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Simi Council OKs Larger Flood Zone : Insurance: About 15% of the city’s basin is included. Local officials said they are working to shrink the expanded area.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Simi Valley City Council, despite strong protest, has approved an ordinance that expands the city’s flood zone. The move will force future owners of 6,000 homes and businesses to each buy hundreds of dollars in flood insurance a year.

The new flood zone encompasses about 15% of the Simi Valley basin, contrasted with less than 5% in the original zone outlined in 1974. The old zone had only 250 structures.

Flood insurance for a Simi Valley house would cost between $250 and $500, depending on the size of the dwelling and its location, several insurance agents said Tuesday.

The flood map identifies neighborhoods throughout the city that would be inundated in a so-called 100-year flood--one that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year.

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Before approving the change Monday night, council members insisted that they had no choice. Federal law requires that the city adopt an updated flood map by Sept. 27 to continue participating in a federal flood insurance program.

“This is about as voluntary as the 55 m.p.h. speed limit,” Mayor Greg Stratton said. In the late 1970s, federal officials threatened to withhold highway funds if states did not enforce that speed limit.

Councilwoman Sandi Webb said she thought that Simi Valley property owners included in the expanded flood plain are being asked to subsidize the nationwide flood insurance program.

“I see this as a scheme by the federal government to subsidize the flooding that occurs in other parts of the country, like in the Ohio River Valley,” she said.

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City officials said they are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to shrink the new flood zone. Officials said they are confident that the agency will revise its flood map because the methodology used by engineers was flawed.

Since the new map was unveiled in March, city officials and residents have maintained that it overstates the city’s flooding risk.

Simi Valley has never had a serious flood, although two major floods in the Santa Clara Valley caused minor problems in the city, officials said.

Assistant City Manager Mike Sedell and Stratton traveled to Washington this spring to appeal the new map. And, with the help of Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), they persuaded FEMA officials to re-examine their findings, Sedell said.

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Ray Lenaburg, a senior engineer with FEMA, said he met with city officials Friday in Simi Valley and has scheduled another meeting Aug. 17.

“We’re going to review our analysis and then the map will be revised accordingly,” he said. Changes will not be made for at least nine months, but if they are, property owners will be notified, he said.

The new map approved by the city this week will be used by federally insured lending institutions to determine who must purchase flood insurance and what rates should be charged.

Federal officials said residents who decide to refinance their homes or who intend to purchase a house in the affected areas will be required to buy flood insurance to get loans. Homeowners planning major improvements must also buy flood insurance.

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Simi Valley is one of the last cities in California to have its flood zone revised.

Flood maps were conceived as part of the National Flood Insurance Program set up by the federal government in the early 1970s. The maps are intended to assist cities in planning by discouraging development in flood-prone areas.


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