Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Impact of Poor Planning and Enforcement

A 2014 document prepared by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection is intended as a guide for incorporating fire planning in the General Plans prepared by counties and municipalities in the state.

The guide discusses the legal requirements for General Plans, noting that State law requires they be "internally consistent."  This means that there can't be conflicts or contradictions within the plan's guidelines, and it also means that "the actions which follow general planning, such as zoning and development ordinances, must meet the intent of the Plan's policies and mitigation measures."

(From the referenced California guide)
The guide cites legal precedent for action to invalidate plans where weaknesses exist.  The guide then describes a variety of ways wildfire protection mitigation can and should be incorporated into General Plans.

"By incorporating strategic fire planning into the General Plan process, fire protection professionals and urban planners can support growth and development in a region while also protecting residents, economic centers, and wildland from fire risk.... As we plan for a changing climate, it is increasingly important that the risks of natural disasters such as fire (and its potential after-effects, such as landslides and floods) be considered when communities contemplate new development."

Sadly, as an opinion piece I mentioned in a previous post points out:

"What’s changed in recent decades is the amount of fuel available to burn during hot, dry and windy conditions and the number of people with homes in the so-called wildland-urban interface, whether on the edge of the forest or in the coastal chaparral.....

"While dangerous forest management practices can be blamed on both federal and state environmental policies, the coastal chaparral areas in Southern California are a different matter. Here, proscribed burns are needed to reduce the fuel load along with the rigorous maintenance of a 100-foot 'defensible space' clearance around homes situated in very high fire severity areas such as Malibu. It’s this defensible space that appeared to be missing in the celebrity homes that burned in November—though one can’t blame celebrities for wanting the privacy and beauty that dense vegetation around their homes might bring."

The article points out that almost half of the housing stock built in California in the last few years is in this wildland-urban interface.  Without consistently incorporating and enforcing proper restrictions in local zoning and building ordinances, disaster is sure to follow.

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