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Flood insurance mandate lifted for some in South Los Angeles

Nearly 900 parcels are not in a high-risk zone after all, FEMA says, sparing owners the costly premiums.

January 08, 2010|By Catherine Saillant

Hundreds of South Los Angeles homeowners will no longer be required to buy costly flood insurance after a federal agency decided that it had mistakenly put them in a high-hazard zone.

After reviewing new topographic data, the Federal Emergency Management Agency removed 876 parcels in the Parks Mesa Heights neighborhood, according to a Dec. 28 letter from FEMA to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

FEMA added the homes to existing flood-hazard zones when it updated maps in June 2008. Owners of properties in so-called 100-year-flood zones are required to buy insurance if they hold a federally backed mortgage.

Dozens of homeowners protested that FEMA had relied on faulty information in updating its maps. The Public Works Department asked the federal agency to review the information. A community activist group and Councilman Bernard C. Parks also urged FEMA to reconsider its action.

The reversal means that homeowners are immediately released from the insurance mandate, said Cora Jackson-Fossett, a Public Works spokeswoman. She said 2,347 other properties remain in the high-hazard zones and must continue to pay premiums.

Isaac Robinson, a community activist, said he's relieved that he and his neighbors in Parks Mesa Heights, which is part of the Hyde Park neighborhood, will no longer be forced to buy policies.

"Some got letters from their banks saying they want $1,700 for flood insurance just this week," said Robinson, 71, a retired wood finisher. "They will be happy to hear this."

Robinson thinks FEMA should go further by removing other properties in the area that could be in a high-hazard zone because of outdated data. Jackson said the city is seeking a federal grant to pay for a detailed analysis of the broader flood zone to determine if further revisions are necessary.

The Parks Mesa Heights Community Council will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Angeles Mesa Elementary School, 2611 W. 52nd St., to explain what FEMA's decision means for homeowners.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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