Rising tide of flood taxes

As San Mateo prepares for new flood designations, some residential areas are finding themselves stuck between the threat of rising waters and rising insurance costs or city taxes.

While some residents will be able to protect themselves through a tax assessment for levee improvements, some neighborhoods may be forced to buy flood insurance for any homes with federally backed mortgages.

Fiesta Gardens residents could elect to tax themselves for levee improvements, but it would be substantially higher than the $60 annually expected for areas south of San Mateo Creek. The city is currently looking at a $16 million price tag for culvert improvements and flood walls along the 16th Avenue Channel.

“There are lots of repairs in the city of San Mateo that our taxes go to, on the west side of town. Why should we pay for this ourselves, when the city can float a bond and pay for the improvements?” Fiesta Gardens Homeowners Association President Mike Bratt said. “I think if you told people that either the city floats a bond or part of the tax base of San Mateo is going to disappear if there is a flood, there would be support.”

Flood insurance is not currently necessary in their area, but it may become mandatory if the neighborhoods are included — as expected — in a new flood map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency set to be released in January.

In 2001, FEMA released a flood map for San Mateo that placed approximately 5,500 households — primarily on the east side of town between the Bay and El Camino Real — in a flood-hazard zone, where they would require insurance.

FEMA will release its revised map in January, and Public Works Deputy Director Susanna Chan said the city expects the map to include more than 2,000 homes south of State Route 92.

Councilmember Brandt Grotte said his flood insurance is approximately $300 annually because he purchased it before his home was considered a flood risk. When the FEMA map is released, Chan said the price for insurance could double or triple.

“If you buy insurance before the final map is effective, you can get a much cheaper insurance premium than after that map becomes effective,” she said. “In 2001, when the map became effective for the north of 92, some residents missed the opportunity and ended up paying higher insurance.”

Upcoming flood map meetings

19th Avenue Park and Sunnybrae Homeowners

» Date: Nov. 8

» Time: 7:30 p.m.

» Location: Marriott San Mateo Hotel

» Meeting topic: Update on existing flood map and projects in your area

Lakeshore, Marina Lagoon, Edgewater Isle, Laguna Vista and Adjacent Areas

» Date: Nov. 13

» Time: 7 p.m.

» Location: Marriott San Mateo Hotel

» Meeting topic: Expanded map in your area

– Source: City of San Mateo

jgoldman@examiner.com

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