RCRC has voiced its opposition to the recently-amended Senate Bill 474, authored by Senator Henry Stern (D- Calabasas), which would prohibit all commercial and residential development in Very High Fire Hazards Severity Zones (VHFHSZ)  and State Responsibility Areas (SRA).  RCRC believes the broad and overreaching nature of this bill will hamper the economic viability of rural segments of the state.

SRA land encompasses, in part, fifty-six of California’s counties.  The VHFHSZ incorporates areas for which local agencies have fire protection responsibility, which are often already significantly developed, and not suitable for other economically viable uses if further development is prohibited.  By prohibiting any retail project or even placing a mobile home on family land, this bill would ban anything from a simple Christmas tree farm in one area of the state to a new restaurant in another. Depriving individual property owners of the ability to utilize land or engage in legitimate business also presents potential “takings” challenges, adding associated costs, not only for the affected individual, but to taxpayers of the state.  While RCRC strongly supports the underlying goal of mitigating the loss of life and property in high fire prone areas, SB 474 will be devastating to families and businesses that have called those communities home for generations.

Meanwhile, California continues to struggle with a housing shortage, especially homes affordable to those with low and very-low incomes.  In addition, the increased loss of life and structural damage caused by California’s recent wildfires have caused reconsideration of housing development in fire-prone areas and the further winnowing of available lands for development.  RCRC believes that these challenges require a holistic, equitable, and reasonable policy solution – something that is lacking in SB 474.

RCRC’s letter can be accessed here. This legislation is current awaits consideration in the Assembly Committee on Local Government. If and when the bill will be set for hearing remains unclear at this time. For more information, contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or trhine@rcrcnet.org.