Update on the Board of Forestry Fire Safe Regulation Development Process
March 4, 2021
The Board of Forestry met on March 3 to discuss, in part, the ongoing Fire Safe Regulation development. Of particular concern was an issue regarding wildfire rebuilds. A local government coalition of CSAC, Rural County Representatives of California, and the Urban Counties of California prompted this discussion with a letter to the Board last month. Our review of the current version of the rules revealed that certain wildfire rebuilds would not be allowable under the proposed rules. This was the topic of extensive conversation at the February 24 Fire Safe Regulations regulatory workshop, where staff presented their case for not allowing wildfire rebuilds in certain circumstances, where a road was not up to specific codes.
The board spent a good amount of their time weighing the issue at both the workshop and full board meeting. Board members also discussed what they characterized as a potentially arbitrary rule of limiting rebuilds to no more than 20 percent larger than pre-fire square footprint.
Public comment was wide-ranging but key areas covered clarity on which wildfire rebuilds would not be allowed under the new rules, clarifying language for either the local fire enforcement or planning code enforcement, and the rebuild size allowed, including for accessory dwelling units. In most cases, the board concurred in part with the public comments—and asked staff to revisit these key areas. Several experts suggested the board take time to work more closely with local planners, fire departments, and elected officials to run scenarios on the draft regulations to really begin to understand the implications of the rules in the order, and others suggested a general slowdown of the rules to improve overall outcomes.
The board directed staff to take the feedback received through these recent workshops and meetings into a draft for a 45-day rule. The board intends to convene a special board meeting on this subject later this month to consider a new draft of the rules, with the intent to put the rules out for 45-day comment.