FEMA - New Flood Map

The City of Del Mar currently participates in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  The NFIP makes flood insurance available to residents, makes the City eligible for pre-disaster grants and assistance to apply towards adaptation projects to minimize risks, and makes the City eligible for disaster relief assistance.

As part of the flood management program, FEMA designates flood zones that define the local Floodway and Floodplain areas in Del Mar.  FEMAs zones have corresponding limits on development that relate to the type of flood vulnerability (i.e. river or coastal wave flood sources). The Special Flood Hazard Area as a whole represents the area subject to flooding by the 1% annual chance flood, which the City maps and regulates as Del Mar’s “Floodplain Overlay Zone”. In 2017, (FEMA) completed a study of coastal flood hazards and updated the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to reflect the results. 

On June 20, 2019, FEMA issued a letter of final determination relating to the new FIRM map in process.  This means that the new FIRM map is effective on December 21, 2019.

Subsequently, FEMA explained that the initial “Summary of Map Actions” document (SOMA) that they had transmitted to the City in June 2019 (with the letter of final determination) was in error. FEMA’s initial SOMA had miscategorized the status of a prior Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) for a property on Ocean Front in relationship to the new FIRM map.  On August 1, 2019, FEMA provided a corrected Final “Summary of Map Actions” document, which now shows that three prior LOMAs (3010 Sandy Lane, 2024 Ocean Front, and 2828 Ocean Front) are being superseded by the new FIRM, which means that these prior LOMAs will no longer apply as of December 21, 2019, when the new FIRM takes effect per FEMA's final letter issued on December 13, 2019.

For a summary of FEMA Technical Bulletins and review of construction standards, please read the User's Guide to Technical Bulletins.

Please refer to the FEMA letter dated June 20, 2019 (PDF), the Final Summary of Map Actions dated 8/1/2019 (PDF), and the FEMA letter dated December 13, 2019.

What is a FIRM map?

FIRM maps are used to manage areas subject to flooding and show a community’s base flood elevations, flood zones, and floodplain/floodway boundaries. The main difference between the old mapping (completed 30 years ago) and new mapping is that the new maps account for wave action and detailed engineering analyses to model coastal flood hazards.The new FIRM map accounts for flooding based on total water levels, dune erosion, wave setup, wave run-up, seawall overtopping, overland wave propagation, and coastal structures,but does not account for projected sea level rise. An applicant may request and process a letter of map change to the satisfaction of FEMA to modify a mapped flood zone.  This process is available to anyone seeking a flood map revision based on specific adaptive design measures in place to reduce the risk of flooding.


FEMA released a draft preliminary map in March 2017.  On October 17, 2017, FEMA notified the City of Del Mar of a 90-day appeal period (November 1, 2017 through January 29, 2018).  No technical basis for appeal was identified and no appeal was filed. FEMA has since been working with the Port of San Diego on a technical issue relating to that portion of the flood panel and expects the new FIRM map will take effect for the San Diego region as a whole in December 2019.

The City of Del Mar floodplain is shown on two panels of the FIRM: 06073C1307 and 06073C1309. Currently, properties located west of Ocean Front Avenue are not in the Floodplain Overlay Zone and are exempt from floodplain development regulations. However, the FEMA coastal hazard study indicates the beach front properties north of 18th Street to the San Dieguito Lagoon River Mouth should be mapped as Special Flood Hazard Area due to the associated high risk of wave action and coastal flooding. This will extend the VE Zone eastward of the sandy beach, past existing seawalls, and onto private property on the updated FIRM. Other floodplain areas (i.e. VE Zones south of 18th Street and the San Dieguito River floodplain) will remain unchanged.

On May 15, 2019, FEMA held a local assistance meeting in Del Mar’s Town Hall to explain the applicability of the new FIRM map and answer community questions.  The meeting was live broadcast and recorded.

Information from FEMA Local Assistance Meeting – May 15, 2019

FEMA Information Package (PDF)

FEMA’s preliminary FIRM and Flood Insurance Study can be viewed here and on the FEMA web page.

New development in the Special Flood Hazard Area will be subject to permit requirements and development limitations to help avoid or reduce projected flood impacts. Owners in the Special Flood Hazard Area, with a federally backed mortgage loan, will also be required to buy flood insurance.