PD Editorial: Sharing costs and lessons of rebuild

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New walls are going up alongside Hopper Avenue in Santa Rosa.

Replacing the walls is a small part of restoring the Coffey Park neighborhood, where more than 1,500 homes burned 17 months ago in the Tubbs fire. But there was nothing small about the $450,000 price tag, especially when it looked as if the cost would fall on 42 adjacent property owners, compounding their own rebuilding efforts.

Instead, the 8-foot sound barriers are a concrete example of a homegrown effort to fill some of the gaps between insurance coverage and government disaster relief.

The cost was covered by AshBritt Environmental, a Florida company that worked on debris removal in Sonoma County, working through the Rebuild North Foundation.

Rebuild, a charitable organization formed while the 2017 fires were still burning, connected AshBritt with the Coffey Strong neighborhood group. The company’s donation was routed through Rebuild, which also arranged for free legal assistance with the paperwork required for the wall and for the 42 affected property owners. The Hopper Avenue walls should be finished by the end of April.

Rebuild, which has raised $3.1 million to date for fire relief in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties, also is replacing a mile of perimeter fence in the Larkfield-Mark West Springs neighborhood, preparing to roll out a small grant program for neighborhood groups and working to arrange discounts for furnishing rebuilt homes and amenities such as solar panels, a strategy recommended by officials in Houston, which is in the midst of rebuilding thousands of homes lost to Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Looking ahead, Rebuild is starting to focus on October, the second anniversary of the North Bay fires, when insurance coverage for temporary rental housing will begin to expire, and to 2020, when new state building codes will take effect, pushing up rebuilding costs.

On Thursday and Friday, the foundation is hosting representatives from Paradise and Malibu, communities devastated by wildfires in 2018, to share some of the lessons learned here about organizing neighborhoods, arranging for legal aid, delivering mental health services, navigating the rebuilding process, supporting schools and establishing foundations after a wildfire.

Rebuilding is a long haul, but each new house, each new wall gets us closer to whole. Still Sonoma Strong.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com

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