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Property Flood Protection

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How Should I Protect My Property?

Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages incurred by flooding.  Coverage is available for the building itself as well as for the contents of the building. The City of Santa Cruz participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that makes available federally backed flood insurance for all structures, whether or not they are located within the floodplain.  Note that there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect.  Contact your insurance agency for more information.  Flood insurance information is also available in Santa Cruz Public Libraries or online from the NFIP at:

Maintain Drainage Channels and Pipes Free of Obstruction and Debris 

The City of Santa Cruz regularly cleans City storm drain pipes and street inlets to keep trash and pollutants from reaching our waterways and beaches. The City has 50 miles of storm drain pipes and over 1,000 storm water inlets. The schedule and specific storm water maintenance activities are listed in the City’s Stormwater Management Plan, interested persons can learn more about this important work online.

City residents who live next to privately owned creeks and other waterways can also assist in insuring these waterways have a free flow of water.  To assist in these activities the City has adopted a City-wide Creeks and Wetlands Management Plan, information is available on this plan here.

One other important consideration, the City Municipal Code Section 16.19.090 prohibits the discharge of pollutants, litter or other refuse into the City’s storm drains, creeks and other waterways.  Such dumping can have devastating impacts on water quality in addition to causing flooding.  To report obstructions or illegal dumping, or for questions regarding the stormwater drainage system maintenance, please contact the City Public Works Department at (831) 420-5160. 

Protect Your Property from the Hazards of Flooding and Wind

Various methods may be used to minimize flood damage.  If the floor level of your property is lower than the “Base Flood Elevation” (elevation of the 100-year flood, based on the FEMA maps), consider elevating your structure, if possible. While much of the City’s flood hazard area is in the FEMA A-99 Flood Zone and does not require you may wish to consider this option as an added precaution.  In areas which are not in the A-99 Zone all living areas in a home, must be elevated above the FEMA Base Flood Elevation.

Brochures discussing flood proofing and other mitigation measures are available in City of Santa Cruz Public Libraries and more extensive information is available at the FEMA website: and

If a flood is imminent, property can be protected by sandbagging areas subject to the entry of water into living spaces. Sandbag information is available here.

Valuables and furniture may also be moved to higher areas of the dwelling to minimize damages.  Attaching plywood or specially made panels over windows and patio doors may help protect against high wind damages associated with severe winter storms. 

If there is a storm inlet in front of your house you can adopt a storm drain and use a rake to keep the inlet grate clear of debris during a rain event to allow the water to enter freely. If you don’t have an inlet in front of your house, you can still help out by keeping the gutter clean and free of litter and debris.  It is this material that can also block an inlet and restrict the flow of water into the inlet.

Meet Improvement Requirements 

In all areas of the City not in the A-99 Flood Zone the National Flood Insurance Program requires that if the cost of reconstruction, additions, or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value, then the building must meet the same construction requirements as a new building.  Substantially damaged buildings must also be brought up to the same standards.  For example, a residence damaged so that the cost of repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s value before it was damaged must be elevated above the base flood elevation.  For more information on this subject contact the City’s Building Inspections Division at (831) 420-5120.  Only a relatively small portion of the City is affected by this requirement due to the ongoing work of the Army Corps of Engineers to improve the San Lorenzo River Flood Control Project.

Meet Permitting Requirements  

All development within the city requires a permit.  Always check and fulfill permitting requirements with the Building Inspections Division at (831) 420-5120 before you build on, alter, fill, or re-grade on any portion of your property and/or within any easement or right-of-way.  Also, contact the above numbers above to report any suspected permitting violations.

How Should I Prepare Before the Storm?

The City of Santa Cruz provides a brochure with information on the steps to take before a flood event.  This guide should be printed and made a part of your emergency supplies. This guide is available here.

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