On June 21, 2018, Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) issued the first Certificate of Occupancy for the first completed rebuild in the county after the devastating fires of October 2017. This is a huge milestone and it is just the beginning of the fire rebuilding process in Sonoma County. There are currently over 230 permits issued by PRMD that are in the process of rebuilding. Of Adobe Associates’ active project list of 2018 – from January until present – over 130 of our projects are burn sites.
When the fires were done burning, Adobe Associates received a flood of calls requesting fire rebuild services. Amanda Reid, Building Manager and Executive Assistant to Aaron Smith, PLS, was responsible for taking the initial phone calls and talking each person through the process by answering questions and helping people to grasp the scope of work that was to follow. Amanda was the perfect person for the job due to her keen organizational skills as well as her positive and friendly demeanor. There are many moving parts to the rebuilding process and people were distraught and confused. Amanda was able to assist each person by giving a better understanding of how to move forward and connecting them to the appropriate person to the rebuilding process.
The Rebuild Process
Generally speaking, the first step to any project is to have a land surveying crew come to the site to evaluate the existing conditions of the land as well as the property boundaries. In many cases, the fires destroyed fences and other physical boundaries of properties. Adobe Associates Land Surveying Department was then tasked with going out and constructing a topographic map to determine the condition of each site. They also use metal detectors to find the monuments previously placed at the corners of each property to reestablish boundary lines. Topographic mapping is essential as it is the base for any design created by civil engineers.
In addition, due to the temperature of the fire, many septic systems and underground piping was either destroyed or severely damaged. After the initial topographic map, the evaluation of the damage to the existing septic system fell to Adobe Associates Wastewater Department. Evaluation and repair of the sites’ septic system must also come before the design and construction of homes because the size and capacity of the septic system determines the size of the house. Once these steps have been completed, home owners can begin designing and rebuilding their homes.
Last year after the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was apparent that something needed to be done to handle the overwhelming amount of permit requests for rebuilding that PRMD would receive. In response, PRMD opened the Fire Resiliency Center with the sole function of assisting in the rebuilding process to get people back into their homes. They have also taken measures to expedite the permitting process for rebuilding with improvements such as electronic green line comments that allow plans examiners to make minor comments on the plans, many of which can be solved at the counter. Small rebuild projects can also be approved over the counter and PRMD has reduced the turn-around approval time for larger projects to 3 to 5 days. Another service PRMD provided rebuild clients is next day inspections during the final stage of the process in order to make it as efficient as possible. In addition, PRMD allows minor repairs of septic systems to be done without going through the full permitting process as long as a Civil Engineer reviews and approves the system both before and after the repairs are made.
Everyone – county, staff, consultants, contractors – has gone above and beyond will continue to put in the work to get those displaced by the fires back into their homes. Adobe Associates is excited to see all of the progress that has been made as we transition from Land Survey and Wastewater to begin the Civil Engineering and building phase.
Driving through the county, it is encouraging to see the burn sites – the ones that we have worked on as well as others – cleared of debris and given the green light for construction. Sonoma County has a long way to go but the way that everyone has come together and the progress that has been made is truly remarkable. Adobe Associates, Inc. is proud to be a part of the effort of rebuilding.
For more information on the rebuilding process, please visit the PRMD Website
Information contributed by:
Amanda Reid, Building Manager and Executive Assistant to Aaron Smith, PLS
Dan Langley, PLS 9380