Story by Jeff Lipton.
Many Long Beach residents still face the grueling process of rebuilding their storm-ravaged homes, but for residents of the Walks, a neighborhood with no direct street access, driveways or garages, the procedure may be even more complicated.Follow Long Beach Patch on Facebook.
The owners of these heavily damaged bungalows have expressed concern that it may cost them much more to rebuild because the structures are so close together, making it almost impossible for contractors to use their demolition equipment. The cost will probably be driven up since more manual labor will be required, they said.
In addition, the City Council on Feb. 5 voted unanimously to expedite the rebuilding process in the Walks by permitting the maximum height of these homes to be increased from 20 to 23 feet, which will comply with FEMA requirements. But residents said the infrastructure is too old and may not be able to handle the excess strain the larger structures could place on the water and sewer systems.
Melissa Gowan, a nine-year resident of 5 September Walk, said it could cost her between $20,000 and $40,000 more to rebuild. She is staring at a construction price tag of between $150,000 and $180,000.
“It will cost us more money because everything has to be carted in,” Gowan said. “You can’t get the cranes in. They will have to use different machinery.”
She said it was determined that 53 percent of her home sustained damage, which means it will have to be razed.
In addition, Gowan said the water system feeding the Walks is already “horrible” and the rebuilt homes will only add to the stress on the system.
“I don’t think the water system can handle it,” she said.
Bob Reed, another resident of the Walks, said this may be a good time to replace the aging infrastructure.
“The water pressure needs to be addressed,” said Reed, who added that he would ask the city to allow him to rebuild his home at a height of 25 feet. “But in general, I’m not dissatisfied with the tact the city is taking [with the rebuilding process] at this point. They say they are doing everything they can and I will take them at their word.”
During the Feb. 5 meeting, James Lynch, a May Walk resident, said that since the maximum height of the structures has been extended, residents will build even bigger bungalows.
“The infrastructure there is 90 years old,” Lynch said. “…It’s never been replenished. Nothing. And we’ve talked about this every election year.”
Lynch said that post-Sandy, the neighborhood sustained a water main break and a garage collapsed at a home. He also expressed concern about the sewer system.
“You have to have a plan somewhere that’s going to alleviate this problem,” Lynch said. “It was never designed for what’s going to be put there.
“Seriously look into this before we do have a catastrophe there,” Lynch added. Problems with Fencing and Decking
Tricia Quinto, whose boyfriend owns one of the bungalows, said that over the years the city has allowed residents to put up decking, fencing and landscaping along the right-of-way. This has now complicated the process of contractors reaching the homes with machinery.
“The city needs to reclaim the right-of-way,” said Quinto. “It needs to be cleared so the demolition crews and the construction crews could get in there. Using manual labor rather than machines will cause the prices to skyrocket. It will make it a financial hardship for people living in the Walks.”
Patricia Burchianti, a resident of 8 September Walk, said that with the fences in the way, homes will have to be taken down by hand.
“The city really needs to step up to decide what we’re going to do with gaining access to the Walks,” she said.
More than 57 percent of Quinto’s boyfriend’s home was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, costing an estimated $160,000 to rebuild.
She said residents remain frustrated over the rebuilding process and the city must offer them reasonable assistance.
“This has left people confused and wary about whether they want to remain here,” Quinto said. “This has really scared a lot of people.” City Makes Suggestions
City officials said residents can apply for FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) program, which offers homeowners $30,000 to help meet federal flood zone guidelines by raising the height of these structures.
City Manager Jack Schnirman said the city is seeking funding from Hazard Mitigation program, which would enable homeowners to ward off problems with future flooding.
In addition, he said the city is seeking its share of funding from the federal $60 billion Sandy relief bill.
“We’re asking for money from the federal government now that they’ve passed this bill to help homeowners in any way possible,” Schnirman said. “So as we get that money — if we get that money — then we can go ahead and be helpful.”