimize the need for rescue and relief efforts associated with flooding and generally undertaken at the expense of the general public;

4. Minimize prolonged business interruptions;

5. Minimize damage to public facilities and utilities such as water and gas mains; electric, telephone and sewer lines; and streets and bridges located in areas of special flood hazard;

6. Help maintain a stable tax base by providing for the sound use and development of areas of special flood hazard so as to minimize future blighted areas caused by flood damage;

7. Ensure that potential buyers are notified that property is in an area of special flood hazard; and

8. Ensure that those who occupy the areas of special flood hazard assume responsibility for their actions.

D. Methods of Reducing Flood Losses. In order to accomplish its purposes, this chapter includes regulations to:

1. Restrict or prohibit uses which are dangerous to health, safety, and property due to water or erosion hazards, or which result in damaging increases in erosion or flood heights or velocities;

2. Require that uses vulnerable to floods, including facilities which serve such uses, be protected against flood damage at the time of initial construction;

3. Control the alteration of natural floodplains, stream channels, and natural protective barriers, which help accommodate or channel floodwaters;

4. Control filling, grading, dredging, and other development which may increase flood damage;

5. Prevent or regulate the construction of flood barriers which will unnaturally divert floodwaters or which may increase flood hazards in other areas; and

6. These regulations take precedence over any less restrictive conflicting local laws, ordinances and codes. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)

17.84.020 Definitions.

Unless specifically defined below, words or phrases used in this chapter shall be interpreted so as to give them the meaning they have in common usage and to give this chapter its most reasonable application.

A zone. See “Special flood hazard area (SFHA).”

“Accessory structure” means a structure that is:

1. Solely for the parking of no more than two cars; or

2. A small, low-cost shed for limited storage, less than one hundred fifty square feet and one thousand five hundred dollars in value.

“Accessory use” means a use which is incidental and subordinate to the principal use of the parcel of land on which it is located.

“Alluvial fan” means a geomorphologic feature characterized by a cone or fan-shaped deposit of boulders, gravel, and fine sediments that have been eroded from mountain slopes, transported by flood flows, and then deposited on the valley floors, and which is subject to flash flooding, high velocity flows, debris flows, erosion, sediment movement and deposition, and channel migration.

“Apex” means a point on an alluvial fan or similar landform below which the flow path of the major stream that formed the fan becomes unpredictable and alluvial fan flooding can occur.

“Appeal” means a request for a review of the floodplain administrator’s interpretation of any provision of this chapter.

“Area of shallow flooding” means a designated AO or AH zone on the flood insurance rate map (FIRM). The base flood depths range from one to three feet; a clearly defined channel does not exist; the path of flooding is unpredictable and indeterminate; and velocity flow may be evident. Such flooding is characterized by ponding or sheet flow.

Area of special flood hazard. See “Special flood hazard area (SFHA).”

“Base flood” means a flood which has a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year (also called the “one-hundred-year flood”). “Base flood” is the term used throughout this chapter.

“Base flood elevation (BFE)” means the elevation shown on the flood insurance rate map for zones AE, AH, A1-30, VE and V1-V30 that indicates the water surface elevation resulting from a flood that has a one percent or greater chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

“Basement” means any area of the building having its floor subgrade, i.e., below ground level, on all sides.

Building. See “Structure.”

“Development” means any manmade change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavation or drilling operations or storage of equipment or materials.

“Encroachment” means the advance or infringement of uses, plant growth, fill, excavation, buildings, permanent structures or development into a floodplain which may impede or alter the flow capacity of a floodplain.

“Existing manufactured home park or subdivision” means a manufactured home park or subdivision for which the construction of facilities for servicing the lots on which the manufactured homes are to be affixed (including, at a minimum, the installation of utilities, the construction of streets, and either final site grading or the pouring of concrete pads) is completed before February 20, 1979.

“Expansion to an existing manufactured home park or subdivision” means the preparation of additional sites by the construction of facilities for servicing the lots on which the manufactured homes are to be affixed (including the installation of utilities, the construction of streets, and either final site grading or the pouring of concrete pads).

“Flood, flooding, or floodwater” means a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from the overflow of inland or tidal waters; the unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; and/or mudslides (i.e., mudflows); and the condition resulting from flood-related erosion.

“Flood boundary and floodway map (FBFM)” means the official map on which the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Federal Insurance Administration has delineated both the areas of special flood hazards and the floodway.

“Flood insurance rate map (FIRM)” means the official map on which the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Federal Insurance Administration has delineated both the areas of special flood hazards and the risk premium zones applicable to the community.

“Flood insurance study” means the official report provided by the Federal Insurance Administration that includes flood profiles, the flood insurance rate map, the flood boundary and floodway map, and the water surface elevation of the base flood.

“Floodplain or flood-prone area” means any land area susceptible to being inundated by water from any source. See “Flood, flooding or floodwater.”

“Floodplain administrator” is the community official designated by title to administer and enforce the floodplain management regulations.

“Floodplain management” means the operation of an overall program of corrective and preventive measures for reducing flood damage and preserving and enhancing, where possible, natural resources in the floodplain, including but not limited to emergency preparedness plans, flood control works, floodplain management regulations, and open space plans.

“Floodplain management regulations” means this chapter and other zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, building codes, health regulations, special purpose ordinances (such as grading and erosion control) and other application of police power which control development in flood-prone areas. This term describes federal, state or local regulations in any combination thereof which provide standards for preventing and reducing flood loss and damage.

“Floodproofing” means any combination of structural and nonstructural additions, changes, or adjustments to structures which reduce or eliminate flood damage to real estate or improved real property, water and sanitary facilities, structures, and their contents. For guidelines on dry and wet floodproofing, see FEMA Technical Bulletins TB 1-93, TB 3-93, and TB 7-93.

“Floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot. Also referred to as “regulatory floodway.”

“Floodway fringe” is that area of the floodplain on either side of the regulatory floodway where encroachment may be permitted.

“Fraud and victimization” as related to Section 17.84.060, means that the variance granted must not cause fraud on or victimization of the public. In examining this requirement, the city council will consider the fact that every newly constructed building adds to government responsibilities and remains a part of the community for fifty to one hundred years. Buildings that are permitted to be constructed below the base flood elevation are subject during all those years to increased risk of damage from floods, while future owners of the property and the community as a whole are subject to all the costs, inconvenience, danger, and suffering that those increased flood damages bring. In addition, future owners may purchase the property, unaware that it is subject to potential flood damage, and can be insured only at very high flood insurance rates.

“Functionally dependent use” means a use which cannot perform its intended purpose unless it is located or carried out in close proximity to water. The term includes only docking facilities, port facilities that are necessary for the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers, and ship building and ship repair facilities, and does not include long-term storage or related manufacturing facilities.

“Governing body” is the local governing unit, i.e., county or municipality, that is empowered to adopt and implement regulations to provide for the public health, safety and general welfare of its citizenry.

“Hardship” as related to Section 17.84.060 means the exceptional hardship that would result from a failure to grant the requested variance. The city council requires that the variance be exceptional, unusual, and peculiar to the property involved. Mere economic or financial hardship alone is not exceptional. Inconvenience, aesthetic considerations, physical handicaps, personal preferences, or the disapproval of one’s neighbors likewise cannot, as a rule, qualify as an exceptional hardship. All of these problems can be resolved through other means without granting a variance, even if the alternative is more expensive, or requires the property owner to build elsewhere or put the parcel to a different use than originally intended.

“Highest adjacent grade” means the highest natural elevation of the ground surface prior to construction next to the proposed walls of a structure.

“Historic structure” means any structure that is:

1. Listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places (a listing maintained by the Department of Interior) or preliminarily determined by the Secretary of the Interior as meeting the requirements for individual listing on the National Register;

2. Certified or preliminarily determined by the Secretary of the Interior as contributing to the historical significance of a registered historic district or a district preliminarily determined by the Secretary to qualify as a registered historic district;

3. Individually listed on a state inventory of historic places in states with historic preservation programs which have been approved by the Secretary of Interior; or

4. Individually listed on the city’s master list of historic structures, provided this local inventory is consistent with state-approved or certified historic preservation programs as determined by the Secretary of the Interior or directly by the Secretary of the Interior in states without approved programs.

“Levee” means a manmade structure, usually an earthen embankment, designed and constructed in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control or divert the flow of water so as to provide protection from temporary flooding.

“Levee system” means a flood protection system which consists of a levee, or levees, and associated structures, such as closure and drainage devices, which are constructed and operated in accord with sound engineering practices.

“Lowest floor” means the lowest floor of the lowest enclosed area, including basement (see “Basement” definition).

1. An unfinished or flood resistant enclosure below the lowest floor that is usable solely for parking of vehicles, building access or storage in an area other than a basement area, is not considered a building’s lowest floor, provided it conforms to applicable nonelevation design requirements, including, but not limited to:

a. The flood openings standard in Section 17.84.050(A)(3);

b. The anchoring standards in Section 17.84.050 (A)(1);

c. The construction materials and methods standards in Section 17.84.050(A)(2); and

d. The standards for utilities in Section 17.84.050(B).

2. For residential structures, all subgrade enclosed areas are prohibited as they are considered to be basements (see “Basement” definition). This prohibition includes below-grade garages and storage areas.

“Manufactured home” means a structure, transportable in one or more sections, which is built on a permanent chassis and is designed for use with or without a permanent foundation when attached to the required utilities. The term “manufactured home” does not include a “recreational vehicle.”

“Manufactured home park or subdivision” means a parcel (or contiguous parcels) of land divided into two or more manufactured home lots for rent or sale.

“Market value” is defined in the city of San Luis Obispo substantial improvement and damage procedures. See Section 17.84.040(B)(2).

“Mean sea level” means, for purposes of the National Flood Insurance Program, the National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD) of 1929 or other datum, to which base flood elevations shown on a community’s flood insurance rate map are referenced.

“New construction,” for floodplain management purposes, means structures for which the “start of construction” commenced on or after February 20, 1979, and includes any subsequent improvements to such structures.

“New manufactured home park or subdivision” means a manufactured home park or subdivision for which the construction of facilities for servicing the lots on which the manufactured homes are to be affixed (including at a minimum, the installation of utilities, the construction of streets, and either final site grading or the pouring of concrete pads) is completed on or after February 20, 1979.

“Obstruction” includes, but is not limited to, any dam, wall, wharf, embankment, levee, dike, pile, abutment, protection, excavation, channelization, bridge, conduit, culvert, building, wire, fence, rock, gravel, refuse, fill, structure, vegetation or other material in, along, across or projecting into any watercourse which may alter, impede, retard or change the direction and/or velocity of the flow of water, or, due to its location, its propensity to snare or collect debris carried by the flow of water, or its likelihood of being carried downstream.

One-hundred-year flood. See “Base flood.”

“Program deficiency” means a defect in a community’s floodplain management regulations or administrative procedures that impairs effective implementation of those floodplain management regulations.

“Public safety and nuisance” as related to Section 17.84.060, means that the granting of a variance must not result in anything which is injurious to safety or health of an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin.

“Recreational vehicle” means a vehicle which is:

1. Built on a single chassis;

2. Four hundred square feet or less when measured at the largest horizontal projection;

3. Designed to be self-propelled or permanently towable by a light duty truck; and

4. Designed primarily not for use as a permanent dwelling but as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, travel, or seasonal use.

“Regulatory floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.

“Remedy a violation” means to bring the structure or other development into compliance with state or local floodplain management regulations, or if this is not possible, to reduce the impacts of its noncompliance. Ways that impacts may be reduced include protecting the structure or other affected development from flood damages, implementing the enforcement provisions of this chapter or otherwise deterring future similar violations, or reducing state or federal financial exposure with regard to the structure or other development.

“Riverine” means relating to, formed by, or resembling a river (including tributaries), stream, brook, etc.

Sheet flow area. See “Area of shallow flooding.”

“Special flood hazard area (SFHA)” means an area in the floodplain subject to a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year. It is shown on an FHBM or FIRM as zone A, AO, A1-A30, AE, A99, or AH and includes all areas designated in the city’s waterway management plan as being in the one-hundred-year floodplain.

“Start of construction” includes substantial improvement and other proposed new development and means the date the building permit was issued, provided the actual start of construction, repair, reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, placement, or other improvement was within one hundred eighty days from the date of the permit. The actual start means either the first placement of permanent construction of a structure on a site, such as the pouring of slab or footings, the installation of piles, the construction of columns, or any work beyond the stage of excavation; or the placement of a manufactured home on a foundation. Permanent construction does not include land preparation, such as clearing, grading, and filling; nor does it include the installation of streets and/or walkways; nor does it include excavation for a basement, footings, piers, or foundations or the erection of temporary forms; nor does it include the installation on the property of accessory buildings, such as garages or sheds not occupied as dwelling units or not part of the main structure. For a substantial improvement, the actual start of construction means the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor, or other structural part of a building, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the building.

“Structure” means a walled and roofed building that is principally above ground; this includes a gas or liquid storage tank or a manufactured home.

“Substantial damage” means damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before-damaged condition would equal or exceed fifty percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.

“Substantial improvement” means:

1. Any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cost (cumulatively within any ten-year period) of which equals or exceeds fifty percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the improvement. This term includes structures which have incurred “substantial damage,” regardless of the actual repair work performed.

2. Any reconstruction, rehabilitation or other improvement of a foundation for a structure which equals or exceeds twenty-five percent of the foundation.

3. Any reconstruction, rehabilitation or other improvement which, by nature of the work, will necessitate raising the structure off the foundation to complete the work.

The term does not, however, include either:

1. Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations or state or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or

2. Any alteration of a “historic structure;” provided, that the alteration will not preclude the structure’s continued designation as a “historic structure.”

“Variance” means a grant of relief from the requirements of this chapter which permits construction in a manner that would otherwise be prohibited by this chapter.

“Violation” means the failure of a structure or other development to be fully compliant with this chapter. A structure or other development without the elevation certificate, other certifications, or other evidence of compliance required in this chapter is presumed to be in violation until such time as that documentation is provided.

“Water surface elevation” means the height, in relation to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD) of 1929, North American Vertical Datum (NAVD) of 1988, or other datum, of floods of various magnitudes and frequencies in the floodplains of coastal or riverine areas.

“Watercourse” means a lake, river, creek, stream, wash, arroyo, channel or other topographic feature on or over which waters flow at least periodically. Watercourse includes specifically designated areas in which substantial flood damage may occur.

“XB zone” means the area between the limits of the one percent flooding and the 0.2 percent flooding indicated as an X zone in the maps and formerly as a B zone in the maps. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)

17.84.030 General provisions.

A. Lands to Which This Chapter Applies. This chapter shall apply to all areas of special flood hazards, and where specifically identified, XB zones, within the jurisdiction of the city of San Luis Obispo.

B. Basis for Establishing the Areas of Special Flood Hazard. The areas of special flood hazard identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the “Flood Insurance Study (FIS) for the City of San Luis Obispo, California in San Luis Obispo County” dated October 1978, with accompanying flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) and flood boundary and floodway maps (FBFMs), dated April 1979, and all subsequent amendments and/or revisions, are hereby adopted by reference and declared to be a part of this chapter. This FIS and attendant mapping is the minimum area of applicability of this chapter and may be supplemented by studies for other areas, including local experience and historical data, which allow implementation of this chapter and which are recommended to the city council by the floodplain administrator to be included in the regulated area. The study, FIRMs and FBFMs are on file at the Department of Public Works, 919 Palm Street.

C. Compliance. No structure or land shall hereafter be constructed, located, extended, converted, or altered without full compliance with the terms of this chapter and other applicable regulations. Violation of the requirements (including violations of conditions and safeguards) shall constitute a misdemeanor. Nothing herein shall prevent the city council from taking such lawful action as is necessary to prevent or remedy any violation.

D. Abrogation and Greater Restrictions. This chapter is not intended to repeal, abrogate, or impair any existing easements, covenants, or deed restrictions. However, where this chapter and another ordinance, easement, covenant, or deed restriction conflict or overlap, whichever imposes the more stringent restrictions shall prevail.

E. Interpretation. In the interpretation and application of this chapter, all provisions shall be:

1. Considered as minimum requirements;

2. Liberally construed in favor of the governing body; and

3. Deemed neither to limit nor repeal any other powers granted under state statutes.

F. Warning and Disclaimer of Liability. The degree of flood protection required by this chapter is considered reasonable for regulatory purposes and is based on scientific and engineering considerations. Larger floods can and will occur on rare occasions. Flood heights may be increased by manmade or natural causes. This chapter does not imply that land outside the areas of special flood hazards or uses permitted within such areas will be free from flooding or flood damages. This chapter shall not create liability on the part of the city council, any officer or employee thereof, the state of California, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for any flood damages that result from reliance on this chapter or any administrative decision lawfully made hereunder.

G. Severability. This chapter and the various parts thereof are hereby declared to be severable. Should any section of this chapter be declared by the courts to be unconstitutional or invalid, such decision shall not affect the validity of the chapter as a whole, or any portion thereof other than the section so declared to be unconstitutional or invalid. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)

17.84.040 Administration.

A. Designation of the Floodplain Administrator. The director of public works or their designee is hereby appointed to administer, implement, and enforce this chapter by granting or denying development permits in accord with its provisions.

B. Duties and Responsibilities of the Floodplain Administrator. The duties and responsibilities of the floodplain administrator shall include but not be limited to the following:

1. Permit Review. Review all development permits to determine:

a. Permit requirements of this chapter have been satisfied, including determination of substantial improvement and substantial damage of existing structures;

b. The applicant was advised other local, state or federal permits may be required;

c. The site is reasonably safe from flooding;

d. The proposed development does not adversely affect the carrying capacity of areas where base flood elevations have been determined but a floodway has not been designated. This means that the cumulative effect of the proposed development when combined with all other existing and anticipated development will not increase the water surface elevation of the base flood more than one foot at any point within the city of San Luis Obispo;

e. If the proposed development is within a designated in-fill area, special floodplain management zone, or the Mid-Higuera Specific Plan Area as defined by the Drainage Design Manual, that the more stringent requirements of the manual have been met; and

f. All letters of map revision (LOMRs) for flood control projects are approved prior to the issuance of building permits. Building permits must not be issued based on conditional letters of map revision (CLOMRs). Approved CLOMRs allow construction of the proposed flood control project and land preparation as specified in the “start of construction” definition.

2. Development of Substantial Improvement and Substantial Damage Procedures.

a. Using FEMA publication FEMA 213, “Answers to Questions About Substantially Damaged Buildings,” develop detailed procedures for identifying and administering requirements for substantial improvement and substantial damage, to include defining “market value.”

b. Assure procedures are coordinated with other departments/divisions and implemented by community staff.

3. Review, Use and Development of Other Base Flood Data. When base flood elevation data has not been provided in accordance with Section 17.84.030(B), the floodplain administrator shall obtain, review, and reasonably utilize any base flood elevation and floodway data available from a federal or state agency, or other source, in order to administer Section 17.84.050.

NOTE: A base flood elevation may be obtained using one of two methods from the FEMA publication, FEMA 265, “Managing Floodplain Development in Approximate Zone A Areas – A Guide for Obtaining and Developing Base (100-Year) Flood Elevations” dated July 1995.

4. Notification of Other Agencies.

a. Alteration or Relocation of a Watercourse.

i. Notify adjacent communities and the California Department of Water Resources prior to alteration or relocation;

ii. Submit evidence of such notification to the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and

iii. Assure that the flood carrying capacity within the altered or relocated portion of said watercourse is maintained.

b. Base Flood Elevation Changes Due to Physical Alterations.

i. Within six months of information becoming available or project completion, whichever comes first, the floodplain administrator shall submit or assure that the permit applicant submits technical or scientific data to FEMA for a letter of map revision (LOMR).

ii. All LOMRs for flood control projects are approved prior to the issuance of building permits. Building permits must not be issued based on conditional letters of map revision (CLOMRs). Approved CLOMRs allow construction of the proposed flood control project and land preparation as specified in the “start of construction” definition.

Such submissions are necessary so that upon confirmation of those physical changes affecting flooding conditions, risk premium rates and floodplain management requirements are based on current data.

c. Changes in Corporate Boundaries. Notify FEMA in writing whenever the corporate boundaries have been modified by annexation or other means and include a copy of a map of the community clearly delineating the new corporate limits.

5. Documentation of Floodplain Development. Obtain and maintain for public inspection and make available as needed the following:

a. Certification required by Sections 17.84.050 (A)(3) and 17.84.050(D) (lowest floor elevations);

b. Certification required by Section 17.84.050 (A)(3) (elevation or floodproofing of nonresidential structures);

c. Certification required by Section 17.84.050 (A)(3) (wet floodproofing standard);

d. Certification of elevation required by Section 17.84.050(C)(1) (subdivisions and other proposed development standards);

e. Certification required by Section 17.84.050 (F)(2) (floodway encroachments); and

f. Maintain a record of all variance actions, including justification for their issuance, and report such variances issued in its biennial report submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

6. Map Determination. Make interpretations, where needed, as to the exact location of the boundaries of the areas of special flood hazard where there appears to be a conflict between a mapped boundary and actual field conditions. The person contesting the location of the boundary shall be given a reasonable opportunity to appeal the interpretation as provided in subsection (D) of this section.

7. Remedial Action. Take action to remedy violations of this chapter as specified in Section 17.84.030(C).

8. Biennial Report. Complete and submit biennial report to FEMA.

9. Planning. Assure community’s general plan is consistent with floodplain management objectives herein.

10. Nonconversion of Enclosed Areas Below the Lowest Floor. To ensure that the areas below one foot above the BFE shall be used solely for parking vehicles, limited storage, or access to the building and not be finished for use as human habitation without first becoming fully compliant with the floodplain management ordinance in effect at the time of conversion, the floodplain administrator shall:

a. Determine which applicants for new construction and/or substantial improvements have fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor that are five feet or higher;

b. Obtain a “Conversion Agreement for Construction Within Flood Hazard Areas” or equivalent between the property owner and the city of San Luis Obispo. The agreement shall be recorded with the County of San Luis Obispo recorder as a deed restriction. The conversion agreement shall be in a form acceptable to the floodplain administrator and city attorney; and

i. Condition the property that there shall be no conversion of enclosed areas below the lowest floor elevation without first becoming fully compliant with this chapter and other city requirements.

ii. Have the authority granted to the city to inspect any area of a structure below the base flood elevation to ensure compliance upon prior notice of at least seventy-two hours.

C. Development Permit. A development permit shall be obtained before any construction or other development, including manufactured homes, within any area of special flood hazard established in Section 17.84.030(B). Application for a development permit shall be made on forms furnished by the city of San Luis Obispo. The applicant shall provide the following minimum information:

1. Plans in duplicate, drawn to scale, showing:

a. Location, dimensions, and elevation of the area in question, existing or proposed structures, storage of materials and equipment and their location;

b. Proposed locations of water supply, sanitary sewer, and other utilities;

c. Grading information showing existing and proposed contours, any proposed fill, and drainage facilities;

d. Location of the regulatory floodway when applicable;

e. Base flood elevation information as specified in Sections 17.84.030(B) or subsection (B)(3) of this section;

f. Proposed elevation in relation to mean sea level, of the lowest floor (including basement) of all structures; and

g. Proposed elevation in relation to mean sea level to which any nonresidential structure will be floodproofed, as required in Section 17.84.050 (A)(3) and detailed in FEMA Technical Bulletin TB 3-93.

2. Certification from a registered civil engineer or architect that the nonresidential floodproofed building meets the floodproofing criteria in Section 17.84.050(A)(3).

3. For a crawlspace foundation, location and total net area of foundation openings as required in Section 17.84.050(A)(3) and detailed in FEMA Technical Bulletins 1-93 and 7-93.

4. Description of the extent to which any watercourse will be altered or relocated as a result of proposed development.

5. All appropriate certifications listed in subsection (B)(5) of this section.

D. Appeals. The city council of the city of San Luis Obispo shall hear and decide appeals when it is alleged there is an error in any requirement, decision, or determination made by the floodplain administrator in the enforcement or administration of this chapter. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)

17.84.050 Provisions for flood hazard reduction.

A. Standards of Construction. In all areas of special flood hazards the following standards are required:

1. Anchoring. All new construction and substantial improvements of structures, including manufactured homes, shall be adequately anchored to prevent flotation, collapse or lateral movement of the structure resulting from hydrodynamic and hydrostatic loads, including the effects of buoyancy.

2. Construction Materials and Methods. All new construction and substantial improvements of structures, including manufactured homes, shall be constructed:

a. With flood resistant materials, and utility equipment resistant to flood damage for areas below the base flood elevation;

b. Using methods and practices that minimize flood damage;

c. With electrical, heating, ventilation, plumbing and air conditioning equipment and other service facilities that are designed and/or located so as to prevent water from entering or accumulating within the components during conditions of flooding; and

d. Within zones AH or AO, so that there are adequate drainage paths around structures on slopes to guide floodwaters around and away from proposed structures.

3. Elevation and Floodproofing.

a. Residential Construction. All new construction or substantial improvements of residential structures shall have the lowest floor, including basement:

i. In AE, AH, A1-30 zones, elevated one foot above the base flood elevation.

ii. In an AO zone, elevated above the highest adjacent grade to a height one foot above the depth number specified in feet on the FIRM, or elevated at least three feet above the highest adjacent grade if no depth number is specified.

iii. In an A zone, without BFEs specified on the FIRM [unnumbered A zone], elevated one foot above the base flood elevation; as determined under Section 17.84.040(B)(3).

iv. In an XB zone, above the base flood elevation.

Upon the completion of the structure, the elevation of the lowest floor, including basement, shall be certified by a registered civil engineer or licensed land surveyor, and verified by the community building inspector to be properly elevated. Such certification and verification shall be provided to the floodplain administrator.

b. Nonresidential Construction. All new construction or substantial improvements of nonresidential structures shall either be elevated to conform with subsection (A)(3) of this section or:

i. Be floodproofed, together with attendant utility and sanitary facilities, below the elevation recommended under subsection (A)(3) of this section, so that the structure is watertight with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water;

ii. Have structural components capable of resisting hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads and effects of buoyancy; and

iii. Be certified by a registered civil engineer or architect that the standards of subsection (A)(3) of this section are satisfied. Such certification shall be provided to the floodplain administrator.

c. Flood Openings. All new construction and substantial improvements of structures with fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor (excluding basements) that are usable solely for parking of vehicles, building access or storage, and which are subject to flooding, shall be designed to automatically equalize hydrostatic flood forces on exterior walls by allowing for the entry and exit of floodwater. Designs for meeting this requirement must meet the following minimum criteria:

i. For nonengineered openings:

(a) Have a minimum of two openings on different sides having a total net area of not less than one square inch for every square foot of enclosed area subject to flooding;

(b) The bottom of all openings shall be no higher than one foot above grade;

(c) Openings may be equipped with screens, louvers, valves or other coverings or devices; provided, that they permit the automatic entry and exit of floodwater; and

(d) Buildings with more than one enclosed area must have openings on exterior walls for each area to allow floodwater to directly enter; or

ii. Be certified by a registered civil engineer or architect.

d. Manufactured Homes.

i. Manufactured homes located outside of manufactured home parks or subdivisions shall meet the elevation and floodproofing requirement in subsection (A)(3) of this section.

ii. Manufactured homes placed within manufactured home parks or subdivisions shall meet the standards in subsection (D) of this section. Additional guidance may be found in FEMA Technical Bulletins TB 1-93 and TB 7-93.

e. Garages and Low-Cost Accessory Structures.

i. Attached Garages.

(a) A garage attached to a residential structure, constructed with the garage floor slab below the BFE, must be designed to allow for the automatic entry of floodwaters. See subsection (A)(3) of this section. Areas of the garage below the BFE must be constructed with flood-resistant materials. See subsection (A)(2) of this section.

(b) A garage attached to a nonresidential structure must meet the above requirements or be dry floodproofed. For guidance on below-grade parking areas, see FEMA Technical Bulletin TB-6.

ii. Detached Garages and Accessory Structures.

(a) Accessory structures used solely for parking (two-car detached garages or smaller) or limited storage (small, low-cost sheds), as defined in Section 17.84.020, may be constructed such that its floor is below the base flood elevation (BFE), provided the structure is designed and constructed in accordance with the following requirements:

(i) Use of the accessory structure must be limited to parking or limited storage;

(ii) The portions of the accessory structure located below the BFE must be built using flood-resistant materials;

(iii) The accessory structure must be adequately anchored to prevent flotation, collapse and lateral movement;

(iv) Any mechanical and utility equipment in the accessory structure must be elevated or floodproofed to or above the BFE;

(v) The accessory structure must comply with floodplain encroachment provisions in subsection (F) of this section; and

(vi) The accessory structure must be designed to allow for the automatic entry of floodwaters in accordance with subsection (A)(3) of this section.

(b) Detached garages and accessory structures not meeting the above standards must be constructed in accordance with all applicable standards in subsection (A) of this section.

B. Standards for Utilities.

1. All new and replacement water supply and sanitary sewage systems shall be designed to minimize or eliminate:

a. Infiltration of floodwaters into the systems; and

b. Discharge from the systems into floodwaters.

2. On-site waste disposal systems shall be located to avoid impairment to them, or contamination from them during flooding.

C. Standards for Subdivisions and Other Proposed Development.

1. All new subdivisions proposals and other proposed development, including proposals for manufactured home parks and subdivisions, greater than fifty lots or five acres, whichever is the lesser, shall:

a. Identify the special flood hazard areas (SFHA) and base flood elevations (BFE).

b. Identify the elevations of lowest floors of all proposed structures and pads on the final plans.

c. If the site is filled above the base flood elevation, the following as-built information for each structure shall be certified by a registered civil engineer or licensed land surveyor and provided as part of an application for a letter of map revision based on fill (LOMR-F) to the floodplain administrator:

i. Lowest floor elevation.

ii. Pad elevation.

iii. Lowest adjacent grade.

2. All subdivision proposals and other proposed development shall be consistent with the need to minimize flood damage.

3. All subdivision proposals and other proposed development shall have public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical and water systems located and constructed to minimize flood damage.

4. All subdivisions and other proposed development shall provide adequate drainage to reduce exposure to flood hazards.

D. Standards for Manufactured Homes Within Manufactured Home Parks or Subdivisions.

All manufactured homes in special flood hazard areas shall meet the anchoring standards in subsection (A)(1) of this section, construction materials and methods requirements in subsection (A)(2) of this section, flood openings requirements in subsection (A)(3) of this section, and garages and low-cost accessory structure standards in subsection (A)(3) of this section.

Note: Manufactured homes located outside of manufactured home parks or subdivisions shall meet the elevation and floodproofing requirement in subsection (A)(3) of this section.

1. All manufactured homes that are placed or substantially improved on sites located: (1) in a new manufactured home park or subdivision; (2) in an expansion to an existing manufactured home park or subdivision; or (3) in an existing manufactured home park or subdivision on a site upon which a manufactured home has incurred “substantial damage” as the result of a flood shall within zones A1-30, AH, and AE on the community’s flood insurance rate map, be elevated on a permanent foundation such that the lowest floor of the manufactured home is elevated one foot above the base flood elevation and be securely fastened to an adequately anchored foundation system to resist flotation, collapse, and lateral movement.

2. All manufactured homes to be placed or substantially improved on sites in an existing manufactured home park or subdivision within zones A1-30, AH, and AE on the community’s flood insurance rate map that are not subject to the provisions of subsection (D)(1) of this section will be securely fastened to an adequately anchored foundation system to resist flotation, collapse, and lateral movement, and be elevated so that either the:

a. Lowest floor of the manufactured home is at least one foot above the base flood elevation; or

b. Manufactured home chassis is supported by reinforced piers or other foundation elements of at least equivalent strength that are no less than thirty-six inches in height above grade.

Upon the completion of the structure, the elevation of the lowest floor, including basement, shall be certified by a registered civil engineer or licensed land surveyor, and verified by the community building inspector to be properly elevated. Such certification and verification shall be provided to the floodplain administrator.

E. Standards for Recreational Vehicles.

1. All recreational vehicles placed in zones A1-30, AH, and AE will either:

a. Be on the site for fewer than one hundred eighty consecutive days; or

b. Be fully licensed and ready for highway use. A recreational vehicle is ready for highway use if it is on its wheels or jacking system, is attached to the site only by quick-disconnect-type utilities and security devices, and has no permanently attached additions; or

c. Meet the permit requirements of Section 17.84.040(C) and the elevation and anchoring requirements for manufactured homes in subsection (D)(1) of this section.

F. Floodways. Since floodways are extremely hazardous areas due to the velocity of floodwaters which carry debris, potential projectiles, and erosion potential, the following provisions apply:

1. Until a regulatory floodway is adopted, no new construction, substantial development, or other development, including fill, shall be permitted within zones A1-30 and AE, unless it is demonstrated that the cumulative effect of the proposed development, when combined with all other development, will not increase the water surface elevation of the base flood more than one foot at any point within the city of San Luis Obispo.

2. If the proposed development is within a designated in-fill area, special floodplain management zone, or the Mid-Higuera Specific Plan Area as defined by the Drainage Design Manual, the more stringent requirements of the manual apply.

3. Within an adopted regulatory floodway, the city of San Luis Obispo shall prohibit encroachments, including fill, new construction, substantial improvements, and other development, unless certification by a registered civil engineer is provided demonstrating that the proposed encroachment shall not result in any increase in flood levels during the occurrence of the base flood discharge.

4. If subsections (F)(1) and (2) of this section are satisfied, all new construction, substantial improvement, and other proposed new development shall comply with all other applicable flood hazard reduction provisions of this subsection. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)

17.84.060 Variance procedure.

A. Nature of Variances. The issuance of a variance is for floodplain management purposes only. Insurance premium rates are determined by statute according to actuarial risk and will not be modified by the granting of a variance.

The variance criteria set forth in this section of the chapter are based on the general principle of zoning law that variances pertain to a piece of property and are not personal in nature. A variance may be granted for a parcel of property with physical characteristics so unusual that complying with the requirements of this chapter would create an exceptional hardship to the applicant or the surrounding property owners. The characteristics must be unique to the property and not be shared by adjacent parcels. The unique characteristic must pertain to the land itself, not to the structure, its inhabitants, or the property owners.

It is the duty of the city council to help protect its citizens from flooding. This need is so compelling and the implications of the cost of insuring a structure built below flood level are so serious that variances from the flood elevation or from other requirements in this chapter are quite rare. The long-term goal of preventing and reducing flood loss and damage can only be met if variances are strictly limited. Therefore, the variance guidelines provided in this chapter are more detailed and contain multiple provisions that must be met before a variance can be properly granted. The criteria are designed to screen out those situations in which alternatives other than a variance are more appropriate.

B. Conditions for Variances.

1. Generally, variances may be issued for new construction, substantial improvement, and other proposed new development to be erected on a lot of one-half acre or less in size contiguous to and surrounded by lots with existing structures constructed below the base flood level, providing that the procedures of Sections 17.84.040 and 17.84.050 of this chapter have been fully considered. As the lot size increases beyond one-half acre, the technical justification required for issuing the variance increases.

2. Variances may be issued for the repair or rehabilitation of “historic structures” (as defined in Section 17.84.020) upon a determination that the proposed repair or rehabilitation will not preclude the structure’s continued designation as a historic structure and the variance is the minimum necessary to preserve the historic character and design of the structure.

3. Variances shall not be issued within any mapped regulatory floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result.

4. Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the “minimum necessary,” considering the flood hazard, to afford relief. “Minimum necessary” means to afford relief with a minimum of deviation from the requirements of this chapter. For example, in the case of variances to an elevation requirement, this means the city council need not grant permission for the applicant to build at grade, or even to whatever elevation the applicant proposes, but only to that elevation which the city council believes will both provide relief and preserve the integrity of the this chapter.

5. Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice over the signature of a community official that:

a. The issuance of a variance to construct a structure below the base flood level will result in increased premium rates for flood insurance up to amounts as high as twenty-five dollars for one hundred dollars of insurance coverage, and

b. Such construction below the base flood level increases risks to life and property. It is recommended that a copy of the notice shall be recorded by the floodplain administrator in the Office of the County of San Luis Obispo recorder and shall be recorded in a manner so that it appears in the chain of title of the affected parcel of land.

6. The floodplain administrator will maintain a record of all variance actions, including justification for their issuance, and report such variances issued in its biennial report submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

C. Appeal Board.

1. In passing upon requests for variances, the city council shall consider all technical evaluations, all relevant factors, standards specified in other sections of this chapter, and the:

a. Danger that materials may be swept onto other lands to the injury of others;

b. Danger of life and property due to flooding or erosion damage;

c. Susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the existing individual owner and future owners of the property;

d. Importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community;

e. Necessity to the facility of a waterfront location, where applicable;

f. Availability of alternative locations for the proposed use which are not subject to flooding or erosion damage;

g. Compatibility of the proposed use with existing and anticipated development;

h. Relationship of the proposed use to the comprehensive plan and floodplain management program for that area;

i. Safety of access to the property in time of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles;

j. Expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise, and sediment transport of the floodwaters expected at the site; and

k. Costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions, including maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical, and water system, and streets and bridges.

2. Variances shall only be issued upon a:

a. Showing of good and sufficient cause;

b. Determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant; and

c. Determination that the granting of a variance will not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, or extraordinary public expense, create a nuisance (see “Public safety and nuisance” in Section 17.84.020), cause fraud and victimization of the public, or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.

3. Variances may be issued for new construction, substantial improvement, and other proposed new development necessary for the conduct of a functionally dependent use; provided, that the provisions of subsections (C)(1) through (C)(4) of this section are satisfied and that the structure or other development is protected by methods that minimize flood damages during the base flood and does not result in additional threats to public safety and does not create a public nuisance.

4. Upon consideration of the factors of subsection (B)(1) of this section and the purposes of this chapter, the city council may attach such conditions to the granting of variances as it deems necessary to further the purposes of this chapter. (Ord. 1494 § 1, 2006)