Rebuilding in a Fire Zone

Carr Fire by Pacific Southwest Region 5 via Flickr -

Rebuilding in a Fire Zone

Original Blog by Jesamine D. for The Code Solution

Californians are no stranger to fires. Usually in farmlands or neighborhoods of higher elevation, these wildfires ruin everything in their path – from homes, cars, building structures and even an entire neighborhood. What’s even worse is having no choice but continue rebuilding in a fire zone.

Lack of Proper Housing

The housing crisis in California has been a problem that’s failed to see any resolution. In addition, communities are allowing homes to be built in straight up fire hazard zones. When it comes to trying to accommodate the housing crisis, as well as find safe space to do so, challenges are at-hand.

Refilling the Void

After enduring serious wildfires, communities are slowly attempting to rebuild their homes. Though a traumatic experience, many of these communities have no choice but to rebuild their homes and community in the same fire zone area where they lost it all.

Vegetation Loss

A prime example is the town of Montecito near Santa Barbara County. Earlier this 2018, the Thomas Fire scorched over 281,000 acres nearby Montecito, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The aftermath of the fire not only damaged nearby neighborhoods, but completely scorched all vegetation in the surrounding mountains and hillsides.

The Fire’s Comeback

The Thomas Fire caused natural vegetation like soil, plants and other agriculture, to burn to a complete crisp. Soon after the Thomas fire, a mudslide engulfed a nearby town. The vegetation in the surrounding Ventura and Santa Barbara hills usually absorb any incoming rainfall, but given the massive fire that recently burned everything in its path – this incoming storm was going to be different. Rather than the usual leaves or debris that absorb the rainfall, heavy amount of rain were absorbed in all the loose ash, soot and dirt that were leftover from the fire. The heavier it rained, the thicker the mud grew. The Montecito mudslide, like the Thomas fire, destroyed everything it touched and even swept away entire structures. Unfortunately, the mudslide was so destructive that it claimed the lives of 17 individuals, as well as left another 17 unaccounted for.

$421 Million in Damages

Many of the affected neighbors didn’t have flood or mudslide insurance. With little hope of recovering, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones felt otherwise. On January 29th, 2018, Jones sent a formal notice to insurers encouraging proper coverage for mudslide victims, regardless of policy. Knowing many Californians often don’t have mudslide, debris flow or flood coverage on their policy, Jones wanted to stress the urgency in recovering to insurers. The overall amount of damages resulted in $421 million.

Fire Extremity

2017 was California’s hottest year. With hundreds of fires, an increased mortality rate, destruction rate and loss of complete neighborhoods, it’s no telling when it will occur again. Whether it be global warming or human-caused, fires are a norm in California. Though many have lost their lives and property on these high-risk fire areas, why are developers still building on these lands?

Continuing to Build in Fire Prone Areas

Simply put, developers keep building in fire areas because Californians keep paying for it, according to Bloomberg. With the housing epidemic on the rise, Californians still need a place to live. Where are those fire damage victims going to live? These demands have led local officials to to issue permits for re-building in fire zones and even by exempting some building codes, allowing for even bigger homes to be built in these hazardous areas.

Fire Risks and Damages

Though Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sent a notice to insurers to protect these fire damage victims, policyholders are still making the same decisions that initially put these tenants at risk. Due to 2017’s hottest year on record, insurers are fleeing these fire-prone communities. Some insurance companies have even decided to cancel policies due to the increased risk of more potential fires. With more than 2 million homes at risk, Governor Jerry Brown has claimed this condition is “normal” for California. With fire risks at a new norm, insurers have been cancelling policies left and right.

Rebuilding in Fire Severity Zones

After 2017’s drastic chain of fires, some codes that maintain buildings and developments, have been changed. In order to reduce the likelihood of structures catching fire, newer codes and restrictions have been placed. In order to prevent further fire damage, we can protect ourselves by adhering to the following two standards:

    Creating Defensible Space – though California law already requires 100 feet of space around buildings, a new ordinance requires a reduction of flammable items that surround these structures.
    Exterior Wildfire Exposure Protection – this ordinance was set so that new developments should be built with minimal risk of catching fire from burning embers.

There are over 31 million acres that are classified as “Fire Hazard Severity Zones” or “State Responsibility Areas.” These portions of land were given the name due to its high likelihood and history of catching fire. These areas are where the State has financial responsibility in aiding these wildfire areas.

Project Precaution

Any design or construction for new structures/homes in these severity zones must follow the wildfire exposure protection codes. This means removing any flammable objects or vegetation, using material that is least likely to catch fire from burning embers, as well as full disclosure of the hazardous area when taking part of a real estate transfer. For more information, check out the California Department of Fire & Forestry’s information page.

Before planning your next build, check whether or not
your preferred area is in a high-risk fire severity zone.

Questions or need assistance? Contact us – we can help.

Original Blog by Jesamine D. for The Code Solution

Terrakan Launches New Platform

Terrakan Launches New Platform

Re-posted from source Business Wire

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Terrakan is a brand new web platform for real estate developers that was just released to the public this month. The trailblazing new service offers property reports that can tell you the development value of any residential or commercial property in the city of Los Angeles.

New LA based web service offers valuable tools for real estate owners and developers.

Prior to now, anyone researching properties and looking for the best potential development opportunity would have to spend a significant amount of time conducting research. First you would have to look up the zoning information, then apply the appropriate setback reductions, then calculate the allowable density, do another calculation for allowable square footage, and finally, figure out what the whole thing will cost to build.

For developers and land-use consultants, this is a time consuming effort. Especially when certain aspects aren’t clear and you need to take time out of your day for a visit to the city planning department (a common occurrence). The whole process can take anywhere from several hours to several days just to get an answer. Now suppose a developer had to analyze a list of 10 or 20 potential properties to determine which one of those would make the best investment…

This is exactly the problem that the Terrakan founders have been encountering throughout their many years in the development business. The diverse and multi-disciplinary group of architects, engineers, developers, and real estate agents, had all experienced the inefficiencies of this process, and sought to change it.

While the inception of the internet has made things far easier, there was still no simple way of getting the answers they needed. That’s why they decided to change course and take on a new kind of development project, web development. The multi-year effort is finally complete and the Terrakan platform has been pre-programmed with all of the data that they would normally have to look up and analyze manually.

With the push of a button, developers can now get instant reports detailing what the maximum allowable scope of a project can be. It even generates an estimate of construction costs based on local market averages. The service is currently only active for properties in Los Angeles, but the team says that more cities like Chicago, New York, and Houston are coming soon.

Capitalizing on LA’s Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Program

What is TOC? In 2017, the city of Los Angeles rolled out a new program that would encourage new development in areas around major public transit stops. The goal of this program was to provide much needed housing stock, while at the same time limiting the impacts on local roads and traffic congestion. It works by offering density increases incentives of 50-80% above the existing zoning limits for project that are within a certain distance from designated metro stations and bus intersections. For example, if a project was zoned for 10-units by-right, and fell within the highest tier (tier 4) of the TOC program, that developer would now be allowed to build up to 18 units on the same piece of land. Needless to say this makes any TOC-eligible property far more valuable than those which are not.

In addition to the Terrakan Property Reports being offered by the website, is also capable of identifying these lucrative parcels with their Advanced Search feature. The platform is able to scan the entire city and generate a list of addresses that qualify for the density incentives, as well as tell you which of the 4 tiers that it falls into. This is something that was only possible by manually measuring the distance from a parcel to a qualifying transit stop before now.

Terrakan’s Upcoming Features

Terrakan’s CMO, Thomas Bailey, says that the property research tools are just the beginning for Terrakan. The vision is to create a portal where users can get access to anything they could possibly need related to real estate and development. Upcoming features to be deployed soon include:

    Advanced Listings – list of properties that have been prescreened using the Terrakan algorithms and determined to be the best potential development opportunities on the market.

    Community Forum – A social networking space specifically for industry professionals to exchange knowledge and experience by asking and answering questions.

    Service Database – A centralized place for companies to list their services. Vendors will be able to create profiles showcasing their specialties, thus increasing competition among providers, and ultimately benefiting the consumer.

With all of the different moving parts involved with real estate development, it is high time that someone made an attempt to consolidate everything onto one easy-to-use platform. Stay tuned for more updates.

Looking for more information? Contact:
The Code Solution
Thomas Bailey, CMO
Re-posted from source Business Wire

San Jose Proposes to Convert Schools into Teacher Housing

via David Sawyer on Flickr

San Jose Proposes to Convert Schools into Teacher Housing

An Original Blog by Jesamine D.The Code Solution

Housing in California is a crisis that not only exists today, but has also been drastically increasing over time. Los Angeles Times has even noted that 4 out of 10 Californians are living in poverty. this increasing risk places an impact on those that live in the neighborhood including parents, their children and even the teachers at nearby schools. This is especially true for teachers in San Jose’s rising housing cost neighborhoods.

An Attempt for Fair Housing

In midst of the housing crisis, the Northern California District proposed a plan to convert nearby schools into low-income housing for teachers. The district originally proposed to convert 9 properties (including schools and district offices) into housing for nearby teachers in the area. This would be set in place in order to help the many teachers that often live far away from their schools due to soaring housing costs. Many teachers face up to 4 hours daily when commuting to and from work.

Neighborhood Backlash

Though a seemingly supportive proposal, nearby residents felt otherwise. Hundreds of residents voiced their opinion on the matter. In fact, the community back-lashed the overall proposal, stating that by removing these school landmarks and converting them into low-income housing, would decrease the value of its neighborhood.

“It is ridiculous,” former Leland football coach Mike Carrozzo said of the proposal. “You’re going to build low-income housing in one of the more prosperous areas in the Bay Area, which also happens to be the furthest corner of the district for district teachers. It’s crazy.”

Moving School Locations

San Jose’s Unified School District further noted that the housing would not only benefit nearby teachers, but other school employees as well. In the proposal were suggested conversions of the beloved Leland High School and Bret Harte High School in the well-known Almaden Valley, a prestige and wealthy community. Additionally, schools consistently run into the problem of having to hire and retain employees do to long commutes and the rising housing costs near the school.

Declining Enrollment & Employment

The eight schools found in the proposal would later be transferred to another area, if given the opportunity to build for teacher housing. Schools that were brought into the proposal were originally picked due to declining enrollment and employment. Like the long and tedious commute that teachers face daily, parents also have a long commute when dropping off their kids at school. Not only does this affect their kids grades and attendance, but the parents attendance at work, as well. Furthermore, if given the opportunity to build the housing, the schools wouldn’t be shut down at all. Instead, these schools would be moved into other locations.

The Push for Teacher Housing

A proposal to defeat San Jose’s housing problem only brought more problems among the community itself. Though this was freshly proposed, other communities have begun to make an influence out of this, as well. A great example of the like would be Palo Alto’s experimental teacher housing, where they received additional funding to support the project.

Affordable-Housing Developments

Over 200 teachers are replaced yearly in San Jose’s school district. If supportive teacher housing isn’t in place, will this jeopardize the future of our schools? Whether it takes converting schools or some other plan, something must be done to save these high-risk schools.

An Original Blog by Jesamine D.The Code Solution

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Palo Alto Affordable Housing Wins RARE Zone Change

3705 El Camino Real by Pyatok Architecture & Urban Design - Palo Alto Online

(Above image): 3705 El Camino Real Affordable Housing Development in Palo Alto by Pyatok Architecture + Urban Design | Source: Palo Alto Online

Palo Alto Affordable Housing Wins Rare Zone Change

Original Blog by Jesamine D. | The Code Solution

After 7 long years, Palo Alto’s affordable housing developments have received a rare zone change from the Planning and Transportation Commission.

The Camino Real Development

The Commission will apply the key zone change to Palo Alto’s non-profit housing on 3705 Camino Real beginning this 2018. In addition, this low-income project will soon house residents that make in income of 30 to 60 percent of the overall area’s median. With 65 units in place, 30 of the units will also be designated for residents with disability.

Overcoming Project Discouragement

Though commissioners were skeptical about the zone change, city councilors went ahead and created it anyway. With a 7-2 vote, council agreed to pursue the “Affordable Housing Combing District.” These were initially created to promote more low-income housing projects with higher level allowance, greater density, as well as less-strict parking restrictions. When word of the new change was spread throughout town, many emails urging to push the affordable housing were received. Others were weary that the zone’s overlay would affect other neighboring areas, as well. But – given the 100% dedication to the zone’s purpose of fulfilling affordable housing, everyone was soon on board.

“I don’t think we should be treating housing as a luxury, and we’re far behind on our housing production as a state,” Monk said. “We are seeing people living on the streets in numbers that just keep growing. We do need to do our part to address that problem.”

Failed Projects

Palo Alto’s newest affordable-housing project will be the first of its kind since the 45-unit Treehouse development on Charleston Road in 2011. Additionally, the city attempted to build another 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single family homes in 2013. Unfortunately, the council-approved zoning was overturned by city voters.

Creating More Affordable Housing

Other neighborhoods should see Palo Alto’s rare zone change as motivation to continue building these much-needed affordable-housing projects. Even after having the proposal of the housing be overturned or discouraged, the low-income development proved to be worthy.

Questions or need assistance? Contact us, we’re here to help.

Original Blog by Jesamine D. | The Code Solution

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