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Board Approves Like-for-Like Building Code Update

Board Approves Like-for-Like Building Code Update

Amendment will provide more flexibility, speed in Montecito recovery


On May 15, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved an update to a section of the County’s zoning ordinances commonly known as the Like-For-Like provision, which will allow Montecito property owners to rebuild homes damaged in the 1/9 Debris Flow more quickly and safely.

“This is one of the most important steps the County has taken in the Montecito recovery effort,” said Das Williams, chair, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. “The Like-for-Like amendment is critical for the ability of our residents to rebuild quickly before their insurance money runs out.”

The ordinance allows homeowners to avoid time-consuming land use permits, design reviews, and potential appeals if they choose to rebuild disaster-damaged homes in the same location and in the same manner (including size and design) as their previous homes. The amendment approved by the Board will give homeowners additional flexibility to elevate rebuilt structures of the same design to a safer level, and relocate further away from flood plains, while still being considered a like-for-like rebuild.

County officials said the existing ordinance was designed primarily to address fire damage recovery, not flooding or debris flows. The proposed amendment would more directly address the Montecito recovery.

“The current Like-For-Like rules allow a rebuild in the same location, with the same structure homeowners had before,” said Dianne Black, the County’s director of Planning and Development. “But in the Montecito recovery, we may not want that. Elevations have changed; locations of creeks and drainages have changed. A home may need to move further from a creek, or elevated above the flood plain,” she explained.

Updated flood hazard maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will be available to the public in June, will guide development decisions such as whether to elevate or relocate a damaged or destroyed home, according to County officials. The updated maps will reflect the 100-year – or 1 percent chance per year – flood hazard conditions and new elevations after the 1/9 Debris Flow.

The proposed amendment will greatly reduce the time needed to rebuild “like-for-like” structures, officials said, while helping to create a safer, more resilient community that can better withstand future disasters and recover faster when they occur.

Homes in the coastal zone in the appeals jurisdiction would not benefit from these changes and would still be subject to existing development regulations, Black noted, which require design review and Coastal Development Permits with a hearing, and would still be subject to appeals.

More information about the rebuilding process following the 1/9 Debris Flow is available here

Like for Like hearing

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