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Our County by Lynda Hopkins

Recovering from Wildfires

Nov 21, 2017
by Lynda Hopkins, 5th District Supervisor - Sonoma County

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It’s been a challenging few weeks, but County staff and your Board of Supervisors have all been working hard to help residents recover from the series of fires that battered our County beginning October 8.

A crucial component of that work is educating the community about available resources. So let’s begin with a few public service announcements.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has set up shop with our Economic Development Board (EDB) to assist our community with Disaster Recovery programs.  These programs are not just for business, but are available to homeowners who suffered losses, as well as businesses who have lost income from the aftermath of the fires. 

The most important thing for every homeowner, renter, or business that may have a need for low-interest financing (as low as 1.75%, 30-year term for homeowners or 3.35% for businesses) is to make sure that your FEMA registration is in before December 18th.

If your tourism-related business will be impacted, be sure to register with FEMA now. Businesses will have until July to apply for disaster recovery loss of income loans, to allow for assessment of the impact.

Homeowners who might be underinsured should apply as soon as they have their FEMA case number. There is a menu of loan types that are available to any number of business/homeowner situation from farms to homes available at the EDB website here: sonomaedb.org

Our community is staring down a long road to recovery.

Many fire survivors have relocated to beautiful west county, and are living among us. The struggle that these folks face now and into the future cannot be quantified, and every one of the residents who lost their homes in the fire will face tremendous challenges in the months and years ahead. Let’s be mindful of that in our daily lives. Remember that the person who cut you off in traffic or took more than 15 items to the express lane or was perhaps a bit rude or short with you may be someone who is overwhelmed with the task of rebuilding their life and home after losing everything.  It is going to be more important now than ever to practice kindness in our daily lives in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Rebuilding neighborhoods and community on the scale that is now needed will take a Herculean effort – and while addressing that rebuild, we must also address the serious housing crisis that faced us before the firestorm. Even as we recover and rebuild from this catastrophe, we all must continue to work on the problems that existed in our community the day before the fire.  

Improving social justice, reducing inequality, creating better government and improving service delivery should stay high on our list even as we focus on recovery.

Making our community more resilient and just should be part of the work ahead. On that note, please share your ideas, suggestions, and passions with SonomaCountyRises.org(READ SoCo Rises starting on page 1) It’s important to make your voice heard as we rise to this challenging occasion together.

Speaking of preexisting problems (and preexisting opportunities), one opportunity for housing is the property on West College Avenue in Santa Rosa owned by the Community Development Commission that is designated for high-density housing.  We have been conducting community meetings for the past few months and gathering input from the neighborhood.  With the firestorm and the loss of nearly 6000 homes, this potential housing project became urgent.  The CDC put out a request for qualifications for proposed developers who might be able to begin the project in 2018. Because the CDC is the housing authority for Sonoma County, the affordability component is paramount to the selection of a developer for this parcel.

2159 West CollegeThe West College property is zoned for up to 170 apartments. The property itself is located less than a block from Finley Community Center and is adjacent to the City of Santa Rosa’s transit center and also includes a portion of the College Creek trail. This is an important step forward to provide housing at this desperate time. The selected developer will continue the community conversation while working through the City of Santa Rosa’s permitting process. The CDC expects to finalize the developer selection in early December. You can keep posted on the project by following 2150WestCollege.com.

Welcome Amie Windsor

Our office is always a busy place, but with the firestorm impacts and our future work to establish Citizen Advisory Committees, we felt a need to beef up our office staff. We will be welcoming Amie Windsor to our office as a field representative.  Amie has been writing Sonoma West Times, and lives with her husband Jason and their two adorable girls in Sebastopol. Amie will be making the rounds of West County in the next few months, getting acquainted with our non-profit organizations and community leaders.  (She knows many of you already from her work as a reporter.) We are looking forward to having Amie’s energy and communication skills in our office during this challenging time. Amie can be reached at Amie.Windsor@sonoma-county.org, or by calling our office at 565-2241.

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