The Nightmares of Rebuilding After a Fire

By Lori Denman

If anyone would like to learn about the difficulties of rebuilding a home following a fire, due to required permits (some understandable, many not), view the Ventura City Council meeting on September 10.

The meeting on September 10 was started by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere. Mayor Andrews was absent and Councilmember Mike Tracy was on speaker phone during the meeting, but not at the meeting in the room.

LaVere announced a special ceremony at each of the six Ventura Fire Departments, occurring the next morning on that Tuesday at 6:45am. It was held to honor the collapse of the South Tower in New York on 911. LaVere also announced how a group is holding an event, Pier Into the Future. It’s the fifth anniversary of the Pier Under the Stars event. This nonprofit assures that the pier is preserved for now and future generations. They have raised over $1.5 million to preserve the pier. On October 6, the event occurs. HD Supply has done a lot of contributions including the flags on the pier and Don Mills who installs the flags. LaVere thanked the Pier Into the Future and he invited people up to the front of council to be honored with certificates, recognizing their 25 years of service.

Public Communications

Kevin Stockdon spoke. This man said that he is operating under approved plans in trying to rebuild his home after

Historic Preservation Committee, he claimed, and his architect and their process disagree with his window selection and it is confusing and taking too long to help this man and his family. He said the process if frustrating and asked for help from City Council to move forward with fixing and rebuilding his home. Lambert said to Kevin that he will make sure that someone from City staff

Arnold Ikeda Jr. was murdered in his home on March 20. His mother spoke at the podium. She is asking for justice for his murder. She claims that she is aware of two persons that may have led to his murder occurring. She has provided information to Ventura PD, she claims. She has a detective. She said the lead has yet to be followed up on and when she contacted PD, she said that they said that they were working on the Aloha murder. The speaker and mother of Arnold is asking for justice and more help solving her son’s murder. She asks for Ventura PD to hire additional detectives.

Consent Items

It was recommended that they move all resolutions and ordinances presented tonight – that they be read in title only and all further reading be waived.

Item D was, “Southern California Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy Draft Growth Projections Update.” It was recommended that the council “authorize the mayor to sign the response letter to Southern California Association of Governments for their 2020-2045 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy.” Mayor Andrews was absent at this council meeting.

Formal Items

Council discussed Item A:  Thomas Fire Recovery Action Plan Implementation – Amendments to the Emergency Ordinance Amending Certain Provisions Pertaining to Height Determinations and Implementation and Restatingthe Thomas Fire Rebuild Overlay Zone.

Dave Ward, the Planning Manager joined in with Jeffrey Lambert. This presentation was called “Thomas Fire Rebuild Overlay Zone Amendment.”

Forty-two building permits issued by today (at time of City Council meeting) and there are 300 repair permits issued. Questions from the community were how to build properly and also with safety issues in mind. There are people who had a one story and wish to go to two, they can do it under authority if it is “no impact view lot,” or must have 100% support of adjacent property owners. There must be no impact to protected private views. They need to comply.

Public comments on Thomas fire. An ex-Planning Commissioner, John Hecht, for the City was one of the speakers and did a presentation regarding a topic of neighbors who may be re-building unfairly, including different in ridgeline, height and foot print.

There were 15 speakers. It’s been over 9 months and comments, including complaints:

  1. Sprinklers, to rebuild, were not charged before for others. And now it will cost 17 to 20K to rebuild them. It’s an extra fee by the city she said. She is asking for the city to waive these fees. She has to spend their retirement fees in order to rebuild their home.
  2. It was suggested that City Council create numerous focus groups for the Thomas Fire families, since they know nothing about the complicated plans, permits, etc.
  3. Expediency and urgency in helping them rebuild their homes.
  4. Neighbors are building too high and towering over their small properties. This person asked that the city re-look at this permit granted and it should be fair
  5. Neighbors who used to get along and be peaceful with one another are now arguing because some are being allowed to rebuild in ways that may not be fair (higher buildings blocking views, etc).
  6. Consistent rebuild protection. Modified process should include sign off from all the neighbors about any and all
  7. Protectable views should be protected.
  8. City Council should go back and look at the modified permit and all other permits of neighbors who are building too high or unfairly.
  9. “What is a ‘protected view’”? Is one of the top questions.
  10. Losing privacy in their home or backyard now that neighbors get to rebuild, but with decks overlooking their backyard.

Following the numerous comments by those who lost their homes in the Thomas Fire, Weir discussed how some people are requesting things and items that are not in the required building code. She said that there are 500 normal applications and there are also many other people requesting out of the norm. She suggested that everyone be patient as there is a lot of work to be done and to please make requests within code.

It was also explained that each resident who is rebuilding has to follow many codes including those of mechanical, electrical, water and more. Notes are provided to each resident and it is required by the state of California.

Tracy said that there is a project that is being built that will have significant negative affect on numerous properties. He is saying that the homeowner on the project go through the necessary requirements. Gregory Diaz said that a line needs to established. Does it fit the requirements of the existing ordinance? Tracy said that if the footprint of the case would be changed, that would be the trigger to assume that it does not follow under the modified permit process. Tracy is questioning when a protected view is being impacted by a homeowner.

Cheryl Heitman

It was said that all homeowners should look at the process like a book that needs to be followed step by step with contributing information. Heitman asked why there are not requirements for homeowners to give notice to all nearby neighbors for their process. Lambert said if it is compliant it is approved and they are not required to give notice to neighbors. Heitman is still wondering if there is a big chance incurred by a homeowner, if there is a modification that can be put into the process to protect others.

Formal item 12 E recommended that the council receive the Community Development Project Preliminary Check-in Report and Presentation. It was said that County zoning was not taken into consideration when this original Master Plan was completed. The purpose of this application is to correct the map and its boundaries and align the goals of the city and county.

Agenda, Sept. 10: https://www.cityofventura.ca.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_09102018-1691

Video, Sept. 10: https://www.cityofventura.ca.gov/718/Videos

Lori Denman has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.


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