of the Flood Zone Situation
by Ed Rast
The North Willow Glen Neighborhood Association is discussing the federal flood zone that extends through Willow Glen, and working to get the flood zone designation updated and possibly removed. The current flood zone designation certainly predates significant changes to the area's hydrology (such as Guadalupe flood channel work and the construction of Highway 87) and probably could be favorably changed by altering an embankment no longer used by the railroad. The matter is of huge concern to NWGNA residents in the flood zone, as they pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in flood insurance, and face significant hurdles to renovating their homes.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District's Upper Guadalupe River flood control project is currently scheduled to start in June 2003 for the section of the river that flows through Willow Glen. We have recently confirmed that the section of Ross Creek that creates the Willow Glen flooding will be included in the flood control project. The project construction is scheduled to completed in March 2010. The SCVWD normally does not do flood zone resurveys until after the construction project is completed and therefore it is estimated it would probably be 2011-12 at the earliest and possibly 2015 before a resurvey if the project is delayed due to legal challenges or funding delays. The downtown San Jose section of the river project was delayed for almost 4 years.
Many current residents in the flood zone purchased their homes prior to 1982 and those that purchased after 1982 but before the strict California residential property sale disclosures rules were put into effect were aware they were in a flood zone but were told that their property had never flooded before and that the federal flood insurance required by the mortgage holders and to protect the property owner's investment in the home structure was inexpensive. Unfortunately the costs for many has now increased to $1000-1800 per year for a limited structure only insurance policy. Waiting for 10 or 12 years of yearly increasing higher insurance costs could easily pay for a private or public agency resurvey for those homes that we question are actually in a flood zone.
Flood Zone Designation: Costs and Restrictions
Many of us were attracted to the area due to the older small homes in the area and these building restrictions encourage a type of monster home construction out of proportion to existing homes or the many small historical homes in the area. We are trying to avoid the monster home problems that many neighbors in others areas of San Jose or Willow Glen find objectionable especially if the area has been misclassified or has changed since originally classified due to Highway 87 construction.
Waiting for the water district resurvey might be a valid argument if all the homes were truly in a flood zone, or if the resurvey would occur reasonably soon or if there were not substantial building permit restrictions.