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 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.
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.
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.
The Land Development Services Division adheres to all policies set forth by the Ventura County Building Code, Zoning Ordinances and Floodplain Management Ordinance as well as other State and local laws and regulations. Please review the Laws / Ordinances page for more information.
The information below list all of the applicable fees that the Public Works Agency's Land Development Services charges the applicant to review a discretionary land use project. Some or all of these fees may apply to your project based on the type of project being proposed. If you have any questions, please contact the Division.
Please note that all initial project review fees from the Public Works Agency (PWA), including the Land Development Services Division, are billed through the Resource Management Agency (RMA) and you will receive a single bill that lists all of the charges to your project. Fees are collected by the Planning Division with your discretionary permit application.
Ventura County Building Code
2013 Ventura County Building Code
The 2013 Ventura County Building Code establishes minimum standards for the design and construction of structures. The Public Works Agency oversees the regulations controlling grading, site runoff and erosion control as shown in Appendix J Grading.
Ventura County Coastal Zoning Ordinance
Grading and brush removal in the Coastal Zone is regulated by Section 8175.5.17 of the Ventura County Coastal Zoning Ordinance .
Ventura County Floodplain Management Ordinance (No. 3954)
New construction within a designated Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain is regulated by the Ventura County Floodplain Management Ordinance and the 2013 Ventura County Building Codes .