Homeowners seek permits to rebuild in Paradise

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Town Hall is where people go to start (re)building homes and businesses in Paradise. Photo credit: Hana Beaty

The Camp Fire burned approximately 153,000 acres and destroyed 18,800 structures. The makeup of those buildings was estimated to be 14,000 residential and about 530 commercial structures.

Since then, residents from Paradise have looked to rebuild the homes that were taken from them. As of Oct. 23, 429 building permit applications have been submitted in Paradise and only nine homes have been rebuilt.

Recent legislation offers help. Assembly Bill AB-430 passed on Oct. 11. This bill creates an easier approval process for residential and mixed-use developments. This is for properties within or near the cities of Biggs, Corning, Gridley, Live Oak, Orland, Oroville, Willows and Yuba City. These projects now don’t need to be reviewed under the California Environmental Quality Act.

This Camp Fire Housing Assistance Act of 2019 looks to help speed up home construction in areas affected by the Camp Fire, mainly by removing many environmental regulations that would stall housing projects.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company have also designated $100 million to help Camp Fire survivors through the Wildfire Assistance Program. No matter a survivor’s income level or insurance, funds can be allocated if they sign up by the Nov. 15 deadline.

According to the Butte County Recovery Update, 627,626 tons of fire debris and ash have been picked up by government programs. While 129,234 tons of fire debris and ash, 31,193 tons of concrete and 670 tons of metal have been picked up by alternative programs.

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A 16-step diagram that the Paradise planning & zoning department hands out to keep track of what needs to be done to complete the permit process. Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

This should make it easier for survivors to rebuild. For now, those ready to start the process of rebuilding in Paradise have to go to the Paradise planning & zoning department.

Before a property owner can submit a permit application, their property must be cleared of debris, the soil has to be tested for hazardous materials, the septic system has to be brought up to code and a land surveyor has to verify property lines, in that order.

Once these steps are completed, the resident can file a permit application to rebuild. Residential lots can have up to two RVs after debris has been removed with a temporary use permit. 33% of construction debris is allowed in landfills. The rest must go to salvage yards.

“If there are no hiccups or stoppages, the process takes under three weeks from the time you submit your permit,” Permit Technician Shawna Teague said.If there are any problems or comments on the application, it can take up to six weeks.”

Shawna Teague
Shawna Teague is one of the permit technicians from 4Leaf, inc that works with people to get their plans approved for building their future homes and businesses. Teague is currently working at the Paradise planning & zoning department. Photo credit: Hana Beaty

After these initial first steps, an owner and a contractor or architect work together on planning and floor plans. If an owner has trouble finding a contractor, the Paradise planning & zoning department can provide a list of recommendations.

With the contractor’s help, three signed sets of completed drawings, two sets of structural calculations, two sets of energy calculations, two sets of trusses calculations, one survey (completed by a land surveyor or civil engineer licensed in land surveying), two sets of residential fire sprinkler plans, two additional plot plans and one floor plan must be completed

Those seeking to rebuild must plan to have the same number of bedrooms they had previously. Once the building plans are submitted, the plans are checked to see if they are up to California building codes.

According to Teague, the building plans are hardly ever approved on the first try and usually require a second submission after comments and corrections. There is not usually a need for a third submission, except for in the case of multiunit buildings.

After the inspection of the floor plans, permits can be issued and construction can commence. From there, it is up to the contractor and landowner to keep up with the remaining permits, building and septic inspections.

With 18,800 structures lost, just 429 permits approved and nine structures completed, whether former residents decide to come back and rebuild will determine how Paradise will take shape in the coming years.

The road to rebuilding Paradies is just getting started and will most likely be going on for many more years. For further information, visit the Butte County development services page.

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.