Mission Viejo

Fire Hazard Zone Update

By Joe Holtzman

Approximately half of Mission Viejo’s homeowners are receiving letters from the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA). The letters are the first direct notice to homeowners who were blindsided by a City
Council majority decision in July 2012. With a 4-1 vote, the council added 12,000 homes to the 3,000 already in the fire zone, re-naming it a “Special Fire Protection Area”. Four hundred residents attended meetings in 2012 and pleaded with the council not to add any homes into the fire zone.

Homeowners in the fire zone will now be subject to inspections and told to remove brush and fire-prone trees. They should also anticipate higher insurance rates, lower property values and possible loss of insurance coverage.
Incredibly, the four Council majority members who did this; Frank Ury, Rhonda Reardon, Dave Leckness and Trish Kelley, had no compelling reason to add any homes to the fire zone. They stated that no negative impact would result, but they were wrong. The only council member who listened to the residents and voted against rezoning was Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht.

The majority members apparently thought it clever to change the name of the fire zone from “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone” to a “Special Fire Protection Area”. The fact that the OCFA ignored the council’s actions should tell residents that the majority council members only fooled themselves. Residents receiving OCFA letters are the ones who will pay for this.

The obvious wildfire risk to Mission Viejo homes is the overgrown vegetation on public land. Instead of the city and county acting responsibly by clearing hazardous brush on government property, the council re-zoned our homes. Residents are now required to submit to inspections and follow orders while the city and county are not required to do anything to reduce the much larger wildfire risk.

The council revisited the issue last month after residents began receiving letters from the OCFA. Majority Council Members Ury, Reardon, Leckness and Kelley should have admitted during the May 19 meeting that they screwed up. Instead, they emphatically denied that any homes are in the fire zone.

OCFA’s letter to residents states, “We will be looking to see that vegetation has been controlled, trimmed or reduced to decrease the wildfire threat.”

In last month’s CCS, I explained the council majority’s fire-zone fiasco, ““Fire Hazard Re-Zones Impact Homeowners.”

The May 19 council meeting is an eye-opener. You can view it at: http://missionviejo.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=1344 ; go to 3:53 in the video to watch the 10-minute segment. I know that I won’t be voting for any Mission Viejo council majority members for any office.

Joe Holtzman, an Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing/Distribution Executive with McDonnell Douglas and Ford Motor Company, is a 31-year resident of Mission Viejo.
Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.

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