February 2011 home page

  Whole Lotta Shingles comin’ Off
Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Photo Piper Underwood


I recently sat down with longtime Del Mar resident Chuck Hile to discuss the possible ban on wood shake shingle roofs. Chuck and his wife Marolyn have lived in the beach colony for 46 years. Replacing their wood shingle roof with Class A materials would run the Hiles upwards of $10,000, creating a financial burden for the couple that lives on a fixed income.

The current ordinance states that all wood shake shingle roofs will need to be replaced by July of 2013. However, because the city can’t modify the state building code, Del Mar’s ordinance will likely require a new safety ordinance which declares shake shingle roofs a public safety hazard (like overgrown vegetation), and only then a forced abatement procedure could be adopted. This process would essentially reset the clock on the ordinance giving property owners more time to deal with the issue. The city hasn’t set a new schedule for introducing a modified ordinance declaring wood shake shingle roofing a public safety hazard.

There are about 250 wood shake shingle roofs out of 2,400 in Del Mar, and obviously some of them are in higher risk areas than others. For example, the Hile’s property is surrounded by very little vegetation, is only a block from the ocean and isn’t bordered by canyons or even lagoons. The likelihood of their house being a culprit in a citywide fire is very low. On the other hand, there are residences bordering the canyon, surrounded by heavy vegetation, which definitely pose a risk. Some of these residences fall within the Wildlife and Urban Interface zone (or WUI) and can be treated separately by state law. If the new ordinance were adopted, it would be logical to start with properties that fall within the WUI.

What we have learned from the fires in 2007 is that our town is not out of reach of a rogue ember; and after the recent rains, there is plenty of fuel to burn. However, we must also employ common sense when it comes to topographical, vegetative and other features that pose high fire risk . It may help to set up a fund now in order to help those in high fire risk areas who want to replace their wood shingle roofs, but can’t afford to do so.

Photo Art Olson


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