County Supervisors Move to Streamline Rebuilding Process Following Fire

CZU Lightning Complex fire destroyed at least 900 homes

What was once a home is now a bed of ash along Highway 236 near Big Basin Redwoods State Park. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday set the stage for a streamlined process for rebuilding homes and other structures damaged in the CZU Lightning Complex fire.

The item was part of the consent agenda and therefore garnered no discussion. The board directed the directors of the Planning, Public Works and Environmental Health departments to return on Sept. 15 with a plan. 

The fire has destroyed a total of 1,483 structures, including 921 single-family homes, the vast majority of which are in Santa Cruz County. Many displaced residents are struggling to find temporary shelter, county staff told the supervisors.

County officials now hope to build on the procedures established in 2008 after the Summit Fires, and after the 2017 fires in Sonoma County, when officials there developed a website and permit review program.

Santa Cruz County’s rebuilding process will focus on four areas: streamlining the project approval process, placing a cap on permit fees, waiving debris removal fees at the Buena Vista Landfill, and establishing a website with detailed information on the process.

In addition, property owners under the proposed plan would be allowed to live in temporary housing on their parcels, with services, during the rebuilding of their homes.

The supervisors also approved an emergency health declaration for the county due to the fire, which will allow the county to qualify for state and federal financial relief.

In declaring a health emergency on Aug. 26, County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel cited the smoky air, toxic remains, ash and charred remains, along with the need for shelter for displaced residents that is likely to last “for a very long time to come, months if not years.”

“We are still in the thick of it, and as you know this has presented a number of health issues,” Newel said. 

The emergency declaration will last through September.

Follow continuing in-depth fire coverage here and in our live blog.

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