15 August 2008

Build Underwater Fast!

This op/ed highlights how local politicians care little about safety -- and a lot about new real estate developments:
Effective on Dec. 8, the federal government will place the Natomas basin in a new flood hazard zone. Any development permitted after that date will have to be elevated three feet or more. The designation will effectively restrict new construction in Natomas until its levees are upgraded in roughly two years.

[snip]

But just to make sure developers know about the deadline, the city and county of Sacramento have issued a press release. Yes, a press release! The notice urges builders "to plan ahead as they look to build in the Natomas floodplain" and get their permit applications submitted well before the Dec. 8 deadline.

[snip]

This is a fine kettle of fish. The federal government, which is trying to protect taxpayers who subsidize flood insurance in Natomas and other flood basins, has called for a "timeout" on new development....

Yet the city and county, supposedly partners with the state and federal governments in upgrading Natomas, are now encouraging developers to hurry up and build in a new flood hazard zone.
Luckily, the real estate slump will probably restrict those applications, but I'd love to see the disclosures that housebuyers will have to sign off...

"I realize that the house I am buying is built in an area that's probably going to be underwater soon. I have a boat ready and can swim at least 200 yards with a Starbucks Frappucino in one hand."

Bottom Line: Blame subsidies. If Natomas and Sacramento had to pay 100% of the costs of flood insurance and levee improvements, we wouldn't see this garbage.

6 comments:

  1. Government requirements for elevated structures do serve the purpose of saving those structures from floods. In the early 1980s, our family built a tiny beach house in northwest Florida that was required to be elevated above the highest recorded water, which at that time was posted by Hurricane Camille: 23 feet above MHW. The benefits beyond surviving multiple hurricanes (I still check the place out on Google Earth after each hurricane)is that it is cool (breezes increase superlinearly with elevation) and that neither the hugely voracious mosquitoes nor the roaches ---dense at ground level ---would climb up to the elevation of the house, which sits 18 feet above the ground on pilings. Open windows and cooling sea breezes in the August evenings at our little place. The homes on the ground were shut up tight with AC grinding away. They are long gone; only the Camille level homes have survived the hurricanes.

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  2. We don't need government requirements to build on stilts. :)

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  3. love your blog! i'll def stop by again.
    i'm putting a link to your eco-blog from mine (green is the new black).
    keep up the good work!
    -jen

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  4. David: Ignorant of much, we would have built on the ground if HUD did not require the height. The builders were howling about government intrusion into the market place, higher costs, and all said that high structures would blow away in a hurricane. Three of our neighbors beat the HUD height requirements by a week and built on the ground; we missed it and our house is still there (though, unfortuntely, no longer is it ours). The government told the truth and saved our house, the private sector lied, and the owners lost those houses. However, you and I footed most of the bill for them to rebuild (flood insurance). After the first hurricane, I dropped my flood insurance because I had virtually no damage. If I could post images, we could see the site, the houses, and some of the lots where owners never rebuilt.

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  5. @FC The key word is "ignorant" and I am willing to blame the nannying government for people's inability/laziness to do their own work. In a different world (less govt insurance, regulation, etc.), homeowners would have taken care of themselves.

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  6. David: Your faith in raw humanity is inspiring. I defer.
    warm regards, Fixed Carbon

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