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Developing a Model Ordinance for California Local Governments to Integrate Sea Level Rise Adaptation into Existing Land Use Plans Website

Principal Investigator(s):
Sean B. Hecht - Frankel Environmental Law Program, UCLA School of Law
Megan M. Herzog - Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law & Policy, UCLA School of Law
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Associate Investigator(s):
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Objectives:
Building upon our prior research on how California local governments can harness their existing regulatory authority to support aggressive sea-level rise adaptation strategies, and using as our foundation model sea-level rise ordinances designed for other coastal states, we will develop a sea-level rise overlay zone ordinance for California local governments that:
1) complies with existing federal and state laws pertaining to coastal land use and floodplain management in California;
2) is sufficiently flexible and adjustable to suit the differing socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic features of the various communities along the California Coast;
3) increases the implementing local government’s ranking under the federal Community Rating System, resulting in flood insurance discounts for the community;
4) harmonizes with and utilizes the National Flood Insurance Program to build resilience;
5) incorporates the California Coastal Commission’s forthcoming guidance on local sea-level rise adaptation as well as existing state sea-level rise guidance;
6) mitigates potential legal liabilities; and
7) harmonizes with the provisions of existing local land use regulations to ease local government implementation.

Methodology:
We will draft the proposed model sea-level rise overlay zone ordinance using traditional legal research and legislative drafting methods. The project schedule can be broken down into five stages: 1) initial research; 2) drafting and refining the model ordinance; 3) testing the model ordinance in two localities; 4) drafting an accompanying narrative report; and 5) expert review, presentation, and preparation of model ordinance and accompanying report for publication.

Rationale:
California local governments lack resources, tools, and guidance to tackle one of the most complex sea-level rise adaptation challenges: how to integrate sea-level rise adaptation strategies into the complex web of existing local coastal land use and state and federal floodplain management regulations. Effective integration will require attention to current science, the legal and policy context, and incentives created by insurance programs. Currently, there is no “best practices” example or resource that integrates the myriad legal and policy considerations for California local planners. In the absence of a model, it will be technically complicated, time-consuming, and expensive for local governments to implement effective sea-level rise adaptation strategies. Local governments would benefit from a unified, California-specific sea-level rise adaptation resource that critically evaluates and explains the interplay among the various legal regimes, recognizes current scientific understanding and policy considerations, and facilitates compliance with applicable guidance and legal requirements in service of incorporating sound sea-level rise adaptation strategies into existing land use regimes.

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