Before a rebuilding permit application can be made at the Recovery Permit Center, the building site must receive a pre-application Geologic Hazard Clearance (GHC) . When a building site is subject to debris flow hazards the result of the GHC is usually that a full geologic report is required. The purpose of the geologic report is to characterize the hazards and recommend mitigation measures to lessen the risk, as necessary. For some rebuilders, debris flow hazard is the only potential geologic hazard on the building site, for others, debris flow is in addition to another geologic hazard such as slope instability, faults or landslides.

The requirement for further geologic evaluation and review/acceptance of this information by County geologic staff comes from Santa Cruz County Code Chapter 16.10 (SCCC 16.10), which requires that staff confirm through peer review that geologic hazards can be adequately mitigated prior to approving the development. Pursuant to the Board of Supervisors “CZU Rebuild Directive” issued 9/14/21, eligible in-kind rebuild proposals may “opt out” of compliance with the requirements of SCCC 16.10 that require County peer review of geologic and geotechnical reports and confirmation of the adequacy of proposed mitigation measures.

While the CZU Rebuild Directive allows those replacing homes “in-kind” to opt out of County geologic evaluation and mitigation requirements, the California Building Code still requires submission of a geotechnical (soils). Your geotechnical engineer may require that project design mitigate potential hazards such as debris flows. Consequently, although you may opt out of doing a geologic evaluation, you may still be required to meet some standard for mitigating certain hazards by your project geotechnical or civil engineers. Geotechnical (soils) engineers typically work in concert with a geologist to define the various parameters necessary for design of debris flow mitigation measures. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County graciously funded a debris flow - flood hazard study (“Atkins Study”) that, among many broader beneficial uses, assists rebuilders by characterizing debris flow hazards in the CZU fire area. This study provides information that may be used by geotechnical engineers in lieu of a full geologic evaluation. You will want to work with your geotechnical and/or civil engineers to determine the best way to approach your project design.

We will be creating frequently asked questions (FAQs) and responses to questions about how to interpret the results of the Atkins Study, and how the study assists the permit process for in-kind rebuilding in debris flow hazard areas following the County Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday September 28, 2021.

Submit your Question HERE

Note that the first step in the permit process is applying for a Geologic Hazard Clearance (GHC), a pre-application review of geologic constraints on a building site that is a required step prior to application for a building permit. The GHC will identify whether you are subject to debris flow hazards only, or if your site is subject to other geologic hazards in addition to debris flow that must be addressed in design of the rebuilt structure. Two other pre-clearances are required to confirm adequate septic and fire access prior to being cleared to apply for a building permit. See for more information about pre-clearances in general.