EHL has written the Boards of Supervisors of San Diego and Los Angeles Counties calling for a complete reassessment of land use policies in high fire areas.
Even before the wildfire catastrophes of 2017 and 2018, any person with common sense would have said that continuing to expand housing into high risk locations would be reckless. After the huge loss of life in Santa Rosa and Paradise, one would expect local elected officials to be revamping their development plans. The lesson of these events is clear: the severity of wind-driven wildfire – exacerbated by climate change and accompanied by the failure of warning systems and the chaos of rapid evacuation – mandates stopping the expansion of the “urban-wildland interface” into high risk locations. This interface has expanded by 40% in recent years.
EHL’s letters document these problems and ask that current policies be thoroughly reconsidered. Not helping the matter is that fire departments routinely provide assurances of safety to decision-makers that prove illusory. And the building industry maintains a large say who gains elected office in the first place.
A case in point is a recent approval by the San Diego Board of Supervisors of a housing development (Harmony Grove Village South) without the usual two exist routes. Community concerns over existing road capacity, let alone conditions post-development, were dismissed. In a separate approval of thousands of homes (the Newland Sierra project), the Board ignored an expert study showing evacuation would fail under easily foreseeable circumstances. And more such projects are in the approval pipeline. EHL has and will litigate these projects, but only a shift in policy based on rational thinking will suffice.