Judge Denies Proposed Development in Fire-Prone Area

The decision could signal a new reluctance to allow development in wildland areas at high risk for fires.

1 minute read

February 23, 2022, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

California Wildfire

Jeff Turner / Wikimedia Commons

Despite the destruction caused by increasingly large and long-lasting wildfires in California in recent years, writes Thomas Elias, "development continued virtually unabated" in the state's wildland-urban interface. "Until early this year, when a judge in sparsely populated Lake County said 'No!' to a 16,000-acre luxury mixed-use project on land partly singed by past fires and partly deemed likely to flare up in future ones." 

As Elias reports, "The judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta and several environmental groups claiming the project could prove disastrous to both its own future residents and guests but also to present area residents." Explaining his ruling, Lake County Superior Court Judge J. David Markham said that "the development could close off or overcrowd fire evacuation routes, dooming many to death, as happened during the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County."

Elias criticizes state legislation that eliminates single-family zoning and permits increased density without requiring developers or property owners to build additional infrastructure to support extra housing units. Elias writes that infill development, and potentially the conversion of office buildings vacated during the pandemic into housing, should take priority over new development that puts communities at risk for natural disasters.

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