Seven months after the wildfires, the beat of hammers pounding nails is being heard throughout Sonoma County and Santa Rosa. These sounds are welcome news for those with approved construction building permits (177 to date) and give hope to the more than 317 applicants currently in one of five stages of this process.

However, others are still waiting, due to insurance claim and other issues, or as they attempt to assess their options for downsizing, building only one story instead of two, or consider selling their lots and moving on.

Recovery was slow in the first few months after October 2017 during the debris cleanup and EPA soil-testing phase. Now the momentum of residential rebuilding activity is accelerating, along with construction of new housing units planned before the fires, according to Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma (https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/prmd/contact-permit-sonoma/) and David Guhin, director of the Santa Rosa Resilient City Permit Center (https://srcity.org/2675/rebuilding). These officials provided Alliance members with a comprehensive update on the status of recovery at the May 2 general membership meeting.

These increased building activities are evidence of what can be done when public and private sectors work side by side to address and overcome issues emerging from a widespread disaster. Yet, for some, they are not fast enough.

Keith Woods, moderator for this panel and CEO of the North Coast Builder’s Exchange, said, “There was no playbook for what our county went through last year. No one could have foreseen, or adequately planned, for such an emergency and massive destruction.”Wick and Guhin said, “It’s not business as usual anymore. Traditional ways of handling building permits must change.” Both of these organizations are taking a hard look internally at how to operate more efficiently.

At the same time, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council are making changes designed to further streamline permitting procedures. There are other policy modifications in the works for Accessory Dwelling Units that will be announced soon. The Alliance will update you with progress reports as these changes are made and milestones are achieved.

In addition, our May breakfast sponsor, Sonoma Clean Power, gave members a preview of its new program to help residents rebuild sustainable and efficient homes. For more information go to https://sonomacleanpower.org and click on Advanced Energy Rebuild Program, or email Kate Kelly (kkelly@sonomacleanpower.org).  

Someone said, “Too often we pray to have patience, but we want it right now!” Another notable quote says, “Change doesn’t happen overnight.” There is truth in both statements. 

In an on-demand society, we all are accustomed to instant gratification. We often forget that when faced with the reality and challenges associated with rebuilding a city and county it will require an extra measure of patience and more time to do it right. 

Kris Wilson, President

The Sonoma County Alliance