CZU fire burn zoneFire Recovery Local News 

CZU Fire Rebuilding by the Numbers

By M.C. Dwyer

As we approach the two year anniversary of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, I submitted questions to Santa Cruz County’s Recovery Permit Center at the Planning Department regarding the pace of rebuilding in the CZU zone. The following responses were provided via email from Carolyn Burke, Assistant Director at the Permit Center. 

Is it true that out of the 135 permits you’ve issued, or are ready for pick up, that just 9 homes are completely rebuilt so far?

As of 7/25/22, 139 dwelling permits have been issued or the permits are ready for pick-up and 9 homes have been completely rebuilt. Those projects that have completed our building permit process and are currently in construction are experiencing delays due to increasing building costs and shortages of construction materials and construction labor resources. However, County staff are working with CZU Fire survivors to get them back into their homes as quickly and safely as possible, and the Santa Cruz County Long Term Recovery Group in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience are also making extraordinary efforts to find resources for the CZU Fire survivors when they are faced with financial or construction labor issues.

Almost 400 properties have applied for the three pre-clearances needed in advance of the building permit: Septic, Fire Access, and Geologic Hazards. As of 7/25/22, 326 properties have either applied for a building permit (178) or have obtained all three clearances and are poised to submit for a building permit (148), with several dozen currently in the preclearance pipeline. We have also issued 505 building permits for non-dwelling unit permits such as grading and non-habitable accessory structures, and 83 septic permits.

Do you think your department is gaining momentum, based on more experience now?

We are hopeful that the number of homes that will be rebuilt in the CZU Fire Area will continue to gain momentum. Of course, we always strive to learn from our experiences and improve our building permitting and inspection processes to help the CZU Fire survivors get safely back into their homes and community. However, insurance payment issues, construction supply issues and rising construction costs continue to be significant obstacles for CZU Fire survivors to rebuild their homes and building structures. We believe the pace of rebuilding here compares favorably to other localities that experienced lightning fires in August 2020.

I heard from a friend who says he applied for a permit to build a modular home. He says his rebuilding permit has been delayed because their foundation plan is insufficient. I’d really appreciate any input, since this has been promoted as a quick and easy way to rebuild here.

Manufactured Homes with complete and current Housing and Community Development (HCD) Approved Plans and supporting documentation have continued to progress very rapidly through the building plan review and approval process. HCD Approved Plans with supporting documentation, that includes a foundation design that is consistent with the recommendations of their Geotechnical Report, are reviewed and approved in as little as ten business days. However, other building plan reviews for Manufactured Homes that lack current HCD Approved Plans or lack critical foundation design information are being substantially delayed by the time it is taking for the Manufactured Home Builder to provide current approvable plans and supporting documentation. Each Plan Review Comment Letter provides a detailed list of the specific health and safety code requirements needed to approve the plans and issue a building permit. In most cases, we can review and approve the ‘revised’ HCD Approved Building Plans and supporting documentation within five business days.

Visit the County’s Fire Recover Permit Center at

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“M.C.” (MaryCatherine) Dwyer, MBA, REALTOR®
CA DRE License 01468388   EXP Realty of California, Inc.
Serving San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley since 2005                                                                                                            
(831) 419-9759    E-mail:   Website:

*Sources: Commercial and Single Family Homes data, Mortgage Bankers Association, California Association of REALTORs, Reuters, CoreLogic,, Mercury News, through press deadline July 18th 2022.

The statements and opinions contained in this article are solely those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of eXp Realty, LLC, or its subsidiaries or affiliates (the “Company”). The Company does not assume any responsibility for, nor does it warrant the accuracy, completeness or quality of the information provided.

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