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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.

Coffey Park celebrated a new milestone in November: the “breaking” of the burned walls along Hopper Avenue.

About 3,000 feet worth of concrete walls are expected to come down soon, the result of a combined effort of neighbors, a nonprofit and a Florida debris removal company. New walls will rise in the northwest Santa Rosa neighborhood thanks to a $450,000 cash contribution by AshBritt Environmental, which played a major role in debris removal after the October 2017 wildfires.

The walls on either side of Hopper had defied an easy solution because they legally belong to the 42 property owners on whose land the burned structures sit.

After the fires, those neighbors were surprised to learn they owned the walls. They quickly said it would be too costly for them to remove and replace them.

In stepped the Coffey Strong neighborhood group, which partnered with Rebuild NorthBay to seek an answer. The nonprofit foundation was founded by Darius Anderson, managing member of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

When AshBritt asked how it could help recovery efforts, the wall project soon came to the company’s attention.

This month leaders from the different groups came together in Coffey Park. Many took gold sledgehammers and pounded on the wall as the first step toward its removal.

“We’re grateful to be here and to be part of a project that we anticipate will be a long-term symbol of the resilience and recovery in this community,” AshBritt CEO Brittany Perkins Castillo told the gathering.

Demolition is expected to begin late this month. Two contractors, Wolff Contracting of Santa Rosa and Mountain G Engineering of Folsom, will knock the structures down and haul the rubble away at no charge.

The new walls will be 8 feet tall and built from a steel-truss and foam system that is covered with concrete. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2019.

Here is a recap of other Coffey Park news from November:

...

A NEW PARK

A contractor has been hired to clear the neighborhood park, and residents are invited to a public meeting next month to give ideas for a new design of the 5-acre site.

The City Council this month awarded a $164,160 contract to Team Ghilotti of Petaluma to remove fire-damaged playground equipment, picnic tables and other debris from the park. The project is part of nearly $207,000 worth of work to clean the park and make its renovation possible.

City staff members estimated Santa Rosa will receive about $194,000 in state and federal disaster aid for the park project.

Moving forward, city parks officials will host a neighborhood meeting about the park at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Finley Community Center, Person Senior Wing, Room 5.

The park’s design team will share earlier ideas and present images of possible park designs. The public also will have a chance to offer additional ideas.

Soil tests at the park were free of toxic materials, said deputy parks director Jen Santos.

Santos also said the city parks that were damaged in the fire could receive an influx of funding from Measure M, the countywide tax measure for parks. The measure was approved by voters this month.

...

BUILDING UPDATE

Coffey Park continues to serve as a center of the rebuild in Sonoma County.

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.

November is ending with 550 homes under construction, according to city records. Another 191 permits have been issued to property owners, and 126 applications are under review.

Forty-eight homes have been completed in the neighborhood.

In all, property owners have at least started the permit process to rebuild nearly 70 percent of the 1,321 single-family homes that burned in the northwest Santa Rosa neighborhood.

For the entire county, about 4 in 10 property owners have moved forward on a similar track.

...

COFFEY PARK TEACHER HONORED

At the first-year anniversary of the North Bay wildfires, Schaefer Elementary School teacher Megan Furze helped bring a motivational speaker to her campus.

The speaker, whose given name is Mister Brown, addressed both students during school assemblies and parents one night.

For the adults, Brown shared “how important it was for parents to unplug and have some fun with their kids,” said Schaefer Principal Kathy Harris.

For children, Harris said his message was summed up in three statements: “I choose to do my best and never give up. I am responsible for me. When you make better choices, you live a better life.”

The message has stuck with Schaefer students. When issues since have arisen, Harris noted, “I’ve said to many kids, ‘Did you choose well?’ And they know exactly what I’m talking about.”

To arrange the talks, Furze did fundraising, including from nearby church groups, Harris said.

For her efforts, Furze was honored this month by the Piner-Olivet school board. And the district’s Educators Association presented the first-grade teacher with its Heart of Excellence Award.

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

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