Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Visalia Social Security Building Being Built on Flood Zone

Posted: May 6, 2009 10:37 PM PDT on

View Video: New Visalia Social Security Building Being Built on Flood Zone

By: Ashley Ritchie

Steve Nelson opened his newspaper Wednesday morning and realized he has something in common with the federal government; they both now have property in a flood zone.

"Three days after we have a city council meeting and we have 300-some people show up to voice their opinion, all of the sudden we find out about the social security building. I find that kind of, really ironic," Nelson said.

General Services Administration officials gave the go-ahead in September 2008 for a new social security office, six months after FEMA released Visalia's re-zoned flood maps.

"The federal government, under presidential directive, says that federal offices can't be located in flood zones," Alex Peltzer, Visalia City Attorney, said.

The social security office is being built right now at 1901 E. Noble, right across the street from Wal-Mart.

Originally, the General Services Administration planned to build the office at Lovers Lane and Tulare. But they chose the Noble site because it wasn't in a flood plain.

But with the new maps, the Noble location is now on a flood plain and the first site isn't and never was.

"The federal government may be in a position of having to get its own flood insurance. I don't know how that works between agencies. But that's what would happen with other people," Peltzer said.

"I'm gonna watch vigilantly to see if magically they become out of the flood zone," Nelson said.

In the meantime, the 8,900 residents now in the flood plain must start paying flood insurance by June 16th.

Steve Nelson says he hears the concerned stories every day.

"He says I'm upside down. What am I supposed to do? It's hard to look a man in the eye and say, I'd love to help you and I'm trying to help you. But in all honesty, I don't know if anybody cares," he said.

City officials say they're looking at several options for residents right now, including examining each individual property to see if it's really in a flood zone.

But until then, they're urging those affected residents to have flood insurance secured by June 16th.

The parcel of land the new social security building is being built on is being leased to the government by the southern California based Imperial Group.

City officials say they're not sure if the group even knew about the flood maps when the site was chosen.