SB 9 Rezoning Could Impact High Fire Risk Areas: Firefighter

By Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.
October 18, 2021 Updated: October 18, 2021

With a significant number of destructive wildfires affecting California in recent years, some residents are questioning the potential effects of new legislation aimed at increasing density in the state’s single-family-zoned neighborhoods.

Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), recently signed by the governor, appears to exclude very high fire hazard severity zones. However, Livable California claims that SB 9’s restrictions on development in these fire hazard zones don’t apply where fire mitigation standards apply. “And those fire mitigation standards are already applied in Chapter 7A of the state Building Code,” the organization states.

If this is true, the new law could impact high fire severity areas such as Shasta, South Lake Tahoe, Santa Rosa, Oakland, Ventura, Agoura Hills, Malibu, Los Angeles, Ramona, Poway, San Diego, Paradise (already devastated by a recent fire), and others, according to the organization.

Los Angeles City firefighter-paramedic John Knox warns that this increased residential development coupled with personnel shortages and lingering drought conditions could create problems in high-evacuation-prone areas.

“If you apply common sense, it’s very easy to come to the conclusion that the more people you have in an area, you just have more issues,” Knox told The Epoch Times.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s fire-related, crime-related, or medical issues, if you’re introducing more people into an area, especially one that is already in a high fire danger zone, there are going to be issues,” Knox said. “You would think that more fire stations would be built to deal with the amount of people that are going to be impacting communities as a result of this legislation, which is obviously going to create increased development and population growth.”

As reported by The Epoch Times in August, SB 9 makes major changes to zoning requirements in local neighborhoods, allowing for duplexes and lot splits on parcels traditionally zoned for single-family development. Meanwhile, California has been plagued by major fire disasters, and SB9 encourages more housing density.

“That’s what city planning does, when they look at a new subdivision, city planning gets involved to look at possibly needing to widen roads to accommodate a certain part of the area, or build another fire station. They look at whether there is enough of their municipality’s services to cover certain areas. It doesn’t seem that that’s being taken into consideration, and so it’s going to tax the existing system to its max,” Knox said.

“For example, look at downtown Los Angeles, the numbers of calls for Fire Station 9 on Skid Row, which is the busiest fire station in the country. Out of that one fire station alone, they run on average over 100 calls a day.

“Now let’s add the 27 new high-rise commercial and residential buildings currently under construction in that area; it’s only going to increase that call load. So obviously, if you move more people into an area, you’re going to generate an increase in call load. So now you’re putting the public at risk because of the increased fire load in that area—more population, more injuries and deaths.”

Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.