San Rafael has created a fire ordinance that may cost taxpayers and homeowners well over $25,000,000. We did not vote on this and good chance you didn’t see it coming but the law is here now.This ordinance bothers me on several levels. Yes, we have recently seen Southern California burn and it could happen here; however, San Rafael is the only city in Marin to enact such a plan. Aren’t Mill Valley, Ross, Kentfield, and Fairfax more vulnerable? How much is this going to cost homeowner and taxpayers? Yes, taxpayers are responsible for clearing that portion of city owned property that goes beyond the owner’s property line to within 100 feet of the structure. This means a larger budget for the city; more employees and we all know that means more power. Cities like that.
I certainly don’t remember the Marin Indecent Journal or the City of San Rafael going out of there way to inform the public the were enacting a law which would affect over ten thousand homes. The cost to San Rafael homeowner could exceed $25,000,000. There is no provision for people on fixed incomes. I have no doubt that in the future we will be reading a story in the IJ about some old couple that have lived in the same home for 50 years and is forced to sell because they cannot afford to comply with the fire ordinance. Funny thing is this is not a “tax” does not require voter approval, what will they think of next.
This is a short summary of how the plan will affect you:
WITHIN 100 FEET OF ALL STRUCTURES:
1. Trim the limbs of trees up 10 feet from the ground.
a. Only trim limbs 3 inches or less in diameter.
2. Cut grasses to 3 inches in height above the ground.
3. Remove or cut all combustible vegetation such as, and not limited to, broom, gorse and other highly non-native plants (see attached list of required removals)
a. In areas on a slope, check with an arborist or nursery about the replacement of vegetation that is fire resistant and produces roots to prevent erosion if they are removed.
4. Trim tree limbs to a minimum of 10 feet away from the outlet of chimneys for 360 degrees.
5. Remove dead trees.
6. Remove all dead vegetation.
7. Trim all vegetation so each plant has separation of twice the height of the tallest of the adjacent plant.
8. Remove or chip all cut vegetation.
9. Maintain roof and deck areas free of combustible vegetation.
ADJACENT TO THE STRUCTURE:
1. Remove combustible vegetation from under structural overhangs, including decks.
2. Remove all “gasoline plants” (Junipers and Bamboo) within 15 feet of your structure.
a. Replace with fire resistant plants to achieve the desired ornamental planting should you desire.
3. Remove all “gasoline plants” (Junipers and Bamboo) from between 15 feet and 100 feet from your structure by 2011.
a. Replace with fire resistive plants to achieve the desired ornamental planting should you desire.
4. Distance woodpiles a minimum of 2 times the height of the woodpile away from any component of the structure on the property.
ADJACENT TO ROADWAYS:
1. Trim and maintain vegetation to within 10 feet of roadways as required for defensible space.
2. Trim trees so they do not hang lower than 13’6″ above the roadway
City of San Rafael details are here and a short overview of the program is here.
This link shows the addresses of homes within the city defined high fire zone so click here to find out if this affects you.
Let’s take a look at the cost of this ordnance to homeowners and/or lessors’. The number of structures affected is over ten thousand and the cost to each over varies significantly, so let’s look at a few sample estimates:
Average Cost #Structures Total Cost
$1,000 10,000 $10,000,000
$2,500 10,000 $25,000,000
$5,000 10,000 $50,000,000
$10,000 10,000 $100,000,000
It would not surprise me to see $2,500 or higher as the average cost, after all how many homes have trees that will need to be trimmed or Junipers that need to be removed and replaced with something new? Also, that cost does not include annual maintenance.
What are your thoughts is the city okay enacting this without a vote (I don’t mean legally but ethically)? Does the decrease in fire danger justify spending any amount of money? If other cities get to vote on a flood tax why can’t we vote on a “fire” tax? The City of San Rafael seems pretty fast to put there hands in our pocket. We are one of the few cities that have a transfer tax on real estate sales and we just had a whopping increase in our sales tax. Don’t get me going on the sales tax, it is automatically adjusted upward just based on inflation without any extra percent added on.