Tom Lai, Director of Marin County Community Development, referring to housing numbers at the 2/22 BOS Meeting
SB 182 would have mandated evacuation routes, but it was VETOED by Newsom in 2022, because it would slow the housing down.
SB 1292 UPDATE: DID NOT PASS
"This bill would authorize a city, county, or city and county to restrict the development of residential housing in moderate, high, and very high fire hazard severity zones, as defined, if the city, county, or city and county adopts a plan, as specified, ensuring the production of at least double the number of residential units not developed as a result of the restriction."
Most California Fires Occur in Area of Wildland-urban Interface with Less Fuel and More People
WE ARE LUCKY to have this excellent Marin County Fire Protection Plan 2020 update (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=6b55c55b3f7d41fe980ef5e65ae881a6
THE SAFETY ELEMENT is supposed to be based on updated forestry department maps, but they are not finished and still date back to 2007
State Responsibility Area Maps: CAL FIRE adopted Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps for State Responsibility Areas in November 2007.
The maps and related regulations were approved by the Office of Administrative Law. Development of the 2007 California Fire Hazard Severity Zone Maps
Click Here for the Fire Hazard Severity Zone Viewer inside the Office of the State Fire Marshall: (YOU WILL BE DIRECTED TO A 2007 MAP, DATE VISIBLE)
FROM THAT REPORT:
“While most of California is subject to some degree of fire hazard, there are specific features that make some areas more hazardous." These hazards have become more widespread and severe since 2007.
"The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is REQUIRED BY LAW 1 to map areas of significant fire hazards based on fuels, terrain, weather, and other relevant factors. These designations, referred to as Fire Hazard Severity Zones (FHSZ), mandate how people construct buildings and protect property to reduce risk associated with wildland fires".
"The maps were last updated in 2007. They are currently being updated to incorporate improved fire science, data and mapping techniques. The proposed Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps denote lands of similar hazards where the state has financial responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as state responsibility area or SRA, and will be available for review and public comment."
"It is anticipated that in late 2020 or 2021* CAL FIRE will produce Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps for the areas of California where local governments have financial responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as Local Responsibility Area or LRA. Per law, only lands zoned as Very High Fire Hazard Severity are identified within local responsibility areas.”
* THE NEW MAPS ARE STILL NOT AVAILABLE.
MAPS BELOW, STILL IN USE, ARE THE MAPS FROM 2007-2010. NOTE AREAS NOT CALLED OUT THAT HAVE BURNED SEVERELY SINCE:
by Chris Nichols Monday, December 20, 2021 | Sacramento, CA Fire maps
“Local governments have argued that expanding the hazard zones will make it harder to meet state targets for new affordable housing, said Staci Heaton, a regulatory affairs advocate with the Rural County Representatives of California. “The state’s telling [counties] they have to build so many housing units per year,” she said. “Even in the high fire hazard severity zones, they have to strike that balance between fire mitigation and also building these low-income housing units.”
After years of delays, CalFire says updated and expanded wildfire hazard maps are on their way - capradio.org For years, state officials have promised and failed to update maps that show the parts of California most at risk for wildfire. In the more than a dozen years since current maps were released, climate change and climate science have dramatically adjusted our understanding of what might burn. Now, state officials say the long-awaited updates will land in the next few months. The stakes for the new fire risk maps are high. Local governments use CalFire’s hazard zones as a guide post in deciding where new homes and businesses should be approved — or rejected. Homeowners who live inside high risk zones have to disclose that risk when they decide to sell. They also are required by a new state law to keep their homes fire-proofed — by building out defensible space. The number of homes in those high-risk areas has grown in the last decade. The state’s wildfires now regularly set records in size and destruction. “Fires are burning in ways that nobody has seen before,” said CalFire Chief Thom Porter at an August news conference. “Yes, I keep saying that. You keep hearing that. But it is absolutely true.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection last updated its fire hazard severity zone maps in 2007, well before recent record-breaking megafires swept across California. Past mapping focused on geographic hazards such as forests and canyons where fire spreads, according to Daniel Berlant, CalFire’s assistant deputy director. This time, climate hazards are front and center.
“What has changed,” Berlant added, “is these extreme wind events, which carry embers now well past that outer edge [where development intersects with wildlands] into areas that historically were not even designated with a fire hazard level.” On the maps, which cover all 58 counties, are three color-coded designations: yellow for moderate fire hazard, orange for high hazard and red for very high. This time, CalFire says those zones are likely to be bigger, taking in more Californians and more areas where homes and wildlands meet. In Santa Rosa, where the Tubbs Fire caused widespread urban damage, homeowner Brian Fies is waiting anxiously for CalFire’s new maps. Fies’ home burned to the ground in 2017, and he wrote a memoir about his loss called A Fire Story. Eventually, he rebuilt on the same land. “Climate change is making risk a moving target,” Fies said. “Places that used to be safe aren't safe anymore, and firefighters need to understand and reflect that change.”
New maps will have big impact
Local governments use CalFire’s hazard zones to help decide where new homes and businesses should be approved. Inside these zones, developers must follow the state’s strict and more costly fire safety rules, known as the 7A codes. Those codes require:
• Wider roads, more access to water supplies, and more road and directional signs;
• More costly materials for new home construction, including walls, roofs and eaves that can resist flying embers and heat from fire;
• Clearing 100 feet of defensible space around buildings; and
• Disclosure that a piece of property is within a fire zone when it’s sold.
For homeowners within hazard zones, Heaton argued life is likely to be more difficult. Homes in risky areas are more likely to lose their electricity when the wind picks up, she says, because utility companies may target their neighborhoods for planned power shut offs.
And Heaton expects some property owners could find their homes uninsurable. “Once those fire maps get finalized, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more non-renewals,” she said. “We’re already seeing a lot of homeowner insurance non-renewals in our communities.”
CalFire officials maintain that they’re focused on precision, not politics, in drawing the new hazard zones, which were anticipated in 2020. “We want to get the science right,” Berlant said. “Unfortunately, building that science into a model has taken us a lot longer than we had originally projected.”
The update will incorporate extreme weather models that didn’t exist when the current maps were developed nearly two decades ago.
But critics like Rick Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute, a nonprofit environmental group, say CalFire has long had the capacity to make the maps more accurate and relevant. “To have [the old maps] still hanging around is pretty inexcusable,” he said. Halsey added that the existing maps are both outdated and flawed.
In Santa Rosa, the Tubbs Fire burned the Fountaingrove neighborhood, just as the Hanly Fire had in 1964, and a blaze before that in 1908.
“This is what’s so tragic: That area burned twice before, virtually in the same footprint in the previous 100 years,” Halsey said. “And so why that history wasn't incorporated into the fire severity maps is a mystery to me.”
Approximately 95% of structures seriously damaged in California wildfires from 2013 through 2020 took place inside either federal, state or local fire hazard zones, according to data provided by CalFire. Dave Sapsis, CalFire’s wildland fire scientist in charge of the maps, points out that the state’s hazard maps proved highly accurate in predicting where structures would burn during California’s recent wildfires.
But he also acknowledged that the map for Santa Rosa should have incorporated historical burn risk better. “Our existing model right now works almost all the time except when it doesn’t,” Sapsis said. “And that was a fairly sizable miss.”
Complicating things for the public, CalFire’s maps only show state fire hazard zones and some local hazard zones, but not those designated by the federal government. Because of climate change, CalFire’s Sapsis expects to update hazard maps more often in the future.
“That hazard is increasing with time,” Sapsis explained. “The fire environment is getting worse. It's getting drier, it's getting windier.” Berlant, CalFire’s assistant deputy director, said the agency would unveil the new maps to county governments “as early as the beginning of next year.” In Santa Rosa, homeowner Brian Fies says state and local governments should put the map in every mailbox. “In my opinion they should push it,” Fies said. “Not just passively provided, not just it's available on, you know, Page 312 of the county's website, but they should push it.” Fies’ neighborhood wasn’t in a high risk zone on the CalFire map when he rebuilt. But he’s worried about what the updated maps may reveal. “It seems like nowhere in the western half of North America is there a safe place anymore,” Fies added. “It's difficult, even in the suburbs.”
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EXCERPTS ONLY, ARTICLE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. LINK:
By RICHARD HALSTEAD Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: April 22, 2022
"Marin County officials this week expressed their determination to maintain safety standards while working to comply with a daunting state housing mandate... The safety element contains the county’s plans to address environmental hazards such as drought, wildfire, sea level rise, flooding and severe weather.
"Marin County is a high hazard county, there is just no way around it,” said Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, noting the county’s vulnerability to wildfire, drought, earthquakes, floods and sea level rise. “We need to make a strong case that there are just some areas not suitable for a lot of housing because of these hazards,” Moulton-Peters said. “This is one of the fact-based ways we can wrestle with overcrowding in the wrong areas.”
With the state entering its third year of drought and major conflagrations becoming an annual occurrence, perhaps no safety concern looms larger than wildfire. Carol Rice, MIG’s wildland fire manager, noted during the meeting that approximately 60,000 acres, 18% of the county’s land area, falls within the “wildland urban interface” (WUI). Based on 2018-2019 tax assessor data, there are some 69,400 Marin homes valued at $58.5 billion within the WUI. Under new state laws, the state forestry board is required to review all general plan safety elements. The forestry board must also prepare fire hazard severity zone maps; develop regulations for wildfire safety with which local governments must comply; and review evacuation routes that the county identifies.
Don Dickenson, chair of the Marin County Planning Commission, pointed out that the state has neither released its fire hazard severity zone maps nor finalized its wildfire safety regulations. “We’re on a very tight time schedule,” Dickenson said, “and it seems to me that is critical information in terms of both developing the safety element and doing the environmental review on it.” Rice said it is unlikely that the maps will come out any time soon. Leslie Lacko, a county planner, said MIG will rely on a Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority study in the works that is evaluating Marin fire evacuation routes based on risk. “They’re just getting that project off the ground,” Lacko said. “It will not be done before the safety element is done.”
PUBLIC SPACES STILL IN DANGER OF DEVELOPMENT BUT AB-1910 FAILED!
Publicly owned golf courses: conversion: affordable housing, 5/11/22 FAILED in Committee
The legislation would have allowed the state to redevelop municipal golf courses into affordable housing. The earlier version of the bill focused on municipal courses in densely populated urban areas, but the current bill could allow development of any municipal course in the state.
MILL VALLEY MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE is a designated safe refuge area in fire emergencies. We have very few. The maps and more info available on the link below.
From the Mill Valley Emergency Planning and Preparedness Update March 2021: http://cityofmillvalley.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=cityofmillvalley_9949a508f3ecc96b45d776d51d04f3c1.pdf
“Community Refuge Areas: Community Refuge Areas (CRA) are pre-identified areas throughout the Mill Valley and Southern Marin region where residents can seek shelter from a fast-moving wildfire within their neighborhood. Widely considered as an area of last resort, CRA's provide community separation from fire and provide relative safety for 60 to 90 minutes until law enforcement provides direction. Typically, large, green open spaces like golf courses, parks, and ball fields, CRA's are provided as options when complete evacuation is not possible due to roadway inundation or blockages.” In times of life and death, the golf course is one of only three large buffer areas that serve this important safety function. If it’s covered with housing, the new residents will be added to the already large number of people needing shelter, except that the CRAC area would then be only 15% of its former size.
There are issues here that are Mill Valley specific. https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/news/release/wui-interface-intermix
https://emergency.marincounty.org/pages/prepare-for-emergency#wildfire Here is something rational and positive that happened recently, in that a California judge halted a housing project based on evacuation safety concerns: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/us/wildfire-development-california-legal.html?referringSource=articleShare https://www.google.com/url?
https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2019/04/25/california-wildfire-evacuation-road-capacity-traffic-analysis-methodology-camp-fire/3514552002/ California wildfire evacuation analysis after Camp Fire Fleeing fires in California is common; evacuation planning isn't