Flood gates showing up in hazard zones

More and more Laguna Beach businesses in downtown and Laguna Canyon are installing fixtures designed to keep their floors dry during a flood.

The city has mandated that businesses in flood zone areas add the hardware by December.

The City Council gave final approval in February for the requirement, which amended the city's municipal code to include commercial businesses in special hazard areasthat have a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year.

Code enforcement officers notified 181 affected property owners, which include 98 in downtown and 83 in the canyon, code enforcement supervisor Fred Fix said.

Twenty-three of the 98 downtown businesses have the temporary flood gates at the ready for the next torrential downpour while 28 businesses in the canyon have complied as of Monday, Fix said.

The area includes Laguna Canyon Road beginning at El Toro Road and heads into downtown Laguna, and businesses on Broadway and Third streets and Ocean and Forest avenues, Fix said.

Kent Seward, a carpenter who has lived in Laguna for 25 years, installs flood gates at businesses and homes. Money saved by these boards, made of coated plywood that fit into a steel frame, is well worth it, said Seward, who started installing frames to support the panels 15 years ago.

A flood in December 2010 caused $3.5 million in damage to 59 businesses, according to a city agenda bill.

The Marine Room restaurant on Ocean Avenue is one downtown business that has permanent steel frames along both sides of the main door and a metal strip across the tile floor for the removable flood-proofing panel.

Restaurant management hired Seward to install the frames for the panel in December.

Marine Room staff didn't use the flood gate last winter, but are prepared for the next rainstorms, said manager Rob Boyd, Mayor Kelly Boyd's nephew.

"I'm happy to get rid of all the sand bags," Boyd said. "We had a piece of plywood, and sandbags would get wet and heavy and at the end of the night we'd have to drag all the sandbags."

Restaurant staff hangs the board along a wall and can bring it out if needed.

"If treated properly, a board can last 15 years," Seward said.

The ordinance went into effect in March, but there was a lot of work before the city sent notices to businesses.

"We had to go parcel-by-parcel and look at the height the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] projects for a flood and identify specific heights [of potential water rise] for each parcel," Fix said.

Code enforcement started sending fliers in August and business owners have until December to comply, Fix said.

The city is taking a proactive approach to educate business owners on the requirement.

"We're meeting with them on-site, walking the property to identify areas [in need of gates]," Fix said. "We want them to contact us to determine what their needs are before they reach out to any contractors or vendors. This is not a do-it-yourself project."

Business is booming for Seward, who has a list of 80 clients wanting the flood gates, he said.

The gates and installation cost $1,000 to $1,500 and are low-maintenance, except for the occasional tune-up, which includes gear lubrication, adjusting and fixing clamps, Seward said.

"It's gratifying in a flood that it's bone-dry on the backside [inside a store]," Seward said.

The code enforcement department will schedule product demonstrations of the panels soon, Fix said.

All employees of a business within the hazard area are required to be trained in installing the flood gate, according to the municipal code.

To schedule a walk-through with a code enforcement officer, call (949) 497-0301.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World