Flood Hazard Areas
Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) are designated by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) and are also called FEMA Flood
Land located in such areas is prone to flooding, either partially or
completely, in any given year. Properties in flood zones must
have adequate flood insurance to guard against the so-called 100-year
flood. This designation is somewhat misleading, as the
flood has a one in four chance of occurring during a thirty year
mortgage. Land outside of a flood zone may still be in danger
severe flooding, so lenders have the right to require owners to
purchase flood insurance, even if the property is not
boundaries of the Special Flood Hazard Area. For more information
contact FEMA: www.fema.gov
FEMA Documents Available:
Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines:
Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet provides
guidance to the federally regulated lending industry for implementing
the mandatory purchase provisions of the National Flood Insurance
Reform Act of 1994 and other key legislation that governs the National
Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This 2007 edition of the guidelines
clarifies some of the complex issues that have arisen since the 1999
edition and incorporates industry best practices and lessons learned
for implementing statutory requirements.
Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines
Application Form for Single Residential Lot or Structure Amendments to
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Maps
form should be used by an individual property owner to request that the
Federal Emergency Management Agency remove the Special Flood Hazard
Area (SFHA) designation from a single structure or a legally recorded
parcel of land or portion thereof by issuing a Letter of Map Amendment.
The SFHA is the area, shown on a NFIP map that will be inundated by the
flood having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any
given year (also known as the base, or 100-year, flood).
Application Form for Single Residential Lot or Structure Amendments to
National Flood Insurance Program Maps
application forms and instructions included in the MT-1 package were
designed to assist requesters (community officials, individual property
owners, and others) in gathering the information that the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needs to determine whether property
(i.e., parcel[s] of land, structure[s]) is likely to be flooded during
the flood event that has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or
exceeded in any given year. The 1-percent-annual-chance flood is often
referred to as the base, or 100-year flood. The area flooded by the
1-percent-annual-chance flood is called the Special Flood Hazard Area
(SFHA). The mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements of the
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) apply to insurable structures
in the SFHA shown on an effective NFIP map.
Application Forms and Instructions for Conditional and Final Letters of
Map Amendment and Letters of Map Revision Based on Fill
The Standard Flood Determination Form:
Download PDF format:
Flood Hazard Determination Form
Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool of the
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is to be used to provide
elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community
floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance
premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment
(LOMA) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F). The Elevation
Certificate is required in order to properly rate post-FIRM buildings.
The expiration date for this form is March 31, 2012.
Download PDF format:
Form and Instructions for FEMA Elevation Certificate
Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones & Wildland Fire Areas
High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ) are designated by the
California Director of Forestry and Fire Prevention.
Following the devastating firestorms in the Oakland-Berkeley
1991, the California Legislature ordered the California Department of
Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to identify fire hazard zones to
reduce the possibility of uncontrolled fires. Properties in
designated fire hazard zones are considered not to be a state fire
responsibility. Notices must be posted in various county
explaining how to find maps identifying these zones. Local agencies
must designate by ordinance Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones within
their jurisdictions unless they adopt equivalent or more
restrictive measures of their own. For more information, see Public
Resources Code ?125, et seq.
FIRE is in the process of gathering current data for an updated mapping
project. This is a massive project requiring policy and procedure
staff, prevention and planning staff, and the technical GIS skills of
CAL FIRE’s Fire and Resource Assessment Program.
and Cities have their own ordinances, for example the City of Los
establsihed its own Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in 1999 and replaced the
older “Mountain Fire District?and “Buffer Zone.?The “Zone?was
carefully determined according to California State Law. This zone
requires brush clearance as well as adding further criteria for
maintenance of landscape vegetation in such a condition as not to
provide an available fuel supply to augment the spread or intensity of a
fire. These criteria included, but were not limited to eucalyptus,
acacia, palm, pampas grass, and conifers such as cedar, cypress, fir,
juniper, and pine. In February of 1999 section 57.21.07 of the Los
Angeles Municipal Code was again amended, this time establishing a fee
for inspections of properties in the City of Los Angeles to determine if
a violation of this section exists. It is important to check with your
local fire agency for requirements in your area. See:
California Director of
Forestry and Fire Prevention
Wildland Fire Areas
Fire Areas are identified by the State Board of Forestry, and are
assigned to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
for primary wildland fire suppression. These areas, known as
State Responsibility Areas (SRA) are at significant risk of
forest, brush and wildland fires. Sellers are required to inform all
potential buyers of these considerable risks. Buyers must also
informed that construction, remodeling, and landscaping of
properties in state responsibility areas can be severely restricted
because of fire danger. Notices must be posted in various
offices explaining how to find maps identifying these zones.
The existing FHSZ maps are being updated pursuant to Public Resources
Code Sections 4201 – 4204 and Government Code Sections 51175 – 51189.
CAL FIRE completed the public hearings for the adoption of Fire Hazard
Severity Zones (FHSZ) for those areas of California where the state has
fiscal responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as State
Responsibility Areas (SRA). CAL FIRE’s intent is to complete the SRA
FHSZ adoption by December, 2007.
Wildland-Urban Interface Building Code Information
September 20, 2005, the California Building Standards Commission
approved the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s emergency regulations
amending the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, Part 2,
known as the 2007 California Building Code (CBC).
New Buildings Located in Any Fire Hazard Severity Zone"
located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility
Areas, any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, or any
Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency
for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after
January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this
chapter. For more info go to:
For definitions and more information See:
Board of Forestry and
2010 California Fire Plan (Current)
Earthquake Fault Zones & Seismic Hazard Zones
Earthquake Fault Zones are mapped by the California Division of Mines and
Geology. These maps detail surface traces of known active faults. Only
active faults identified to date are required to be shown on the maps. Fault
zones are generally designated to be 660 feet on either side of the fault
trace. Development and construction in these zones are controlled by the
Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act of 1994.
The main purpose of the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act is to
prevent the construction of buildings used for human occupancy on the
surface trace of active faults. This Act only addresses the hazard of
surface fault rupture and is not directed toward other earthquake hazards.
The Seismic Hazards Mapping Act, passed in 1990, addresses non-surface fault
rupture earthquake hazards, including liquefaction and seismically induced
The law requires the State Geologist to establish regulatory zones (known
as Earthquake Fault Zones) around the surface traces of active faults and to
issue appropriate maps. The maps are distributed to all affected cities,
counties, and state agencies for their use in planning and controlling new
or renewed construction. Local agencies must regulate most development
projects within the zones. Projects include all land divisions and most
structures for human occupancy. Single family wood-frame and steel-frame
dwellings up to two stories that are not part of a development of four units
or more are exempt. However, local agencies can be more restrictive than
state law requires.
Before a project permit can be issued, cities and counties must require a
geologic investigation to demonstrate that proposed buildings will not be
constructed across active faults. An evaluation and written report of a
specific site must be prepared by a licensed geologist. If an active fault
is found, a structure for human occupancy cannot be placed over the trace of
the fault and must be set back from the fault (generally 50 feet).
Fault rupture almost always follows preexisting faults, which are zones
of weakness. Rupture may occur suddenly during an earthquake or slowly in
the form of fault creep. Sudden displacements are more damaging to
structures because they are accompanied by shaking.
If a property is located in an Earthquake Fault Zone, this fact must be
disclosed to a potential buyer before the sales process is complete. The
real estate agent is legally bound to present this information to the buyer.
When no Realtor is involved, the seller must inform the buyer directly. This
is usually done at the time an offer is made or accepted.For more information, contact California Department of
Conservation or California Geological Survey in Sacramento.
Seismic Hazard Zones
Similar to the mapping of Earthquake Fault Zones, Seismic Hazard Zone maps
are also compiled by the California Division of Mines and Geology. Areas
identified on these maps are subject to earthquake induced landslides,
strong ground shaking and possible liquefaction where the soil acts like a
liquid following a severe earthquake. Counties and cities may require
stricter building standards in such areas. For online information about
mapped areas, see
Other Seismic related sites:
United States Geological Survey - Earthquake Hazards Program
Have you ever been to the beach and the sand seems solid but when you
step on it or tap it the water comes to the surface? That is Liquefaction!
Liquefaction and related phenomena have been responsible for tremendous
amounts of damage in historical earthquakes around the world.
Liquefaction occurs in saturated soils, that is, soils in which the space
between individual particles is completely filled with water. This water
exerts a pressure on the soil particles that influences how tightly the
particles themselves are pressed together. Prior to an earthquake, the water
pressure is relatively low. However, earthquake shaking can cause the water
pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles can readily move
with respect to each other, compressing and forceing the water to the
surface. When liquefaction occurs, the strength of the soil decreases and,
the ability of a soil deposit to support foundations for buildings and
bridges is reduced by the water and moisture rising to the surface.
Liquefaction Info Site - University of Washington
The California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN)
Southern California Seismic Network
Southern California Earthquake Data Center
The term "landslide" describes a wide variety of processes that result in
the downward and outward movement of slope-forming materials including rock,
soil, artificial fill, or a combination of these. The materials may move by
falling, toppling, sliding, spreading, or flowing. Although there are
multiple types of causes of landslides, the three that cause most of the
damaging landslides around the world are the following:
Landslides and Water
Slope saturation by water is a primary cause of landslides. This effect can
occur in the form of intense rainfall, snowmelt, changes in ground-water
levels, and water-level changes along coastlines, earth dams, and the banks
of lakes, reservoirs, canals, and rivers. Landsliding and flooding are
closely allied because both are related to precipitation, runoff, and the
saturation of ground by water. In addition, debris flows and mudflows
usually occur in small, steep stream channels and often are mistaken for
floods; in fact, these two events often occur simultaneously in the same
area. Landslides can cause flooding by forming landslide dams that block
valleys and stream channels, allowing large amounts of water to back up.
This causes backwater flooding and, if the dam fails, subsequent downstream
flooding. Also, solid landslide debris can "bulk" or add volume and density
to otherwise normal streamflow or cause channel blockages and diversions
creating flood conditions or localized erosion. Landslides can also cause
overtopping of reservoirs and/or reduced capacity of reservoirs to store
Landslides and Seismic Activity
Many mountainous areas that are vulnerable to landslides have also
experienced at least moderate rates of earthquake occurrence in recorded
times. The occurrence of earthquakes in steep landslide-prone areas greatly
increases the likelihood that landslides will occur, due to ground shaking
alone or shaking-caused dilation of soil materials, which allows rapid
infiltration of water. The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake caused widespread
landsliding and other ground failure, which caused most of the monetary loss
due to the earthquake. Other areas of the United States, such as California
and the Puget Sound region in Washington, have experienced slides, lateral
spreading, and other types of ground failure due to moderate to large
earthquakes. Widespread rockfalls also are caused by loosening of rocks as a
result of ground shaking. Worldwide, landslides caused by earthquakes kill
people and damage structures at higher rates than in the United States
Landslides and Volcanic Activity
Landslides due to volcanic activity are some of the most devastating types.
Volcanic lava may melt snow at a rapid rate, causing a deluge of rock, soil,
ash, and water that accelerates rapidly on the steep slopes of volcanoes,
devastating anything in its path. These volcanic debris flows (also known as
lahars) reach great distances, once they leave the flanks of the volcano,
and can damage structures in flat areas surrounding the volcanoes. The 1980
eruption of Mount St. Helens, in Washington triggered a massive landslide on
the north flank of the volcano, the largest landslide in recorded times.
For online information about landslides and landslide mitigation, see:
Or "Landslide 101"
Radon is defined by the Department of Health Services (DHS) as a colorless,
odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas produced by the decay of trace
amounts of uranium occurring naturally in soils. The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon. The
average concentration inside American homes is approximately 1.3 picocuries
per liter. The average outdoor concentration is about 0.4 picocuries per
liter. The EPA recommends avoiding long-term exposure to any level above 4.0
picocuries per liter because radon exposure can cause lung cancer. The
Department of Health Services database identifies areas prone to excessive
indoor radon levels. Statistical information is provided by zip code and by
county. If no indoor radon test data is available within a zip code,
information for that area is omitted from the database.
For more information go to:
Another good site shows radon testing by county and test kits http://www.radon.com
Also See Letters from the GeoAssurance President:
Letter from the President Regarding Radon
Other Radon Related Links:
How to Install Radon Mitigation - with Host Kevin O'Connor, This Old House television
A Citizen's Guide to Radon - US EPA Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon
Industrial Zoning Disclosure
California Residential Disclosure Law (section 1103, et seq. of the
California Civil Code) requires a Seller to disclose to Buyer, Seller’s
actual knowledge of any commercial or industrial use within one mile of the
subject property. This disclosure identifies industrial use zones, from
public records, within one mile of the subject property to help make that
determination. Some Commercial / Industrial property may be subject to some
of the annoyances or inconveniences associated with proximity to a
commercial / Industrial building operations (for example: noise, vibration,
traffic, or odors). Individual sensitivities to those annoyances can vary
from person to person. You may wish to consider what, if any, are
associated with the property before you complete your purchase and determine
whether they are acceptable to you.?
Ordnance Location & Formerly Used Defense
Sellers of residential property are required to disclose actual knowledge
they may have of any Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) within one mile of
their property containing military ordnance. To aid in this disclosure we
have identified all locatable FUDS, specified by the United States Army
Corps of Engineers, as sites that have been used by the military and may
contain military ordnance.
The Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for environmental
restoration of properties that were formerly owned by, leased to or
otherwise possessed by the United States and under the jurisdiction of the
Secretary of Defense. Such properties are known as Formerly Used Defense
Sites (FUDS). The Army is the executive agent for the program and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers manages and directs the program's administration.
The scope and magnitude of the FUDS program are significant, with more than
9,900 properties identified for potential inclusion in the program.
Information about the origin and extent of contamination, land transfer
issues, past and present property ownership, and program policies must be
evaluated before DoD considers a property eligible for Defense Environment
Restoration Account (DERA) funding under the FUDS program. Environmental
cleanup procedures at FUDS are similar to those at active DoD installations.
UXO stands for unexploded ordnance. UXO result from our military's use of
munitions during live-fire training or testing. UXO are considered the most
dangerous category of military munitions. Although the conditions that
define military munitions as UXO are specific, the public should consider
any munitions or suspect munitions it encounters as UXO and as extremely
dangerous. By visiting this website and learning the 3Rs (Recognize,
Retreat, Report), you have begun to protect yourself and family from the
potential hazards associated with. For Additional information, visit:
of Airport(s) & Airport
Notice of Airport in Vicinity
If the Airport Influence
Area is checked “yes?in the Summary, then the following statement applies.
“This property is presently located in the vicinity of an airport, within
what is known as an airport influence area. For that reason, the property
may be subject to some of the annoyances or inconveniences associated with
proximity to airport operations (for example: noise, vibration, or odors).
Individual sensitivities to those annoyances can vary from person to person.
You may wish to consider what airport annoyances, if any, are associated
with the property before you complete your purchase and determine whether
they are acceptable to you.?
maps may be provided by airports indicating areas where noise levels
may exceed 65 decibels, the sound level of a busy street.
The intent of AB 2881 is to ensure that anyone purchasing real estate within
one mile of farmland is made aware of the state's right-to-farm laws.
Purchasers are often unaware that the State of California has laws to
protect a farmer’s right to perform customary farming activities, some of
which are dirty, noisy, or lead to unpleasant odors. In addition there are
some aspects of farming operations can extend beyond a farm’s boundaries,
through water runoff and irrigation ditches, for example. Shown on the
Natural Hazard Zone Map, the light-green zone indicates a Grazing Land; the
blue zone indicates a Unique farmland; the yellow zone indicates a Farmland
of Statewide Importance area; the brown zone indicates a Farmland of Local
Importance area; the green zone indicates a Prime farmland and the red zone
indicates a Confined Animal Agriculture area.
State law allows for local agencies to require disclosure of hazards in
their area. The first county to do so was Santa Clara which required
disclosure of Fault Zones Liquefaction Zones, Slide zones, and Special Flood
Zones within the county. The City of San Jose also required disclosure by
local ordinance of slide zones within the municipality.
To have more precise information in order to make a more informed
decision, buyers should be provided with local-level natural hazards as well
as the statutory disclosures. Cities and Counties that have developed their
own safety element or other hazard maps may use different sources than the
State. Therefore, a site considered as a hazard by one source, may not be
included as a hazard by another source. Maps prepared by the local
jurisdiction may be used making decisions regarding new or additional
construction. If the property which is the subject of this report, is in a
locally mapped hazard zone or if information of concern exists in another
source, the property may require a geologic or other study prior to any new
or additional construction. Additional natural hazards may exist which are
not in this report. To investigate other sources of natural hazard
information that may be available and used at the local level, contact the
local agency Planning, Engineering or Building Departments.
Examples of Local Natural Hazards include: Landslide and Slope
Instability, Local Fire Zones, Coastal Bluffs, Subsidence ?Unstable Soil,
Methane, Local Fault Hazards to name a few.
Molds and fungi are naturally occurring plants which may cause allergic
reactions, respiratory problems and rashes, as well as other responses from
sensitive people. Molds may be present inside and outside residential
properties, and may damage property and possessions. There are inspection
companies who may be retained to determine whether and to what extent molds
and fungi may be present. All parties are advised to seek professional
advice on the presence and clean-up of such material. More information
may be found on the web at sites such as
Registered Sex Offender Database (“Megan’s Law”) Advisory
California law allows the public to access the database containing detailed
information concerning registered sex offenders, including physical
descriptions, name(s), locations and nature of the offense(s). The
California Department of Justice, (DOJ), maintains a website at
www.meganslaw.ca.gov Local police and sheriffs?offices may be contacted for
neighborhood information and a CD-ROM may be available. The DOJ has a
Registered Sex Offender Hotline (900) 448-3000 for further information.
The State of California passed the Methamphetamine Contaminated Property
Cleanup Act of 2005 which became effective January 1, 2006.This Act, among
other requirements, authorizes the imposition of a civil penalty upon a
property owner who does not provide notice or disclosure required by the
act, or upon a person who violates an order issued by the local health
officer prohibiting the use or occupancy of a property contaminated by a
methamphetamine laboratory activity. The property owner is also liable for
the costs for testing, remediating, and administering enforcement and
oversight upon a property that receives an order. In addition, it authorizes
a local government to impose a nuisance abatement lien if the property owner
fails to pay for the costs of remediation. More information may be found on
the web at http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/SiteCleanup/ERP/Clan_Labs.cfm
Oil and Gas Well Advisory
The production of oil and gas is an essential part of California’s
economy. Oil and gas are by far the largest sources of energy found and used
in California. In1980, oil and gas provided about 91 percent of the total
energy consumed in California. The California petroleum industry began in
the 1860s.Since then, About 200,000 wells have been drilled in the search
for oil, gas, and geothermal resources. About 95,000 production and
injection wells are in use today. As the industry grew, so did the
recognition that controls were necessary to protect the environment and the
oil, gas, and geothermal resources. Since the 1980’s, construction-site
projects in have been reviewed under the Construction-Site Plan Review
Program of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and
Geothermal Resources (division). The program is an integral part of building
and safety procedures for urban development of oilfield properties. Problems
from this encroachment may include methane gas and oil seepage, contaminated
soils, leaking wells, and wells not plugged and abandoned to current
standards. Mitigation costs to develop oilfield properties can be high.
Also, owners of homes who have older improperly abandoned wells on their
property could find it necessary to re-abandon them to current standards.
For example, a property may require $50,000 or more to remove soil
contaminated with hydrocarbons and $50,000 to $150,000 or more to plug and
abandon an oil well to current standards. Note: Oil and Gas Well locations
within 1/4 mile of Property are shown on maps in Geoassurance Environmental
Disclosure Reports, with detailed maps and information when they are “Close
to / or On?the Subject Property.
For more information go to:
Read About Environmental Disclosure