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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Buyouts OKd for Homes Destroyed by Landslides

November 19, 1998

LOS ANGELES — Federal and state officials on Wednesday announced a $22-million program to buy homes across California that were damaged beyond repair by landslides during last winter's El Nino storms.

The federal program will allow communities to buy the homes. They will be demolished and future development on the land will be prohibited.

"The goal of the program is to remove the property from risk and to not allow it to get back in that condition again," said Paula Schulz, a state hazard mitigation officer with the governor's Office of Emergency Services. "It tries to solve the problem once and for all."

It is the first time California has applied for funds to eliminate landslide-prone houses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Funds were previously used to buy out owners of flood-prone homes.

"This is the first time we've used mitigation dollars to acquire properties affected by landslides, due largely to the devastation we saw and to the fact that people really needed help," said FEMA spokeswoman Eliza Chan. "El Nino caused a lot of problems we had never faced before in California, which homeowners insurance did not cover."

The city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County applied to the reimbursement program. Now that the projects have been approved and funding levels have been set, city and county officials will make formal offers to the homeowners, who can either accept or reject the buyouts.

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