County Provides Relief to Homeowners in Wake of Thomas Fire

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By Sean Paroski

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In the wake of the destructive impact of the Thomas Fire, the County of Ventura has made initial steps toward helping affected residents and property owners. The County has collaborated on a clearinghouse of information on recovery efforts, established a series of resource centers in areas affected by the fire, expanded access to rental assistance, and provided fee waivers for certain permits associated with cleanup and recovery.

The Thomas Fire, which ended up growing to be the largest fire in California history, destroyed over a thousand structures and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in Ventura County. Many county residents were staying in Red Cross shelters and temporarily homeless. Those who lost their homes or apartments faced a more serious long-term problem. They would have to rebuild and find a new place to live.

On December 12, with the fire still burning large areas of the county and threatening to encircle the city of Ojai, the Board of Supervisors approved measures to help residents displaced or impacted by the fire. The Board authorized the establishment of a Community Emergency Services Center at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura to create a one-stop location for services.

The Emergency Services Center collected representatives and resources from a number of different local and state agencies to help residents who lost homes or were displaced by the fire. Representatives from the County Resource Management Agency, Assessor’s office, Cal Fire, Southern California Edison, the Franchise Tax Board and many others were available to provide information, assistance, or to provide documentation needed for insurance claims from the fire.

In addition to the Poinsettia Pavilion center, the County also established Recovery Information Centers in Ojai and Santa Paula. These mobile centers brought County staff directly to areas impacted by the wildfire to provide information on debris removal, permitting, public assistance, housing and rental assistance, as well as connections to health resources and counseling.

At the December 12 meeting, the Board also approved the expansion of a rental assistance program for those who lost their homes in the fire.  The program provides reimbursements for selected expenses, such as motel rooms, rent, replacement of destroyed personal or household items, moving costs and other expenses. The $500,000 program expanded access to those making 120% over the poverty line, which works out to $84,000 a year for a household of one and up to $119,880 for a household of four.

In addition to these services, the Board of Supervisors approved fee waivers for a variety of different permits related to the rebuilding process at a special meeting held on December 26. The fees were waived as part of an effort to ease the burden on homeowners in the aftermath of the fire and included the following:

Planning Fees
• Temporary Dwelling during construction: $167
• Tree Permit not requiring field inspection: $167
• Tree Permit requiring field inspection: $340

Building & Safety Fees
• Demolition Permit: $210.10
• Application Fee: $37.60
• Permit Issuance Fee: $37.60
• Temporary Power Pole: $57.20
• Building Sewer/Mobile Home Sewer: $50.40
• Water Piping Connection: $19.60
• Reconnection of Gas Service: $50.40
• General Plan Surcharge: $56.16
• Technology Surcharge: $32.40

Environmental Health Fees
• Full Certification w/on-site verification: $325
• Certification, no on-site verification: $117
• Permit to Construct (Repair): $244
• Conventional OWTS Application: $1,009 – $1,415 (depending on tank size)

CoLAB and our members appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Board and County staff during the fire. The measures they have taken so far to provide relief to property owners are an excellent first step toward beginning the rebuilding process in the county. We look forward to working with the County to help ensure that the rebuilding and permitting process proceeds quickly and efficiently so that homeowners and business can restore the damage done from the Thomas Fire.