Revisiting the Thomas Fire- The Rebuild Process


by Dylan Chappell, Chappell Architecture

It’s hard to believe that a year ago this month the Thomas Fire blazed through our city, leaving many feeling distraught and homeless. It is a year I will never forget as our family, my wife Danica and our two young children, lost our first family home. Every day since, there are subtle reminders of the things we’ve lost, but above all we are grateful to be rebuilding our home and continuing to hold onto the hope of creating another home for our children to grow up in. The losses we suffered will never compare to the love and support we received in abundance from friends, family, strangers, and the community.

As a local architect and as someone going through the rebuild process myself, I would like to give my praises to the employees at the City of Ventura who have taken a personal interest in helping us rebuild. I’m constantly dealing with the Planning and Building departments, and as many people know, this can be a long and arduous process even under normal building circumstances. My expectation was that it would be a similar experience working with the fire rebuilds. I can honestly say that even though I wished the overall process would have taken less time, I don’t believe this to be the fault of the staff. My opinion is that they have done an exceptional job of responding to this crisis. For example, Veronica Ledesma, who is usually found at the front counter of the planning department, is always enthusiastic to help, provide knowledge, or answer questions. She is supported by Scott Kolwitz and Dan Nielsen who work tirelessly to permit rebuilds as quickly as possible.

The most time consuming and difficult part of the rebuild process is getting a building permit. We have been more than impressed with the management and guidance of the Chief Building Official, Yolanda Bundy over the last year. She has done everything in her power to expedite the permit process. She is extremely efficient and has gone above and beyond to get our permits issued. In our last meeting, we showed up with four projects ready for approvals and Yolanda made it her mission to approve all four projects that very same day. I remember walking to the parking lot feeling thankful because we have people that really care and want us back in our homes as quickly as possible.

Other city officials have been especially helpful as well, such as Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere. He always offered support and frequently checked in on our progress. Finally, Jeff Lambert, The Community Development Director. Thank you, Jeff, for handling the most difficult decisions… your efficiency and concern for our community was noticed and appreciated.

As we look back, we are thankful that this year has passed and that we can focus on the future of this community. We look to the families that lost and the families that gave, with gratitude knowing that our little beach town can withstand anything. We are proud of this community, it’s employees and most of all, it’s perseverance.

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