Stett Holbrook's article ("The Terrifying New Normal," Oct. 18) would lead us to believe that the fires in Sonoma County were caused by climate change. The earth has always been a violent place. For example, on Oct. 8, 1871, in Peshtigo, Wisc., a quick-moving fire whipped up by high winds in dry conditions, like the one we just saw, burned 1.2 million acres and killed 1,500 to 2,500 people. These are the very same conditions we have here in Sonoma County every October. Can we connect the Peshtigo fire to climate change? I agree we are changing the weather on earth, but if you look at earth's history, the disaster list is endless.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones, homes and jobs in this disaster.
Thinking forward to rebuilding Sonoma County's housing stock, it seems now would be the perfect time to accomplish a secondary goal as well—more affordable housing—by creating government incentives/assistance for adding secondary living units to any home lost to the fire whose owner would like to do so. Insurance only covers the cost of replacing what was there, but the city and county could (with adequate political will) negotiate whatever might be required with insurance companies to facilitate such additions, identify and secure a funding source and offer favorable terms, such as perhaps a zero-down loan with closing fees deferred until pay-off to fund the additional cost amortized over 20 years but due in five (giving owners adequate time if needed to establish a rental-income history that could be used to refinance or take out a new second). Repayment could be scheduled to begin only after the construction is completed, so that a homeowner could use the income from renting out the secondary dwelling for repayment if needed. Makes perfect sense to me. Any reason why not?
I remember when the Santa Rosa City Council gave its final approval for housing developments in the Fountaingrove wilderness area in the early 1990s. Then-mayor Sharon Wright and her colleagues on the council ignored people (myself included) who warned that doing so would expose homes in the area to the threat of wildfire. The council decided that the financial benefits (tax revenue from wealthy residents) outweighed the possibility of a catastrophic tragedy. I wonder if Sharon Wright and her fellow former councilmembers still feel that way? This is one of those rare times when I really wish I had been wrong about something. Being able to say "I told you so." has never felt so unsatisfying.
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