REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire One Year Later

by  Responsible and Efficient Government (VREG)

In the weeks that followed the devastating Thomas Fire, several community meetings were held throughout Ventura. These meetings showed a united front of total cooperation and support of all City departments, County of Ventura, State of California, Cal Fire and every other state and local agency present. They committed to protecting our health and welfare.

There are hundreds of stories of the heroic efforts by individuals going above and beyond. This article is not intended to repeat the great deeds done. Ventura now needs to address the problems that became very apparent after the Thomas Fire.

One year into this rebuilding process Ventura reports that there are no families back in their homes November 29, 2018, 133 homes are approved for a complete rebuild, 410 repair permits issued, 135 rebuilt homes currently under plan check review and the city anticipates that four families will be back in their homes within the next month.

For some, this news will seem alarming. To others, this is not a surprise.

What was fact and what was rumor was challenging to sort out when it came to building guidelines, permits and plan approvals.

Sometimes doing too much can be as bad as doing too little

At one point, the Ventura City Council encouraged a fast, streamline rebuilding process which included ’homeowners would be able to rebuild and replace what they had. This became a misleading promise because few homeowners had plans on file.

Problems occurred when the City Council attempted to streamline the process. In order to to comply with the City Council’s desire to simplify the process, the city staff waived the need for a Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Report for units less than 3,000 sq. ft. There was also public pressure to change height limits by many residences. Depending on where a homeowner was in the process of planning and design, confusion followed.

Some changes created the situations that some rebuilding projects were no longer in compliance. Any changes would likely cost homeowners’ time and money. This was contrary to the City Councils intent to streamline the process. For folks who just want to get past the nightmare and get back into their home, this became a cruel and harsh procedure.

The bottom line was that the professionals (planners, architects, and contractors) needed to be the ones to create this process. To build and occupy a custom home in one year is almost unheard of under the best of conditions.

More issues that need to be addressed

More issues need to be addressed and the sooner, the better. The November 2018 wildfires reminded Venturans that we remain vulnerable. The city needs to answer these questions:

What are the plans for more gravity flow storage water tanks for the hillside above Ventura?

What will it take to get working water pump generators working for better fire protection?

What is being done to address the lack of a better evacuation plan for the Ventura Avenue and hillside residences?

How many more firebreak roads will the city finish before the next fire threat?

Where was the local radio station that was to help direct the community on where to go and what was happening?

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