Sonoma County supervisors have signed off on more efforts to help house residents displaced by the October wildfires, approving a package of measures to expand temporary housing options and simplify some aspects of the permitting process, among other steps.
The new measures will allow fire victims to more easily live for extended periods of time in RV parks and campgrounds, open up specific zones for temporary housing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and promote the growth of mobile home parks. Additional provisions will reduce requirements for rebuilt homes in certain areas and allow residents to live in manufactured homes on fire-damaged properties while they rebuild.
Approved unanimously Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, the new measures follow earlier steps the board took to sanction a variety of temporary housing situations for residents affected by the fires. Previous actions included measures that encouraged fire victims to live in RVs and allowed property owners to rent guest houses, homes on protected farmland and other areas where residential uses had been restricted.
“I’m really excited about these ordinances,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins during Tuesday’s meeting. “I do think that they will make a difference.”
One of the new measures provides for a quicker permitting process if someone wants to live in an RV or campground in a recreational area. Another measure allows FEMA temporary housing projects on areas zoned for public facilities and certain industrial uses.
Supervisors further agreed to make it easier for mobile home parks to expand up to their maximum density, and they are allowing owners of destroyed homes located in scenic areas to pass through a faster-than-normal design review process.
Additionally, owners of destroyed homes in areas with limited groundwater won’t have to submit documentation of a well pump test, since those are only allowed in the summer and the residence was already using the well before, county staff said. Rebuilt homes in those areas will also have to use current water-efficiency standards.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board chairwoman, urged county permit staff to maintain a sense of urgency throughout the rebuilding effort.
“We need to assume that people want to rebuild, and they already have to jump through a thousand hoops in order to get there, and we’re going to try and make that thousand hoops less,” Zane said. “If people have obstacles in terms of transitional housing, you can bet the permanent housing won’t come.”
Staff members are expected to bring a package of permanent housing measures before the board early next year.
Also Tuesday, supervisors agreed to prorate annual sewer costs on homes damaged or destroyed by the October fires. Displaced residents who lived in the Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup Sanitation Zone and the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District will only pay for sewer service from July through September.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @thejdmorris.