Our community is still reeling from the October firestorms – a number of us are still displaced and seeking housing, some have lost wages and some business owners are struggling to recover economically. The fires have forever altered our lives and experiences.
For those of us who lost our homes, we are at different places on our recovery journeys; lots may still need to be cleared for some, while others have contracted with builders and are already in the process of getting plans approved. Most are trying to decide whether or not to rebuild and whether or not they can afford to rebuild. Wherever you are in this process, you are not alone—your community, your government, and your County Supervisor are working through this with you, and want to make sure you have access to up to date information.
So far in Sonoma Valley, the county’s Permit Sonoma has issued permits for three homes and one bridge. This is a great start, but it is clear that we have a long way to go.
On February 28t, I joined County Planning staff as well as State and Federal partners to host a Rebuilding Community Meeting at Altimira Middle School. The information presented at this meeting covered permitting and the newly opened Resiliency Permitting Center, selecting a contractor, debris removal, and other information. The meeting has been archived here.
The meeting at Altimira was just one of many opportunities fire survivors have to gather information. They may be called Community Meetings, Town Halls, or Resource Fairs, and could be hosted by my office, County departments, other elected officials, the City of Santa Rosa, a non-profit, or a professional association. We list as many events as we are aware of under the Events section on SonomaCountyRecovers.org—this website is a one stop shop for all things recovery, and the information is updated regularly. Take a few minutes to review the website for its terrific information and sign up to receive alerts of public meetings.
I’d also like to announce that we are organizing Neighborhood Captains for First District fire survivors of the Nuns and Tubbs fires. There is already a successful Block/Neighborhood Captain program in the Fourth District, which encompasses northern Sonoma County, including the neighborhoods of Coffey Park, Larkfield, and Mark West Springs.
Neighborhood Captains act as a conduit of information between County staff and the neighborhoods they represent—they have an opportunity to troubleshoot issues that come up and get direct answers to questions they encounter through the recovery and rebuilding process, and share this information with their neighborhood. In addition, County staff has been able to learn a great deal about the community’s needs and better serve residents throughout the county by attending Neighborhood Captain meetings.
We’ve got a few names already, but definitely need more neighborhoods represented. If you are interested, know someone who may be interested, or want more information about Neighborhood Captains, please contact my office.
The fires that began October were felt by us all as a community. Though we all had different experiences and levels of loss, what happened those first weeks really was a shared experience. Now, almost five months later, daily life has returned to normal for one segment of the community, while others still deal with the aftermath of the fire in direct, visceral ways. The Neighborhood Captains concept is not only a practical idea to help with resource and information sharing, though it certainly is that. It also can serve to keep that connection with the shared experience, and remind us all that we are not alone in this.
We are planning additional meetings in the next few weeks in Kenwood and Rincon Valley to share the same information on debris cleanup and rebuilding efforts. And in early April, we are planning a Housing Fair, focusing on rebuilding efforts, financial incentives for green building, information on fire resistant materials and vegetation, and alternative construction suggestions for rebuilding cost-effectively.
A note of welcome to our two new field representatives: Arielle Kubu-Jones from Santa Rosa and Liz Hamon from Sonoma Valley. Along with District Director Pat Gilardi, we are working as a team to answer your questions and work in the community to “make a difference every day.” Call us or email us, and one of us will answer with the help you need.
For more information on Neighborhood Captains or to sign up, please contact Supervisor Gorin’s Office at 707.565.2241 or [email protected]