FEMA stalling on proposal for flood fixes

San Mateo waits to learn whether repairs, storm model will meet federal approval

SAN MATEO — Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said they need more time to review local plans to beef up flood protections in vulnerable neighborhoods, leaving homeowners and city officials in limbo.

San Mateo is proposing a number of fixes to levees and structures, and is waiting to hear whether FEMA agrees with those fixes, according to San Mateo Public Works Director Larry Patterson. City officials hope that by performing those fixes, large areas of the city can be removed from FEMA’s maps of flood-prone areas.

“Any time the feds want more time, I grow concerned that they’re trying to build a case for why they won't allow us out of the flood zone,” said Councilman Brandt Grotte, who lives in one of the flood-map areas.

In a letter San Mateo received from FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, managers Sheila Norlin and Michael Baker indicated only that the agencies had “encountered delays,” and would provide further response by the end of November, but did not specify the nature of those delays. Flood officials did not return calls for comment Monday.

San Mateo seeks to raise $20.5 million for storm improvements required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or $73 million to prepare the entire city for a 100-year storm. An assessment of properties in the FEMA-identified flood plain would cost homeowners anywhere from $34 per year in the Shoreview/Parkside area to $2,500 per year in Sunnybrae. A FEMA-only citywide tax would cost property owners roughly $65 per home per year, while one that funds all city projects would cost $227 per home per year, according to city engineer Darla Reams.

Among Bayside neighborhoods surveyed in March, all supported the $65 property tax, while more than two-thirds supported the $227 tax.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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