Since taking office in 2011, I have received numerous calls and emails about street flooding on Alamo St., Bee St., Reed Ave. and Utah Ave. On rare occasions the flooding included parts of neighboring South Shores. The flooding most often coincided with seasonally high tides or storm events that increased the water level in the St. Johns. The neighborhood is located along a section of the river where there is a natural shoreline rather than a bulkhead and several natural inlets divide the areas. One of those inlets is home to a City of Jacksonville park- Bee Street Park. According to the City website:
“Bee Street Park is 8.3 acres of undeveloped land in the South Shores subdivision, east of Jacksonville’s San Marco section. The park takes its name from Bee Street that is adjacent to the park. During the 1930’s, Joseph Davin and Brown Whatley were the premier developers of South Jacksonville. One of their firms, the Southside Homes Company, platted South Shores in 1937 and dedicated the land as a park or parks for public use. In 1940-41, five small parks were cleared and planted on at least a portion of the property. Today, dense thickets, trees, marsh, and a creek from the nearby St. Johns River prevent most access to the land, an in October 2003 the City placed covenants and restrictions on the eastern portion of the site, requiring it to be retained in its natural state. “
The elevation of the streets is lower than most of the residences and that is why they flood first. At my request, the Public Works department did a preliminary engineering study several years ago to assess potential solutions. Options included raising pavement levels, constructing berms, and installing pumps but for various reasons, none were viable solutions. Cost was certainly one factor, but the area is within the flood zone and the elevation so low that many simply would not work without causing the homes themselves to flood.
Fast forward to Hurricane Irma, an extraordinary flooding event, in which many residences suffered damage ranging from minor to severe. As a result, the area within the flood zone became eligible for a FEMA funded Mitigation Grant program. That program would allow residential property owners who wished to sell their home or apartment building, the opportunity to do so at Pre-Irma appraised value. The City agreed to make this program available and notices were mailed to eligible properties. The program is purely voluntary and no one is required to participate- but I wanted to provide owners with the option and appreciate the City’s willingness to coordinate the process for those who choose to opt in. To date, of the 73 eligible properties, over 40 property owners have expressed the desire to participate and 26 have completed the application packets.
The maps below show the flood zone, the underlying lots and streets and the boundaries of the area eligible for the program. Only residential properties are eligible which is why the commercial lots were excluded. As you can see, most of the parcels are part of Reed’s Subdivision and few lots are part of South Shores Subdivision. It is Important to note as confirmed by the maps, not all of South Shores is prone to flooding just as not all of San Marco is. Nevertheless, the references to the locations in the news often seem to imply the condition occurs everywhere- which is definitely not the case and generalizations should not be made. The higher portions of the subdivision are no more at risk than other parts of the City at similar elevations out of the flood zone.
The maps also point out role the creeks and inlets play in the tidal events.