By Bob Fultz
By now you may have heard about a proposal to create an SLV Community Council, first introduced in the SLV Post on July 1, 2021. Regardless of the merits of the proposal and irrespective of your position on it, we should all support the importance of creativity and innovative “out-of-the-box” thinking about how to facilitate rebuilding in the wake of the CZU fire. Because, clearly, what is happening at the County Planning Department is not working. And hasn’t worked for some time. The CZU Fire happened to expose their dysfunction to a larger group of people at the same time.
Sadly, such creative thinking and innovation was immediately opposed by a group of people, long politically active in our community, who wrote a letter (SLV Post, August 20, 2021) opposing the idea before there was even an opportunity to give it serious consideration and weigh the pros and cons. Regrettably, this “in-the-box” thinking is what has resulted in County policies that could very well financially ruin many of our neighbors who lost their homes through no fault of their own. By their homes simply being in the way of the CZU fire as it rampaged through our community. As it stands now, our neighbors must EITHER accept restrictive covenants being placed on their titles that will lower their property values well below market as a condition to rebuild OR accept building remediations that are so expensive as to make the costs of rebuilding rise well above current market values. And most likely not covered by insurance. This no-win choice is unacceptable. A change in these seriously misguided policies surrounding rebuilds is urgently needed—something that only the County Supervisors can provide.
You may be asking yourself how this affects you. It is true that this policy affects hundreds of our neighbors now. But we live in a place that faces many disasters—torrential rain, earthquakes, and wildfire. Should these misguided policies be allowed to remain in place, the next disaster could result in many more of us facing the same “choices” offered by a Planning Department that is out of control. This is why we must fight to create more community-centered policies that allow for people to rebuild their homes without extraordinary red tape or extraordinary costs. That enables our neighbors to restore their life to the way it was before the wildfire. Because until every family that wants to rebuild has rebuilt, our community will not be whole. It is time for all of us to stand with them and to tell the Supervisors to do the right thing.
As a candidate for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors in 2018, I ran on a positive “change the course” platform dedicated to finding creative and innovative ways to address our community’s water and finance issues. I’m grateful to the community who responded positively to that message and trusted me to help shape those positive changes. In my experience, we need new ways of thinking about the many challenges our community faces. As the world changes, so we must change as well. Short-sighted policies that stymie our neighbors from rebuilding are a clear indication that we are falling short of that goal. After all, had misguided policies like this been in place decades ago, how many of us would have homes in this special community?
The idea of an SLV Community Council may or may not be the right solution. But creativity, innovation, engagement, discussion, and brainstorming are essential to moving our community forward. We need more of this at all levels of government. Even if 9 out of 10 ideas ultimately aren’t feasible, the 1 that is feasible is well worth the effort to seriously consider all 10. I urge everyone in our community to bring an open mind to the ongoing discussion and resist the inclination to prematurely reject this or any creative idea.
Bob Fultz is a Boulder Creek resident and director of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District