Residents favor citywide tax for flood improvements 

When it comes to raising money for flood-prevention improvements, residents prefer a citywide property tax over an assessment of specific neighborhoods in the city's flood plain, according to a recent survey.

San Mateo is seeking to raise $20.5 million for storm improvements, as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or $73 million to preparethe entire city for a 100-year storm. An assessment of properties in the FEMA-identified flood plain would cost homeowners anywhere from $34 per year in the Shoreview/Parkside area to $2,500 per year in Sunnybrae. A FEMA-only citywide tax would cost property owners roughly $65 per home per year, while one that funds all city projects would cost $227 per home per year, according to city engineer Darla Reams.

Only some neighborhoods near the Bay favored an assessment when surveyed in March. All of them supported the $65 property tax, while more than two-thirds supported the $227 tax.

"Why would the assessment only be on those paying flood insurance, and not on all those who would benefit from the improvements?" asked North Shoreview resident Jennifer Cardos at a City Council study session Monday.

A nine-member citizen committee urged the city to go forward with an assessment of the Shoreview, Parkside and Mariners Island neighborhoods, which would help to raise money for levee improvements near their homes.

"It's big to move forward and get them out of danger," said Mark Hecht, a Mariners Island resident and steering-committee member.

An October 2001 FEMA flood map indicated that certain bayside areas were at higher risk of flooding, requiring homeowners in those areas to purchase flood insurance or raise their homes above the flood plain. FEMA reported that the two biggest threats to these regions are spillover from the Crystal Springs Dam and tidal flooding from the Bay.

Hillside neighborhoods should also contribute to the protection of low-lying areas just as they contribute to runoff, according to Selena, a North Shoreview resident. "In a flood, they would be living high and dry while the rest of us are suffering," she said.

San Mateo has already made $25 million in improvements to flood-control measures in the FEMA map area, including management plans for the MarinaLagoon and Crystal Springs Dam, as well as upgrading the Norfolk Street Bridge and the levee walls along San Mateo Creek.

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Beth Winegarner

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