Santa Rosa to allow low-income Fountaingrove rebuilders to apply for low-interest loans

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Special Coverage

This story is part of a monthly series chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here.

Angela Guevara was displaced from Santa Rosa after losing her Fountaingrove home in the 2017 wildfires along with thousands of other Santa Rosa residents.

Her family is now dispersed and struggling financially. She’s living in San Jose with a teenage daughter while finalizing a divorce from her husband of more than 20 years. Her son still lives in Santa Rosa.

Guevara doesn’t expect to have much leftover insurance money as a result of the divorce and hasn’t been working due to emotional trauma from the fires and past health problems. She recently learned that Santa Rosa was offering low-interest loans for rebuilding to low-income homeowners after securing about $1.2 million in state funding — but only for Coffey Park residents.

She was confused and upset, feeling that her family would fit the bill if only they didn’t live in the more affluent Fountaingrove neighborhood.

“Yes, we are Fountaingrove. Yes, we have insurance. But we don’t have the money to rebuild,” she said. “It’s a very unusual situation, and we are in hardship.”

Guevara’s prayer for help may have been answered, as Santa Rosa officials are working to open the program citywide. City data indicates that only one person from Coffey Park had applied for the program and that the applicant was ineligible.

City spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said officials were working with the state Housing and Community Development Department to expand the program to fire survivors citywide. Eligibility will still be limited by income and home value.

The city is poised to accept applications for the loan program from fire survivors throughout the city at

The news that the city was moving to open the program made Guevara’s day, but even before then, she was upbeat. She credited her Catholic faith with her positive outlook that her family’s situation would somehow improve.

“I just have a very optimistic point of view about everything,” she said, “and I know things are going to change.”


‘Therapy court’ under siege

A short walk down Millbrook Drive from Guevara’s lot stands a basketball hoop at the end of Howard Lasker’s driveway. He calls it a “therapy court” for his family, which moved around frequently in the past year and a half.

Lasker credits a trustworthy local builder, Oak Shadows Construction, with his return to Fountaingrove in early April, well before anyone else in his neighborhood.

But the hoop has already drawn scrutiny from his homeowners association. An official informed Lasker’s wife, Debbie Lasker, in mid-May that a neighbor had provided photographic evidence of the offending hoop.

They should move the basket to the side or rear of their new house, as having the hoop set up in the street was in violation of the HOA’s rules, the official wrote in a email provided by Lasker.

Lasker can’t believe that a neighbor complained, since as far as he can tell, he doesn’t have any.

“I’m not moving the hoop until a neighbor moves into the neighborhood,” he said.

His brush with authority might be as far as the case goes: The email thread he forwarded includes the HOA official’s caveat that her initial message was just a reminder of the rules, not a formal warning or threat of a fine. The HOA official did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Special Coverage

This story is part of a monthly series chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here.


Insurance commissioner to visit

State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is set to visit Sonoma County on Tuesday for an invitation-only meeting with block captains to hear their thoughts and concerns about California’s insurance system. County officials seek to limit the meeting size and access to the event to preserve a conversational atmosphere and ensure confidentiality for personal insurance matters. Some early sections, including legislative and technical overviews by Lara and his staff, may be livestreamed and posted for the public.

Lara, a liberal Democrat who defeated independent Steve Poizner in the November 2018 elections, has called for California to obtain insurance to cover taxpayer costs. Lara is working with state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Democratic State Treasurer Fiona Ma to pass a bill allowing for such a policy, which Lara has likened to home insurance for the entire state.

As of mid-May, 310 Santa Rosa homes had been rebuilt, only 10% of which are in Fountaingrove.

Though over half of the homes that were destroyed in the hilly neighborhood are in the rebuilding queue, Fountaingrove’s progress continues to lag behind Coffey Park.

A little more than 500 of the roughly 1,200 Santa Rosa homes in the rebuilding process are under construction, according to city data. Permits have been issued for another 119 Fountaingrove units.

The city hopes that 90% of all homes destroyed by the October 2017 firestorm will be rebuilt or rebuilding by Nov. 30, 2020. Replacement housing coverage for most insured homeowners runs out this year on the second anniversary of the fires.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or On Twitter @wsreports.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication to provide more information about Angela Guevara’s life circumstances.

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