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  Del Mar Brush Way
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera

 

Wildland Urban Interface map from www.fire.ca.gov

enlargement

On October 4 the Del Mar City Council took a second look at the ordinance and implementation options for the fire prevention Weed and Brush Abatement Program initially approved on first reading at their August 2 Council meeting. In the traditional Del Mar way, during the intervening two months the community has had the opportunity to examine the proposals and voice their opinions. At a workshop on September 15, the citizens’ most vocal concerns centered on the choice of Fire Prevention Services (FPS) to perform both property inspection and abatement services on non-compliant properties. The apparent conflict of interest in providing both roles, and worries about prior complaints filed against FPS fueled the objections.

At the October 4 meeting it became clear that the City Council had heard the community. Three options for implementing the abatement program were discussed. The first was the original private inspector/abatement contractor, hiring FPS for a one year trial period at no cost to the city; the second option was hiring a seasonal, temporary weed abatement inspector, to work with the Fire Marshal, with abatement services contracted by the city under competitive bidding, with an estimated cost of $7500/year to the city; and the third option was the use of existing Fire staff personnel for the program with abatement services the same as option 2, costing an estimated $3750/year in administrative overhead plus unknown additional expense in fire staff hours. After significant public input during the open hearing, Council deliberated, and acknowledged that the original FPS option did at least have the appearance of conflict of interest. Additional questions of city staff revealed that because of changes in the Fire Department staffing, the cost of a seasonal inspector was financially feasible for the city. To the relief of many in the room, the Council voted unanimously to support option 2 for a trial period of 3 years. The emphasis of the program will be focused on the 350 properties in the so-called Wildland Urban Interface zone.

While most citizens agree that the fire-safety ordinance is important and much needed, the question of the costs of the abatement, and the threat of city initiated foreclosure for those unable to afford those costs remains an issue. Such cases, expected to be rare, may be assisted by the Community Support Fund, which was set up by Del Mar Community Connections. The Fund, originated last year with the impetus of the utility undergrounding effort to help needy citizens with city mandated expenses, has some funds that could be used for this purpose. Sarah Dubin Vaughn, who heads the DMCC Community Support Fund Committee, remarked that they are looking into mechanisms to offer support for abatement expenses. While over $300,000 had been pledged to the fund, they were earmarked for the undergrounding effort, and none of those pledges have been extended for other fire-safety related mandates. Dubin Vaughn is looking for people to step forward with donations to support abatement costs, shake-roof replacements, and other future community measures that promote fire safety. Community input is the Del Mar Way.


 
 

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