Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning


City and Regional Planning


Mike Boswell



Santa Barbara Tea Fire Multi-Hazard Mitigation Benefit Cost Analysis

David S Flamm

This study examines the benefits and costs associated with the outright purchase of properties for hazard mitigation (“property acquisition mitigation”) in Santa Barbara, California which reduced four properties’ exposure to multiple hazards. The results indicate that the estimated overall benefit-cost ratio for property acquisition mitigation projects is 1.75:1 when the exposed properties meet a threshold of eminent threat for total loss. This study further suggests that when property acquisitions are performed in an area threatened by multiple hazards the mitigation becomes two to three times more beneficial than in an area threatened by a single hazard. Possible implications and future benefits associated with this mitigation and mitigations like this are also explored.

Multi-hazard mitigation is an action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risks from natural or human-caused hazards. A hazard is any condition or event with the potential to cause fatalities, injuries, property damage, infrastructure damage, economic interruptions, environmental damage, or other loss. The study area for the Tea Fire BCA (Benefit Cost Analysis) is subject to multiple hazards, primarily landslides, wildfires, and earthquakes.

In an attempt to reduce the exposure to landslides a mitigation project was completed in 1998. This project included purchase of four properties by the City of Santa Barbara using federal and local funds. The undeveloped properties were left empty as open space to eliminate the exposure to risk. The project, originally intended to mitigate landslide risk, mitigated risk exposure to multiple hazards. The mitigation was put to the test during the Santa Barbara Tea Fire, a wildfire which burned approximately 2,000 acres of Santa Barbara County land in November, 2008.

The following steps were followed to determine the overall loss avoidance:

1. Obtain building values before mitigation 2. Obtain current comparable building values 3. Determine burn recurrence in study area 4. Obtain fire damage estimates from FEMA BCA tool based on “before mitigation” building and contents values 5. Calculate “loss avoidance” and adjust for inflation using FEMA BCA tool 6. Add additional avoided losses not considered in BCA (e.g., emergency management costs) 7. Subtract new losses resulting from the project 8. Determine multi-hazard recurrence in study area

Keywords: Hazard Mitigation, Benefit Cost Analysis, Loss Avoidance.