California possesses an undeniable beauty that has captivated the many. But the said state is not immune to calamities such as mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters. This was meant to worsen due to climate change. As recent news of wildfire in the state, how would Real Estate CA cope after the said disaster?
The drought in the region is persistent turbo-powered winds, high temperatures hitting new record including the yearly Santa Ana winds and increased wildfire in the area. This triggers an unpredictable concern in the regions real estate industry.
Last year’s wildfire devastated the 505,000 acres that burned part of California, this coming from records of the state. A fire last December burned Ventura Counties and Santa Barbara, all 270,000 acres in the Thomas fire. It threatened or destroyed over 19,000 structures in the first two weeks. Remember the so-called safe commercial structures Costco and Kmart were proved to be vulnerable with last October’s Napa and Sonoma fires. Remember the Tubbs Fire that destroyed parts of Santa Rosa which have started in Calistoga. It flattened 894 outbuildings-barns and yards included, 4,655 homes, and 94 commercial buildings according to San Francisco Gate. It will be remembered to be the most destructive fire in the history of modern California.
It was May when California Department of Insurance received claims with a total of 4,991 on May for commercial properties in 2017’s October and December wildfires. The results were astounding as 343 of the claims were total losses and the direct incurred losses reached $1.5 billion.
There have been several occurrences of wildfire even when they are in the urban area just like Los Angeles, they’re not immune. Griffith Observatory has shut down a few months ago due to the wildfire in Griffith Park. This and the fire near the Getty Center in Sepulveda Pass area damaged 475 acres and 11 homes and destroyed 4 homes.
California Polytechnic State University professor of fire and fuels management in San Luis Obispo, Dr. Chris Dicus had said that this problem is “coming to a boil”, pointing out that there are really areas where they are prone to burn at high velocity and high rates of speed. These areas will most probably be in California’s south coast where chaparral shrublands are located. Culprits of this include the Santa Barbara fire last winter whose fire was fueled by the sundowner winds and the annual power of Santa Ana winds channeled by the wind tunnels.
The professor also added that there is an escalation of the losses experienced in 30 years. Fifteen wildfires happened in the last 20 years. This leaves a prediction of incoming fires to escalate more.
The problem starts with people developing their desire living in areas prone to wildfire. Real Estate CA have been developing areas people have the potential to live in. These areas are ecosystems where wildfire can sustain themselves naturally. The professor further explained that this is what wildfires are supposed to do and that human development would have real issues mixed with real estate and developers in those areas.
Discus also pointed out that pushing denser single-family housing to make more affordable homes and avoid urban urbanization only leads to an increased risk given that 90 percent of the wildfires are caused by people: intentional, cars, lines, etc.
The professor further cited about the fire in Coffey Park, Santa Rosa about an unexpected burn. It was a shock that a fire happened in an area where no fire is expected to happen. When the fire reached the city, it moved from house to house due to a high-density population. It’s an example of single-family housing where homes were built with minimal distance from each other and in smaller lots. Less affordable housing with the larger area has a higher possibility to mitigate the risks have a better control over fuel that threatens their home. This includes other buildings near them and vegetative landscaping.
James Suhr & Associates’ managing member James Suhr is a developer infill project around Southern California. He believes that a there is pressure to find a land to develop and the aversion of high-density and high-rise apartments.
Suhr further explained that though some are fighting for the green end of the spectrum, it hinders not only the high-rise or even the mid-rise residential projects but the proposed solution to avoid constructing in the fire zones.
Suhr also thinks that this aversion is operating unconsciously. The impact on Proposition 13 that frizzed the property taxes to 1975 levels until the property is sold leading to municipalities to turn to sales taxes just to compensate the shortfalls on property taxes and led overdevelopment of mall and shopping centers.
Discus pointed another phenomenon during his career about the endless redevelopment without the issues being addressed. The big loss of destructive fires, lives, homes, and infrastructures and forcing people in the community to leave. Some may return, many don’t come back for rebuilding their homes. This reduces the tax base, the community struggles to get back on their feet. The local jurisdictions would relax on the rules of redevelopment that would again lead to the next devastating fire waiting to happen. The victims of the wildfire needed a break, and they are given such but according to Discus, being accommodating and being nice to them actually leads to setting up another disaster in the future. It’s something he’s seen all over the U.S. and even in Australia.
The president of Climate Resilience Consulting in Chicago, Joyce Coffee, stated that it is imperative to think about the risk mitigation to all people involved in the building of infrastructures. She emphasized developers taking into consideration not only on the current but of the future possibility that would pose climate risks.
Also a member of Urban Land Institute, Coffee advocates the change in the land use zoning with consideration of the risk factors to create a bigger buffer, livelihoods, and property protection.
Coffee advocates for the government to create a safety net, a trust fund for future risks that are climate-related in states such as California. The state has been very active about climate-related issues like wildfires.
One good thing today: is the commercial developers rethinking about the pipeline projects. It’s always good to get a step forward and see that real estate CA will cope from natural disasters in the community.