Sacramento CA red light districts face greater risk of flooding


When heavy rains fall in Sacramento, it is historically Neighborhoods marked in red – many of which are now home to low-income households and residents of color – that are at higher risk of experiencing flooding.

Gardenland was identified in the 1930s as a ‘declining’ and unwanted neighborhood by the federally sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation on maps in red, reflecting patterns of discrimination and racist lending practices that continue. have social, health and economic repercussions.

At the time, surveyors said the neighborhood was subject to standing water during periods of heavy rain. Today, it is a predominantly Latin neighborhood with a large number of Asian, Black and Native American residents. Homes there are still threatened by potential flood damage.

This is a trend that is mirrored across the United States: According to a March report by real estate company Redfin which analyzed redlining maps and flood risk data, homes in formerly demarcated neighborhoods are 25 % more likely to be flooded than unmarked areas.

And in general, studies have found that mobile home residents, low-income people, and residents of color are disproportionately affected by flooding and flood risk, whether or not they live in a community historically. delimited.

Of all the cities analyzed, Redfin found that Sacramento had the greatest disparity in flood risk between neighborhoods deemed desirable and undesirable.

In Sacramento, about 20% of homes in areas marked in red and yellow – neighborhoods deemed “dangerous” or “certainly in decline” by the FHA respectively – face a high risk of flooding today, found Redfin. This is compared to about 12% of homes in green and blue line neighborhoods that were considered desirable.

Nearly half of households in the red and yellow areas of Sacramento are now occupied by people of color, compared to a third of households in the green and blue areas, according to Redfin.

Certain neighborhoods in Sacramento have been marked in red due to issues such as limited or aging infrastructure, or proximity to train tracks or industrial sites. But often they were devalued because they were areas populated by immigrants and people of color, with federal maps detailing certain neighborhoods as having an “infiltration of subversive racial elements.”

These less desirable areas of Sacramento included much of downtown and Midtown, Old North Sacramento, parts of Oak Park and Tahoe Park, and parts of East Sacramento, among others.

Private mortgage lenders and the Federal Housing Administration of the day often refused to lend to residents of neighborhoods they deemed in decline or unsafe, cutting these communities off from capital investments or preventing families from accumulating generational wealth.

Sacramento was a much smaller city in the 1930s, when bank assessors demarcated neighborhoods. More recently developed neighborhoods built after the ban on redlining, like Hagginwood, are also at extreme risk of flooding, in part because of its proximity to Arden Creek, which can easily overflow during torrential downpours when thunderstorms dump water into the tributary. Houses in the north and south of Natomas are also at serious risk of flooding.

While many parts of the city are protected from a 100-year flood – the type of flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year – thousands of homes in Sacramento would suffer significant damage in the event. a particularly extreme storm. Sacramento, which sits on naturally swampy land and is widely regarded as one of America’s most flood-prone major cities, relies heavily on existing levees and bypasses along the Sacramento and American Rivers for protection against flooding. severe flooding.

Sacramento is still years away from fulfilling a state mandate sparked by Hurricane Katrina requiring urban areas to be protected from a 200-year flood. And enduring a 500-year flood like Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston in 2017 – a storm that has about a 0.2% chance of occurring in any given year – would do devastating damage to Sacramento.

More extreme storms and flooding are likely to increase due to climate change, experts say. More and scarcer rainfall is increasing in warming climates, studies show, increasing the number of people at risk of flooding. More rain than snow in the Sierra during storms will also mean more water flowing down the mountains to the central valley waterways.

Already, 2021 has been a banner year for extreme precipitation in Sacramento. The “bomb cyclone” and atmospheric river storms that hit northern California in October dumped more than 5 inches of rain in the capital region in just 24 hours.

This story was originally published 23 December 2021 11:04 a.m.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers equity issues in the Sacramento area. She previously worked for The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was editor-in-chief of the Daily Californian.
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