Santa Rosa got a court order Wednesday to force the cleanup of the only property in the city destroyed in the October wildfires whose owner took no steps to deal with the issue.
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau issued an abatement order for 3677 Raycrest Court in the devastated Fountaingrove neighborhood.
The property is the only one of the 2,800 structures in the city destroyed in the Tubbs and Nuns wildfires whose owner has yet to apply for either of two avenues available to people seeking to clean up their properties.
The owner of the property is listed in court documents as Hye Ok Kim.
The preliminary deadlines to sign up for the Army Corps of Engineers program or the self-cleanup programs established by Sonoma County and the city passed in November.
Soon after the deadlines passed, 280 Santa Rosa residents had yet to sign up for either program. After extensive outreach by local officials, that number dropped to just four properties early this week.
In some cases residents had left the area and could not be located. In others they had submitted applications to the wrong email address. In some, such as with properties owned by trusts, it has been challenging to identify the current or responsible owner, explained Adriane Mertens, the marketing and outreach manager for the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department.
“We are trying very hard to keep everybody out of the abatement process,” Mertens said.
The city got court permission to inspect the four remaining properties Monday, but on Wednesday it only asked the court for the abatement order on the single property.
With the order in hand, the city could now ask the Army Corps to clean up the site, or to pay for a private contractor to do the work, then placing a lien on the land to ensure taxpayers are repaid.
But for now it plans to continue to try to identify the property owner and convince them to cooperate, said Mertens.
After sifting through some conflicting deed transfers that made contacting the owner complicated, city officials got a new lead on how to reach the owner on Wednesday, Mertens said.
“We’re hopeful that we might be able to make sure they’re into a plan for debris removal by the end of this week,” she said.
The county is using a similar process to identify and get property owners into either plan, and has 26 sites to go, Mertens said. FEMA officials have said they’ll continue to allow properties into their program despite the passage of the deadline on a case-by-case basis.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here