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City seeks completion of partially build homes in flood zone

The city of Sacramento has admitted to federal regulators that its development department bypassed federal rules by greenlighting 35 building permits in a Natomas flood zone this year. At the same time, the city is asking the federal government if 25 of the homes can be completed.

A third-party law firm, Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai, and City Attorney Eileen Teichert’s office are investigating the issue. The city has placed Bill Thomas, community development director, and department staffer Dan Waters on leave.

Teichert said Friday she did not know when the investigation would be completed.

In a Dec. 15 letter to Cynthia McKenzie, senior flood planner at the Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Oakland, the Sacramento city attorney’s office sought permission forK. Hovnanian Homes to finish building the 25 homes in the Natomas area. Ten of the 35 homes in the flood zone have been completed, but the remaining 25 are in various stages of construction, according to the letter.

Teichert explained the city’s position Friday in a phone interview.

It would be “consistent with the law” to build the 25 homes, Teichert said. Among other reasons, she said, the 25 homes should be built to maintain public health and safety.

“We also are of the opinion that having homes half-constructed in a neighborhood is not a positive thing,” Teichert said. “It’s certainly not for the neighbors.”

In making its case for the 25 homes, the city cited the actions it has taken to respond to the issue. “However, staff’s diligence caused the transferred permits to be discovered and immediately brought forward to FEMA in order to address and resolve any FEMA concerns before more homes under those units were built, sold, and insured.”

The letter noted that about 24 witnesses have been interviewed for the investigation.

Teichert said the city is not expecting a reply from FEMA before Dec. 25.

Read the Dec. 15 letter from Teichert’s office here.

Photo by David Watts Barton

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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