Last updated: 09/27/2022
The massive scale of the county’s geography and the complexity of its economy and socioeconomics exposes people, buildings, and facilities to a wide range of natural (wild fires, flooding, geologic activity, and wind) and human-generated hazards (hazardous materials, airports, and noise). Reducing the risks associated with such hazards improves real and perceived senses of safety, providing the county with a higher quality of life and spurring continuous investment and improvement of the county’s communities, businesses, and natural areas.
The County is committed to protecting life, property, and commerce from impacts associated with natural hazards, human-generated hazards, and increased risk due to climate change. The County also works to ensure that residents in unincorporated disadvantaged communities have a reduced risk of exposure to pollution and have equitable access to public facilities and services. Effectively reducing these risks requires the County and its partners to evaluate public safety threats, proactively plan and protect against potential hazards, and establish systems that will make the county and its people safer and more self-reliant.
The Hazards Element:
- Identifies potential natural and human-generated hazards, including increased risk due to climate change.
- Provides direction to address risks to residents, businesses, workers, and visitors.
- Prioritizes resources and reduce pollution exposure in unincorporated disadvantaged communities.
- A safe environment is necessary to build and maintain a sustainable and prosperous county.
- The County has a role in lessening risks from natural and human-generated hazards.
- Reduction in the loss of life, injury, private property damage, infrastructure damage, economic losses, and social dislocation can be achieved through planning and preparedness.
- Emergency response and recovery efforts contribute to a resilient County, given unavoidable emergencies and natural disasters.
- Those who live in unincorporated disadvantaged communities should not be burdened with elevated exposure to pollution risks and reduced access to public facilities and services.
Goals & Policies
Expand each goal to see related policies
Minimized risk of injury, loss of life, property damage, and economic and social disruption caused by natural environmental hazards and adaptation to potential changes in climate.Policy HZ-1.1 New subdivisions in environmental hazard areas
We require all lots and parcels created through new subdivisions to have sufficient buildable area outside of the following environmental hazard areas:
- Flood: 100-year flood zone, dam/basin inundation area
- Geologic: Alquist Priolo earthquake fault zone; County-identified fault zone; rockfall/debris-flow hazard area, existing and County-identified landslide area
We require all new development to be located outside of the environmental hazard areas listed below. For any lot or parcel that does not have sufficient buildable area outside of such hazard areas, we require adequate mitigation, including designs that allow occupants to shelter in place and to have sufficient time to evacuate during times of extreme weather and natural disasters.
- Flood: 100-year flood zone, dam/basin inundation area
- Geologic: Alquist Priolo earthquake fault zone; County-identified fault zone; rockfall/debris-flow hazard area, medium or high liquefaction area (low to high and localized), existing and County-identified landslide area, moderate to high landslide susceptibility area)
- Fire: high or very high fire hazard severity zone
We require any new lots or subdivisions partially in, and any new development partially or entirely in 100-year flood zones or 100-year flood awareness areas to provide detail floodplain mapping for 100- and 200-year storm events as part of the development approval process.Policy HZ-1.4 500-year flood zone
We may collaborate with property owners in the Valley region to establish funding and financing mechanisms to mitigate flood hazards in identified 500-year flood zones.Policy HZ-1.5 Existing properties in environmental hazard areas
We encourage owners of existing properties in hazard areas to add design features that allow occupants to shelter in place and to have sufficient time to evacuate during times of extreme weather and natural disasters.Policy HZ-1.6 Critical and essential facility location
We require new critical and essential facilities to be located outside of hazard areas, whenever feasible.Policy HZ-1.7 Underground utilities
We require that underground utilities be designed to withstand seismic forces, accommodate ground settlement, and hardened to fire risk.Policy HZ-1.8 Wind erosion hazards
We require new development in medium-high or high wind erosion hazard areas to minimize the effects of wind-blown soil through building and site design features such as fencing, surface treatment or pavement, attenuation or wind barriers, architectural features, building materials, and drought resistant landscaping.Policy HZ-1.9 Hazard areas maintained as open space
We minimize risk associated with flood, geologic, and fire hazard zones or areas by encouraging such areas to be preserved and maintained as open space.Policy HZ-1.10 Energy independence
We encourage new residential development to include rooftop solar energy systems and battery storage systems that can provide backup electrical service during temporary power outages.Policy HZ-1.11 Energy efficiency retrofits
We encourage owners of existing residential and commercial properties to retrofit the walls, doors, windows, ceilings, roofs, ductwork, and other elements of their building envelopes, in order to improve energy efficiency and better protect occupants from extreme temperatures.Policy Policy HZ-1.12 Local hazard mitigation plan implementation
We require adherence to the goals, objectives and actions in the Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan and subsequent amendments to reduce and mitigate damages from hazards in the county.Policy Policy HZ-1.13 Fire protection planning
We require that all new development in County-designated Fire Safety Overlay and/or CAL FIRE-designated Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones meet the requirements of the California Fire Code and the California Building Code as amended by the County Fire Protection District, including Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations fire safety requirements for any new development within State Responsibility Areas, as well as provide and maintain a Fire Protection Plan or Defensible Space/Fuel Modification Plan and other pre-planning measures in accordance with the County Code of Ordinances.Policy Policy HZ-1.14 Long-term fire hazard reduction and abatement
We require proactive vegetation management/hazard abatement to reduce fire hazards on existing private properties, along roadsides of evacuation routes out of wildfire prone areas, and other private/public land where applicable, and we require new development to enter into a long-term maintenance agreement for vegetation management in defensible space, fuel modification, and roadside fuel reduction in the Fire Safety Overlay and/or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.Policy Policy HZ-1.15 Evacuation route adequacy
We coordinate with CAL FIRE, California’s Office of Emergency Services, and other local fire districts to identify strategies that ensure the maintenance and reliability of evacuation routes potentially compromised by wildfire, including emergency evacuation and supply transportation routes.
People and the natural environment protected from exposure to hazardous materials, excessive noise, and other human-generated hazardsPolicy HZ-2.1 Hazardous waste facilities
We regulate and buffer hazardous waste facilities to protect public health and avoid impacts on the natural environment.Policy HZ-2.2 Database of hazardous materials
We maintain up-to-date databases of the storage, use, and production of hazardous materials, based on federally- and state-required disclosure and notification, to appropriately respond to potential emergencies.Policy HZ-2.3 Safer alternatives
We minimize the use of hazardous materials by choosing and by encouraging others to use non-toxic alternatives that do not pose a threat to the environment.Policy HZ-2.4 Truck routes for hazardous materials
We designate truck routes for the transportation of hazardous materials through unincorporated areas and prohibit routes that pass through residential neighborhoods to the maximum extent feasible.Policy HZ-2.5 Community education
We engage with residents and businesses to promote safe practices related to the use, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials.Policy HZ-2.6 Coordination with transportation authorities
We collaborate with airport owners, FAA, Caltrans, SBCTA, SCAG, neighboring jurisdictions, and other transportation providers in the preparation and maintenance of, and updates to transportation-related plans and projects to minimize noise impacts and provide appropriate mitigation measures.Policy HZ-2.7 Truck delivery areas
We encourage truck delivery areas to be located away from residential properties and require associated noise impacts to be mitigated.Policy HZ-2.8 Proximity to noise generating uses
We limit or restrict new noise sensitive land uses in proximity to existing conforming noise generating uses and planned industrial areas.Policy HZ-2.9 Control sound at the source
We prioritize noise mitigation measures that control sound at the source before buffers, soundwalls, and other perimeter measures.Policy HZ-2.10 Agricultural operations
We require new development adjacent to existing conforming agricultural operations to provide adequate buffers to reduce the exposure of new development to operational noise, odor, and the storage or application of pesticides or other hazardous materials.Policy HZ-2.11 Legacy abandoned mine lands
We inventory legacy abandoned mines and require private property owners to eliminate hazardous conditions that could threaten human life and environmental contamination. We pursue funding to address legacy abandoned mines on County-owned property.
For unincorporated environmental justice focus areas, equitable levels of protection from environmental and health hazards; expanded opportunities for physical activity and meaningful civic engagement; and access to healthy food, public facilities, safe and sanitary housing.Policy HZ-3.1 Health Risk Assessment
We require projects processed by the County to provide a health risk assessment when a project could potentially increase the incremental cancer risk by 10 in 1 million or more in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas, and we require such assessments to evaluate impacts of truck traffic from the project to freeways. We establish appropriate mitigation prior to the approval of new construction, rehabilitation, or expansion permits.Policy HZ-3.2 Studying and monitoring
We coordinate with state and regional regulatory entities to monitor pollution exposure, publicize pollution data, and identify solutions in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas. We work with state and regional regulatory entities to pursue grant funding to study cumulative health risks affecting such areas.Policy HZ-3.3 Community Emissions Reduction Plans
We assist the air quality management districts in establishing community emissions reduction plans for unincorporated environmental justice focus areas and implement, as feasible, those parts of the plans, that are within the jurisdiction and authority of the County, with particular emphasis in addressing the types of pollution identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ-3.4 Residential Improvements
In directing discretionary housing improvements investments in unincorporated communities, we encourage and prioritize investments that also address environmental conditions identified in the Hazard Element tables. We utilize code enforcement activities to enhance structural safety and property maintenance in environmental justice focus areas.Policy HZ-3.5 Hazardous waste facilities
We do not permit new hazardous waste facilities to be developed in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas.Policy HZ-3.6 Contaminated water and soils
We advocate for and coordinate with local and regional agencies in efforts to remediate or treat contaminated surface water, groundwater, or soils in or affecting unincorporated environmental justice focus areas. We pursue grant funding and establish partnerships to implement the County’s Site Remediation Program in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas, with particular emphasis in addressing the types of contamination identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ-3.7 Well Water Testing
In unincorporated environmental justice focus areas that are not served by public water systems, we periodically test well water for contamination, identify potential funding sources, and, where feasible, provide technical assistance to implement necessary improvements, with particular emphasis in addressing the types of contamination identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ-3.8 Indoor Air Quality
We educate and raise awareness in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas about indoor air quality, and we pursue grant funding to address asthma and other respiratory illnesses.Policy HZ-3.9 Public improvements and services
In directing discretionary investments in County provided public facilities, infrastructure, and services in unincorporated communities, we prioritize investments that also address environmental conditions identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ- 3.10 Multi use facilities
We emphasize coordination efforts for joint use of public and private recreation facilities serving unincorporated environmental justice focus areas. We encourage that newly constructed or substantially remodeled public facilities serving unincorporated environmental justice focus areas be assessed and designed for features and spaces that improve the community’s access to physical activity and/or healthy food options, as feasible and appropriate to the needs of the community.Policy HZ-3.11 Public Health
We utilize County Department of Public Health experience, expertise, and staffing resources to expand and improve outreach, community engagement, analysis, and implementation efforts in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas, with particular emphasis in addressing the types of health concerns identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ-3.12 Barriers to physical activity
We prioritize identification of appropriate remedies to improve and remove, where feasible, barriers to outdoor physical activity, such as inadequate infrastructure, when doing County projects in environmental justice focus areas, with particular emphasis in addressing the types of health and mobility issues identified in the Hazard Element tables.Policy HZ-3.13 Safe routes to school
We work with our regional transportation authority, school districts and local law enforcement to ensure that schools have safe walking and bicycling routes to school. In applying for Safe Routes to School grants, we will prioritize schools that are either located in the environmental justice focus areas, or serve children residing in environmental justice focus areas.Policy HZ-3.14 Community desired improvements
We assist unincorporated environmental justice focus areas to identify ways in which they might establish special funding and financing mechanisms to provide community‐desired public facilities and services, recreational facilities, sidewalks and bike trails, and access to fresh and healthy food.Policy HZ-3.15 Food access
We increase access to healthy food in underserved areas by promoting local food production, community gardens, and urban farms in agricultural zoning districts or on vacant or underutilized lands. We also encourage existing and new small grocery or convenience stores to sell fresh foods in underserved areas. We require the County Healthy Communities Program to prioritize environmental justice communities for technical assistance and grant making, and ensure that residents of environmental justice communities are provided educational materials related to food assistance programs, healthy eating habits and food choices.Policy HZ- 3.16 Notification
We notify the public through the County website, mail, and other means when applications are accepted for conditional use permits, changes in zoning, and Policy Plan amendments in or adjacent to environmental justice focus areas. We prepare public notices in the predominant language(s) spoken in the communities containing environmental justice focus areas.Policy HZ-3.17 Community stakeholders
We identify and coordinate with key community stakeholders through advisory committees or other methods to increase public awareness and obtain timely community input concerning potential funding opportunities, conditional use permits, changes in zoning, and amendments to the Policy Plan in or adjacent to environmental justice focus areas.Policy HZ-3.18 Application requirements
In order for a Planning Project Application (excluding Minor Use Permits) to be deemed complete, we require applicants to indicate whether the project is within, adjacent to, or nearby an unincorporated environmental justice focus area and, if so, to:
- document to the County’s satisfaction how an applicant will address environmental justice concerns potentially created by the project; and
- present a plan to conduct at least two public meetings for nearby residents, businesses, and property owners to obtain public input for applications involving a change in zoning or the Policy Plan. The County will require additional public outreach if the proposed project changes substantively in use, scale, or intensity from the proposed project presented at previous public outreach meeting(s).
We make educational materials available to the public in unincorporated environmental justice focus areas so that they clearly understand the potential for adverse pollution, noise, odor, vibration, and lighting and glare, and the effects of toxic materials to promote civil engagement. We require that such educational materials be developed in accordance with Plain Language Guidelines. We require that this information be made available in public spaces such as libraries and community centers, as well as on County websites and other appropriate means.Policy HZ-3.20 Updating EJFAs.
We update the assessment of boundaries, issues, policies, objectives, and implementation strategies regarding environmental justice focus areas subsequent to updates in CalEnviroScreen, equivalent state tools, or as the County deems necessary.Policy HZ-3.21 Emerging pollutants
For pollutants that do not yet have established regulatory thresholds, we coordinate with regulatory agencies to assist their efforts to monitor pollutant levels, establish thresholds, and identify funding and mitigation options, particularly for pollutants that are found in environmental justice focus areas.