Moving Foreward on Housing Relief

  • By Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma County Supervisor for District 5

So, sometimes government can move swiftly. I was very heartened to see PermitSonoma meeting last week to discuss efforts to both replace housing in the county, and find ways to create more housing on both a permanent and temporary basis.

Following is a summary of actions taken, and actions we will consider this coming Tuesday. Nothing can change the horrific impacts on our community from the firestorm that destroyed so much and affected so many ... but buoyed by the long hours spent by county staff to provide immediate relief to those affected by losses.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance on October 11, 2017 waiving permit processing fees for rebuilding of structures damaged by the Sonoma Complex Fires. On Tuesday, October 24, 2017 the board will consider three additional urgency ordinances to address the immediate housing needs for persons displaced by the fires

Price Gouging (charging any amount more than the average rent charged prior to the emergency) will be prohibited. This applies to transient occupancy, short-term and long-term rentals of less than one year.

Prohibit New Vacation Rentals. Acceptance and processing of vacation rental permits will be suspended for the interim period (45 days but could be extended at a later date).

Temporary Housing for Displaced Persons. Residential use of recreational vehicles and travel trailers will be allowed, both within and outside burn areas in the unincorporated areas, with hookup to sewer or septic. For the next 45 days, they will be allowed without permits or sewer hookups only outside the burn areas, if adequate septic holding capacity and routine pumping service is provided.

Safe Parking Programs will be enabled at certain county-owned properties allowing persons living in RVs, trailers, campers and other vehicles to be parked overnight with some services provided (bathrooms, showers, and warming stations). Safe parking will also be allowed on private properties (i.e. churches) subject to approval of Community Development Commission.

Seasonal Farmworker Housing – the term of occupancy will be extended beyond 180 days so that seasonal farmworkers may remain year-round.

Rental/Use of Guest Houses, Pool Houses and Other Residential Accessory Structures to persons displaced by the fire will be allowed.

Replacement Schools and Child Care Centers will be allowed without a use permit in the MP (industrial park), C1 (neighborhood commercial), CO (commercial office) and PF (public facility) zones.

Long-term Rental of Visitor Serving Uses will be allowed, including bed and breakfast inns, resorts, agricultural farmstays, promotional marketing accommodations and similar uses.

Expansion of Damaged Nonconforming Residential Structures will be allowed to incentivize the construction of additional living areas, accessory dwellings and junior dwelling units.

Waived/Reduced Impact Fees for New Accessory Dwelling Units. Development impact fees that are typically charged on new residential units to cover the cost of improvements needed to mitigate the impact of on traffic and parks will be reduced or waived for new accessory dwelling units as noted below. Impact fees do not apply to reconstruction of existing units damaged by fire.

Size of Unit Impact Fee Reduction. Less than 750 square feet: fees waived. For 751-1,000 square feet, 50 percent of fees.

A Local Assistance Center with all local, state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations and private insurance companies are available to assist persons displace by the Sonoma Complex Fire at 427 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA open seven days a week between the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 29, 2017.

More Information on available housing resources is available on the county’s website at sonomacounty.ca.gov/FireHousingResources. On the website you can sign up for email notices regarding updates of information and new measures as they become available. You may also submit comments and suggestions on housing resources directly to housingresources@sonoma-county.org or mail to PRMD, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

Lynda Hopkins is the Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisor