Much of Pacific Palisades, which borders on the Santa Monica Mountains, State Parks and brush-covered hillsides, falls in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ).
Realtor Bruce Schwartz, a former Citizen of the Year and a member of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, shared the latest information about buying and building in these zones.
As the California Association of Realtors magazine reports:
Recent changes in Cal Fire regulations may upend a buyer’s construction plans if the property is on a ‘dead-end road’ of more than 800 feet, and the property lies within a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone within a Local Responsibility Area (LRA).
Since July 1 of this year, such properties are subject to Cal Fire regulation 14 CCR 1273.08 and may be denied a building permit on that basis alone.
The regulation applies to parcels zoned for less than one acre. Parcels zoned for more than one acre will allow for longer roads.
A number of Cal Fire regulations that have only applied within State Responsibility Areas now apply to properties within LRAs. These include rules pertaining to turn arounds, water supply, signage and road surfaces that make it difficult or impossible to get building permits. The dead-end road rule may be of most concern since it is difficult to remedy.
The July 1 expansion adds properties in Local Responsibility Areas within the VHFHSZ to the ones within the State Responsibility Area. Cal Fire’s FHSZ Viewer can also help identify the correct zone. See this link: https://egis.fire.ca.gov/FHSZ/
Though property constructed or repaired after being destroyed by a wildfire may not be covered by the new regulations, there may still be restrictions if the new building increases square footage, changes the use, and/or involves building where no structure previously existed on the site.
Agents should not make any representation that a buyer may build on a property, or even that a property may be remodeled. Rather, an agent should strongly advise the buyer to consult with their own expert, such as a contractor or other expert, including checking with the fire authorities, to determine whether the property may be substantially remodeled or is buildable, even when there is an existing structure.