PARADISE — Along the burn scars of Paradise ridge in Butte County, a handful of state legislators led by Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) went on a tour Thursday to witness rebuilding efforts since the 2018 Camp Fire, and talk policy on emergency preparedness and affordable housing in rural communities.
Recognizing the effort made in wake of the disaster, Gallagher took opportunity to speak in a press conference on legislative work toward addressing risk mitigation and removing barriers to developments and affordable housing — what he called a “cross section of what’s going on in California and statewide.”
Joining Gallagher were Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino), Senator Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta), Assemblyman Greg Wallis (R-Rancho Mirage), Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-San Diego), Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) and Assemblyman Juan Alanis (R-Modesto).
“They, in their own districts, have seen disasters; they’ve seen issue with wildfire, with floods; and we need to better plan for our emergency situations,” Gallager said about the representatives. “…what we are doing up here and the things that we’re seeing here in Paradise and the ridge community is actually a really good cross section of what we can do statewide.”
Regarding risk mitigation, Gallagher said part of what legislators need to do is make smart policy decisions; he recommended changes to processing for California Environmental Quality Act, permitting and insurance in order to expedite rebuilding.
“Up here we’re talking a lot about wildfire and what we need to do to prevent wildfire, but there are other emergencies we need to be better planned for; better prepared for; and that’s been a big conversation,” Gallagher said, including earthquakes and flooding.
The need for affordable housing was also brought forth in discussion by Gallagher.
“We have a housing crisis in this state. So many people — that house and that opportunity to live in an affordable place with your family — is very difficult. And some of the things we’ve seen up here have been really amazing. Partnering with (Community Development Block Grant) monies and (the California Department of Housing and Community Development), we’ve actually been able to build some affordable housing projects up here already. Habitat for Humanity has been one great resource for building homes up on the ridge.”
Gallagher said that Butte County benefited from disaster relief that paid for affordable housing, and that affordable housing can be brought statewide through tax credits.
“From a rural standpoint, from a lot a rural areas, we often don’t qualify for a lot of those tax credits that help build affordable housing. So that’s something we’ve been having a conversation about is — how do we make sure that all communities in California can get more of that tax credit programs that help build affordable housing,” Gallagher said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how do we stream some of these processes and different streams of funding; like how do we make sure that’s more consolidated and easier for communities to navigate. And look; how do we remove kind of (not in my backyard) blockades that come up, seen in the CEQA process but in other ways as well.”
Gallagher said that California on a broader scale needs to be better prepared, and that there is “a lot more we can do” to mitigate risk, help communities become resilient and have affordable housing in all parts of the state.
Another part of Thursday’s discussion regarded the need for Paradise’s sewer system to be addressed in order to move forward with rebuilds.
Paradise Mayor Ron Lassonde spoke about the progress Paradise has made, and about barriers to rebuilding.
“We’ve come a long way since Nov. 8 (2018). We’ve removed over 3.6 million tons of debris; hundreds of thousands of trees; we’ve rebuilt over 2,500 homes and we’re well on our way to undergrounding all our utilities and repaving our public roads.”
Lassonde said there are still barriers to overcome, including insurance and meeting fire resiliency building standards.
“Our situation’s a bit different. Our evacuation routes are being improved, but there’s gaps in our funding for these vital safety issues,” Lassonde said. “And we also know there’s no recovery in Paradise without the sewer. You’ve heard us hit that several times — it is absolutely critical for us to be able to rebuild our downtown …”
“So our goal for these projects is to bring our residents home. That’s our fundamental that we’re after — we want to seek those fundings so we can bring these people into affordable housing and bring them home.”
Assemblymen Alanis and Mathis said they are both dealing with cost barriers of building in rural, fire prone areas because of increased cost of insurance and the cost of materials needed to meet higher building standards for fire.
Michael Weber www.chicoer.com Environment,Latest Headlines,Local News,News,Politics,Camp Fire,Newsletter,Wildfires
2024-01-12 12:30:23 , Chico Enterprise-Record