Only a few months have passed since fire devastated the North Bay. Yet the resilience of North Bay counties is on display as recovery progresses. The natural landscapes that were charred by flames are being reborn, and the communities that were devastated are taking steps to rebuild. There are a lot of questions when it comes to rebuilding and a myriad of possible answers. North Bay communities will be shaped for decades by the rebuilding decisions that will be made in the months and years ahead.
Rebuilding and Thinking Ahead
The communities of the North Bay can rebuild and, in doing so, become even stronger in the future. The North Bay has been a leader—for the Bay Area, California, and the nation—in establishing urban growth boundaries (UGBs) that clearly define where growth should and should not occur. By respecting these boundaries during rebuilding, sprawl can be prevented from encroaching deeper into fire-prone lands and people can be kept out of harm’s way. By building new homes in places like along the new Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) line, the housing needs of some of those displaced by the fires, as well as people who have long struggled with the North Bay’s housing shortage, can be addressed in an environmentally responsible fashion.
Well into 2018, North Bay residents and leaders will still be focused on rebuilding and getting people and communities back on their feet. But 2018 will also be the year in which opportunities will be emerging to make the cities and towns more sustainable and resilient in the wake of the fires. For example, an update of the Sonoma County General Plan is on the horizon. This General Plan update is an ideal moment for Sonoma County to consider how to manage growth in a future climate that will be even more prone to wildfires.
Local North Bay governments have worked quickly to establish rebuilding and recovery plans. At Greenbelt Alliance, we too are acting fast to help city and county officials make decisions with future fires, growth, and the effects of climate change in mind. However, across the North Bay, almost 8,900 homes and other structures burned. The process of replacing what was lost will be a marathon, not a sprint. Greenbelt Alliance will be there for the long haul to ensure that planning for the future of the North Bay is well thought out and informed by community leaders, residents, and experts. We will advocate for rebuilding not only quickly, but also sustainably, in the right places, and in ways that benefit North Bay residents from across the income spectrum.
Photo: Nels Andereck