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Special coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County’s four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here.

The first home stands rebuilt in Coffey Park, and a few hundred more are either under construction or soon to get started there.

The long-awaited rebuild has begun in the northwest Santa Rosa neighborhood. The pace may still be slower than many hoped for, but construction has increased markedly from April.

As of Monday, builders had started to construct 125 homes in the neighborhood, compared to about 50 a month earlier, according to the city’s Resilient Permit Center. The activity amounts to more than 80 percent of the homes that currently are being rebuilt in all the Santa Rosa neighborhoods that were scorched by the October wildfires.

Overall, Coffey Park homeowners since the fire had applied to rebuild 276 of the nearly 1,260 homes burned there. By Monday the city had issued 197 of those requested permits.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reports it has received 370 applications for new service from customers with a Coffey Park address.

Also as part of the rebuild, PG&E in May continued to replace underground utilities in the neighborhood. Since the beginning of April, it has completed about 14,000 feet of new trenches, which hold electric, natural gas and other utilities.

PG&E is on track to dig nearly 23 miles of trenches for such utilities in the burned neighborhoods around Santa Rosa, including Mark West and Hidden Valley. The work in Coffey Park is slated to be wrapped up by the end of the year.

Here is a recap of other Coffey Park news for the past month:

...

Putting back the first home

Last week city and neighborhood leaders celebrated the completion of Coffey Park’s first rebuild, a three-bedroom, two-bath home on a cul-de-sac west of the neighborhood park.

The rebuilt, single-story house on Kerry Lane features the same exterior shape and was built on the same foundation as the original home of more than 30 years. The contractor, Lake County Contractors of Cobb, started replacing the structure shortly before the New Year.

It was the first rebuild project to receive a building permit in the city and the first to be brought to completion.

Dan Bradford, the homeowner, expressed gratitude for those who rebuilt his house and for the neighbors who cheered him on during construction.

“I’ve made some really strong friendships out of this,” Bradford said.

...

The last lot cleared

May marked another milestone: the completion of hauling away ash and fire rubble from the single-family home sites of Coffey Park.

A lot on Waring Court was the last one in the neighborhood to have an excavator scoop up bricks, broken metal and other bits of debris from the Tubb’s fire in October. It was one of three lots cleared in early May by a private contractor.

“It’s time for the next chapter,” said Michael Wolff, CEO of Wolff Contracting in Santa Rosa, who oversaw the work. “It feels like now we’re really into the building phase.”

While the cleanup of small residential lots ended, one final project of debris removal remained at the nearby Hopper Lane Apartments. A city official said the Hopper Avenue complex would be the last of the burned apartment and commercial sites in the city to undergo such a cleaning.

For many, the ash and rubble were more than eyesores. They were painful reminders of the trauma and loss suffered in the neighborhood. For them, the cleanup provided relief.

Special coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County’s four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here.

...

Lawsuit over The Orchard

Across the SMART train tracks from Coffey Park, residents of The Orchard mobile home park continue to deal with the loss of nearly 70 homes burned in the October fire. Many residents say the rebuild process is taking too long and they blame the park owner, Hometown America, a Chicago-based company that owns mobile home parks in 13 states.

The 223-unit park, which caters to residents aged 55 and above, sits at Piner Road and Pinercrest Drive.

After the fire, Hometown offered to help residents buy new manufactured homes at discounted prices. It said residents would save more than $100,000 on homes the company estimated would cost $272,000 to $311,000.

But a group of residents in May filed a class-action lawsuit against Hometown. Those residents contended they still had no idea when they could obtain their new homes, and they noted the company had notified them that on Sept. 1 fire survivors would have to resume paying their monthly space rents, which average about $750.

“When September comes, I’ll be paying two rents,” resident Cam Folks said at the news conference announcing the lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Hometown co-president and chief operating officer Stephen Braun said the company was working to get residents back into the park as quickly as possible and for “the most reasonable costs.” The biggest challenge, he said, involved finding enough builders to replace the residents’ two-car garages, which need to be built on site.

Hometown likely will lose money on each unit it provides for the residents, Braun. Nonetheless, he said, “Seeing the devastation, the right thing to do was to get these people back into houses.”

...

City relaxes setback rules

When seeking to rebuild, a number of Coffey Park residents found themselves unable to change the shape of their homes.

In response, the city Planning Commission agreed in May to permit its staff to waive certain setback rules and allow more flexibility.

Some residents learned their final recorded subdivision maps featured rules about permitted setbacks and building envelopes that were specific for each lot. A staff member called the rules a kind of “custom zoning” that precluded the city planners from allowing many changes to the size and placement of homes.

Instead of making each property owner go through the time and expense of hiring a civil engineer or surveyor to propose new setbacks, city staff brought forward a solution that allowed the city engineer, David Guhin, to make them on behalf of residents.

“For everybody who is trying to rebuild, this is going to make the process simpler, more reliable, faster and more friendly to people who are trying to start a new dream,” Planning Commission Chairman Casey Edmonson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit.

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