DeNova Homes, a large Bay Area home builder, has cancelled plans to rebuild Santa Rosa homes lost during the North Bay firestorms.
In a letter sent Thursday to Coffey Park residents, the Concord company said its construction partners could not guarantee the “resources that are necessary to implement our cost-effective production model.”
“This was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us to make this morning,” wrote DeNova founders Dave and Lori Sanson. “Whether we have met you in person or not, our team has become connected with you and it truly breaks our hearts to say we can’t help you right now, but we wanted to let you know immediately so you can plan accordingly.”
It’s unclear how many Coffey Park residents had been in talks with DeNova as of Thursday. Jeff Okrepkie, chairman of the Coffey Strong neighborhood rebuilding group, said the company in an email less than two weeks ago stated that 75 homeowners had expressed “serious interest” in DeNova’s production homebuilding model.
Okrepkie expressed concern that such a large Bay Area homebuilder could not make a large-scale project “financially feasible.” DeNova is currently building homes in Petaluma in a development called Brody Ranch.
DeNova had been in discussions with homeowners in Santa Rosa’s three main communities devastated by the fires — Coffey Park, Fountaingrove and the Mark West Springs area. It has suspended talks with residents in all three areas
“Our fear is that this is a bellwether of the way things are going to go,” Okrepkie said.
“It’s not a small guy from Clovis or something that wanted to get in and build some houses. It’s a large builder from the Bay Area that’s already building in Sonoma County. They have access to subcontractors and they still couldn’t convince enough labor to come up and build in Santa Rosa to make it financially feasible.”
Okrepkie said that aside from a general labor shortage in home construction, the lack of local framers could be a deep setback for the county’s rebuilding efforts. He said framers have plenty of work in their own communities, including Central Valley communities such as Fairfield.
“There are just not that many of them in Santa Rosa so you have to pull from other areas,” he said.
Lindsay Owen, DeNova’s entitlement manager, said in an email the company simply could not “secure all of the assurances we need to move forward immediately with a rebuilding program, and we would never want to make promises that we couldn’t keep.
“The framers are always a key player in any project,” she said. “As of right now, it is constantly a struggle to have enough of them to support the day-to-day construction industry, aside from the rebuild efforts.”
The decision was made, she said, taking into account residents’ urgent need to rebuild their homes quickly.
“The last thing we want to do is let these communities down, further down the road.”
Okrepkie said he hopes other builders don’t run into the same labor troubles with their subcontractors and materials suppliers.
“It scares me seeing the size of a DeNova — the size and scale of what they could accomplish — and they still couldn’t make it a reality,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.