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Public Safety and Hazard Management General Plan / Local Coastal Program (GP/LCP) and County Code Amendments

Existing GP/LCP and County Code

The County’s existing GP/LCP Public Safety Element contains general policies that apply to development projects, such as new housing and subdivisions, in areas of the County subject to hazards from earthquakes, landslide, coastal processes, erosion, flooding, fire, and other hazards.

Policies in the GP/LCP are implemented by the regulations in the County Code. This means the County Code must be consistent with the policies in the GP/LCP. These changes to the GP/LCP also require changes to the County Code to maintain consistency.

Proposed Amendments

This project proposes amendments to the GP/LCP Public Safety Element and corresponding regulations in Title 16 of the Santa Cruz County Code.

The proposed amendments related to seismic hazards, landslides, and fire hazards are intended to meet current requirements of state law which already apply to development projects. Local policies and codes would be updated but there would be no change to existing requirements.

The proposed amendments related to flooding would rewrite the Floodplain Regulations in the County Code. The basic requirements would not change but the County Code would follow the “model ordinance” format of the State and FEMA. Under the new regulations more activities in flood hazard areas would require permits. New and remodeled homes in flood hazard areas would have to be elevated higher above flood hazard levels compared to existing requirements.

The proposed amendments related to coastal bluffs and beaches would update the County’s policies and regulations for building in these areas to address sea level rise. New and remodeled homes on the beach would have to elevated higher above flood hazard levels compared to existing requirements. New and remodeled homes on coastal bluffs would have to do additional geologic and engineering studies and standards would become stricter for rebuilding storm damaged structures.

A new section on environmental justice would be added to the GP/LCP Public Safety Element to support the needs of low-income areas of the County that may be disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and other hazards.

The latest staff report for the project is on the Board of Supervisor’s agenda of September 15, Item 7. The amendments to the GP/LCP Public Safety Element and Title 16 of the County Code are included in the agenda item as attachments to the Board memo. The Board approved the amendments on September 15, 2020 and directed staff to submit the GP/LCP amendments to the California Coastal Commission for certification.

After approval by the Board of Supervisors but before taking effect, the proposed GP/LCP amendments must be certified by the California Coastal Commission. There is currently no date certain when certification by the Coastal Commission will occur, and may not occur until early 2022.  


State planning law requires an update of the GP/LCP Public Safety Element to address flooding, fire hazards, climate change, and environmental justice issues. The County in 2011 received a state grant using FEMA funds to begin the update. During this time the County also completed a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and a Climate Action Strategy. These plans would be incorporated by reference the updated Public Safety Element. The updated Public Safety Element addresses sea level rise and the California Coastal Commission has published a sea level rise guidance document to assist local governments.

Environmental Evaluation

There would be no environmental impacts from the proposed amendments and there would be beneficial environmental impacts where policies and regulations become stricter such as the polices and regulations addressing flooding, grading and erosion control.