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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  

 LANDSLIDE HAZARDS

Q:  Can the County of Ventura require a natural geologic hazard to be mitigated by the property owner(s)?

A:  If the property has not been improved where the geologic hazard is located or entitled for development, the County does not have the power to order the owners of the parcels to do or not to do any specific act as to natural conditions.  

The County’s nuisance abatement ordinance defines public nuisances as conditions of real property that exist in violation of any of the laws, statutes and ordinances within the power of the County to enforce.  (Ventura County Ord. Code, div. 13, §13050.)  

As to the ability of the County to initiate a lawsuit under the general laws of the state, we are not aware of any grounds to bring a nuisance abatement action based solely on the existence of natural conditions on a parcel of land.  (See Civ. Code, § 3479.)

While a landowner’s failure to exercise ordinary care with respect to dangerous natural conditions on his property might form the basis for tort liability (Lussier v. San Lorenzo Valley Water Dist. (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 92), that does not give the County authority to coerce the property owner to take remedial action in advance of a storm or other event.

Moreover, if neighboring landowners believe that a nuisance abatement action is possible under such circumstances, they are free to bring their own public nuisance abatement actions.  “[A]ny person whose property is injuriously affected or whose personal enjoyment is lessened by a nuisance as defined in the Civil Code may bring an action to enjoin such nuisance, whether it be a public or a private nuisance.”  (47 Cal.Jur.3d (2015) Nuisances, § 63.) 

The County’s policy with respect to hazardous geologic zones is to educate the residents about the hazardous conditions, and notify them of potentially dangerous weather conditions.  If warranted, the County’s emergency agencies implement voluntary and/or mandatory evacuation orders to protect life and property.

Even if permitted by the landowner, it is the County’s policy not to make physical alterations to privately owned land to mitigate dangerous natural conditions.  Especially with respect to areas with geologic hazards, it is not economically or practically feasible to make improvements sufficient to prevent all future adverse events.  Aside from the economic issues associated with spending vast sums of taxpayer money to benefit a few, such actions would expose the County to tremendous potential liability.  Persons harmed by future events would almost certainly claim that the County’s actions contributed to the future harm, or redirected the harm from one neighbor to another.  

Local government simply does not have the powers or resources to effectively ensure that residents in or near a geologic hazard zone will never suffer damage due to the geologic hazard.  


GRADING 

Q: Why is Grading Regulated?

 

A: Grading is regulated because it can cause serious problems when not done properly and can result in damage to your property or other property or result in the deposition of sediment or debris on public right of way, private property, streams or natural water courses, or otherwise cause a nuisance. Newly exposed soil subjected to the elements of the weather can erode easily, moving from areas where you want it (e.g., on the hill behind your house) to areas where you don't want it (e.g., up against your house, in a street or natural water course, or on a neighbor's property).

If native soil underlying a new building pad is not adequately compacted or if the soil density varies too much, the building may settle and suffer structural damage. Excessive grading may cause loss of natural vegetation, accelerated erosion potential, habitat intrusion, soil instability, and visual scarring and may also damage other natural resources for years to come. Even minor grading can change the way water drains across a property, which can cause erosion problems that may affect existing drainage patterns, road access to a home or even an entire community.

A grading permit is required for all but a limited scope of earth-moving operations so that these problems can be prevented. Even when a permit is not required, you should still use great care in grading construction to preserve your own property and to protect adjoining properties and public roads. You may be asking yourself when is a grading permit required, the Ventura Building Code Appendix J provides specifics for when a grading permit is required.

Q:  My neighbor’s is moving a lot of dirt on their property. I am concerned that it is not legal. I would like to know if there is a permit, who can I check with to see if it is permitted?

A: If the amount of grading is significant, the contractor should be working under the provisions of a Ventura County Grading Permit. Please fill out a grading complaint form and provide picture of the disturbed area. If the amount of dirt is less than 50 Cubic Yards or meets the exemption criteria in the Ventura County Building Code Appendix J, the Contractor may be exempt from obtaining a grading permit. If you are unsure please contact Development Inspection Services.


FLOODPLAINS

Q. What is a Floodplain?

A. A floodplain is any land or area susceptible to flooding from creeks, ponds, lakes, or any other water body. Floodplains are mapped by FEMA to show areas potentially flooded by a 100-year storm (or a 1 percent chance of occurring every year) as well as areas flooded by a 500-year storm (or a 0.2 percent chance of occurring every year).

Q. Why are the floodplain maps changing?

A. Floodplain maps need to be updated on a regular basis as more land is developed, as additional flood protection facilities are built, and as more scientific information becomes available. Since technology has improved and methodologies have changed, it is possible to more accurately map the floodplain areas. Consequently, the floodplain maps are changing – and will continue to change in the future – as new improvements are made and development occurs.

Q. If I am not in the floodplain, will I be required to buy flood insurance?

A. We have been advised that mortgage lenders will require you to purchase flood insurance if your property is in a 100-year floodplain. If it is in a 500-year floodplain, you also may be required by your lender to purchase flood insurance. It is the lenders decision, flood insurance is available through your insurance agent. If you do not have federally-related financing (i.e., if you do not have a mortgage, loan, etc.) you are not required by federal regulations to have flood insurance – although it is available for you to purchase.

Q. Where do I purchase flood insurance?

A. Flood insurance is available through your insurance agent. The premiums are relatively consistent because they are set through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Q. How much flood insurance can I purchase and what are the yearly premiums?

A. The maximum flood insurance you can purchase for your property is $250,000. Insurance costs vary between $300 and $1,800 annually and are dependent upon a variety of factors; i.e., deductible, location, occupancy, type and age of structure(s). You may find it advantageous to purchase flood insurance 30 days prior to the date of a the new DFIRM takes effect. The DFIRM may become final as early as September 2006. Flood insurance for some properties may triple after the proposed maps are adopted. In some cases, purchasing insurance before the new maps are adopted may lock in lower rates.

Q. What is the County doing to help?

A. We will continue to construct drainage facilities and/or collaborate with local, state, and federal agencies to construct flood protection facilities in and around unincorporated properties within the floodplain. Construction of these types of facilities will remove properties from the floodplain.

Q. What do I do now?

A. If your property is in an unincorporated area of the County of Ventura, you may want to visit the Watershed Protection District’s website at www.vcwatershed.org to review proposed floodplain revision maps to determine if your property is, or will be, in a floodplain. You may also want to contact your insurance agent to discuss flood insurance coverage.