Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o are dominating the news, but FEMA unjustly redrawing the flood lines in Redlands in 2008 is a real issue affecting homeowners.
In early November, I got a $1,791 refund after I successfully got my house near Crafton Elementary removed from a high-risk flood zone.
That refund capped an 18-month battle with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after it undemocratically redrew the flood zones in Redlands in 2008. I did not even realize my 1,800-square foot home was in a high-risk flood zone until I refinanced my house in 2009.
The idea that my house is in a flood zone is laughable. Most of Redlands and Southern California would be a swimming pool long before my carpets would be soaked.
Now that my house is flood-zone free, I have the option of buying the same policy I was forced to buy for $1,791 for just $376.
In 2010, I decided to fight FEMA and my new flood-zone designation. The first step was a new elevation survey, which cost $500. My next steps involved fishing required documents from San Bernardino County and the city of Redlands. (The administrative staffs of both governments were helpful in getting me all the maps and documents I needed to prove my case.) In addition, I had to produce more documents, phone calls, scans, e-mails, as well as more snail mails, to FEMA and my bank and mortgage company.
Overall, my appeal process was as frustrating and expensive as it was time consuming.
But at least I did learn a lot about the flood-zone designation process. I did learn that I never would have had to endure the appeals process in the first place had the city of Redlands bothered to produce a document called the “Base Flood Elevation,” or BFE, a map that illustrates the 100-year flood plain. Houses inside the flood plain are considered to be in high-risk flood zones and are compelled to buy the more expensive insurance.
If the city of Redlands had a BFE, then FEMA could not redraw the flood zones however and whenever it wanted. If Redlands had one, city residents couldn’t be unjustly forced into high-risk flood areas so FEMA could get more money for its National Flood Insurance Program.
What was so appalling about the new flood zone areas were that houses lower in elevation than my home were not considered high-risk. While questioning my mortgage company about my appeal, my representative told me flatly that “FEMA does not consider elevation when it redraws the lines.”
I have since learned that many homeowners in the Crafton Elementary area are absolutely livid about their homes being thrust into a high-risk flood zone. Some have successfully fought FEMA. Others just accepted their fate that their homes are going to be much harder to sell as well as being more expensive to insure.
Further, FEMA can just redraw the high-risk flood lines whenever it wants; meaning, I will have to go through this entire process all over again when FEMA wants more money.
It’s clear that the Redlands City Council doesn’t care about protecting its residents with a BFE. If they had, they would have dealt with the issue before FEMA redrew the lines in 2008.
Three council seats are on the 2014 ballot. I urge all challengers to make the BFE an election issue as well as for all homeowners to demand answers from all candidates.
(By the way, my moral victory over FEMA was short-lived; just two weeks after the election, I unexpectedly received a bill from the California Franchise Tax Board informing me that I owed the state another $588 from taxes I had filed in 2009. Reluctantly, I paid that bill based on my accountant’s advice.)