Rebuilding After the CZU Fire
A basic overview of the process explained by Christian Nielsen & Timerie Gordon,
active volunteer community members and architectural, planning, and design professionals in Santa Cruz County.
Nielsen Studios, architecture & design, (831) 621 3926 Christian Nielsen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned to this link:
The County’s webpage to help those affected by the fire that wish to rebuild.
Step 1 – Damage Assessment
- Contact your insurance agent – For a guide, visit United Policy Holders, non-profit policy holder advocates, at https://www.uphelp.org/
- Are you eligible for help from FEMA?
People who have sustained losses in the designated areas can now begin applying for assistance by registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) online at
https://www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 TTY. FEMA is encouraging people to register online whenever possible.
The registration process will take about 20 minutes, with an expiration of February 28, 2021.
Step 2 – Temporary Housing
If you are considering temporary housing in an RV or other temporary accommodation either on or off site of your property while you rebuild, click here for more information and an application.
Temporary accommodations may include, but are not limited to, trailers, recreational vehicles (RVs), tiny homes, temporary modular structures, storage containers or yurts that are modified
to meet building code standards for habitability, and similar configurations, as well as existing legal structures that have not previously been habitable.
Temporary accommodation must have an approved source of water, sewage disposal system, source of electricity and in certain areas, geologic hazard clearance.
Use of generators is prohibited as a source of energy.
Note that self-contained RVs and self-contained Tiny Homes that are on a chassis and therefore designated as an RV, are not required to be connected to electric utilities, sewer, or water, although this is strongly encouraged
Step 3 – File a Calamity Application with the Assessor’s Office
- You may be eligible for property tax relief
- You must file a claim within 12 months from the date of damage or destruction
- You may be eligible to defer payment of the next installment of property taxes
- Application form must be filed before December 10, 2020
Step 4 – Obtain Building Permit Records
These plans may be useful for your insurance claim and they will help Planning staff determine the next steps in your permitting process.
- Email the Records Room staff with the following in the email title “Fire Records Request” to allow for expedited
- Although the County has original construction plans on file for many properties, all plans submitted for reconstruction permits must meet current building
- For dwellings built in 2007 or later, County Planning has complete plans available by e-file. These plans can be updated to meet current
- For building permits completed prior to 2007, County records include site plan, floor plan and elevations
- Dwellings built before 1956 did not require plans, but permits may be available from additions /
Step 5 – Obtain Environmental Health Clearance
This link contains flowcharts for the debris removal process and the Environmental Health temporary accommodations clearance process.
Phase I: The property will be evaluated for the presence of household hazardous waste and the materials will be removed. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) will be staging the Phase I activities in the county starting the week of September 21st, and it is anticipated that the household hazardous waste removal activities will begin September 28th. The USEPA anticipates that it will take 6-8 weeks to complete this work.
- Phase I will be conducted by a local, state or federal hazardous waste oversight
- Property owners should not attempt to remove or evaluate household hazardous
- Contact with these materials can be toxic, resulting in long term health effects and/ or cancer.
Phase II: General debris, ash and soil clean-up will occur and the property must achieve clearance before reconstruction can occur.
- You may choose to have this occur under a Consolidated Debris Removal Program with public emergency funds or conduct this clean-up on your
- You must have an approved plan before you can proceed with your own fire debris removal. The information here provides more
Septic Systems, Wells and Water Systems
In addition to monitoring debris removal, EHS will confirm your well status and septic system. For information and resources go to this link.
Once the site is cleaned up and Environmental Health clearance received, property owners can follow the steps outlined below to obtain a building permit for reconstruction.
Step 6 – Erosion Control
Install erosion control measures to prevent further damage to property and private roads in winter storms. Several agencies provide advice and support for erosion control:
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (http://www.rcdsantacruz.org/nrcs) / Resource Conservation District, online at http://www.rcdsantacruz.org/. Phone #’s: NRCS:
831-475-1967; RCD: 831-464-2950.
- Certified Erosion Control Specialists (more information below).
- County Planning home, Environmental Planning tab – Erosion & Stormwater Pollution Control link, at
Step 7 – Permit application, submission, and review
Most single-family residential projects will require a Building Permit only; however, some locations or projects may need a discretionary development permit, environmental resource permit, or other special exception or consideration (more information to follow).
- Contact a designer or architect to prepare plans for your building permit application. Additional consultants such as geotechnical or structural engineers may be required (see references below).
- All fire damage recovery permits will be
- The simplest and quickest process will be for replacement homes that are substantially the same as the original (or no more than 10% larger) and in the same
- Non-conforming structures, homes in the Coastal Zone and even sites adjacent to waterways can be rebuilt in-place, in-kind with only a building
- Projects that are not in-kind will also receive priority review but may have more detailed application requirements in some instances, or could trigger discretionary permits in certain
Step 8 – Construction and Inspection
See more information for the following at the County’s Recover and Rebuild page
- Temporary Housing
- Rebuilding Your Home
- Electronic Plan Submittal
- Environmental Planning
What is the County doing to make this process easier?
County Supervisors Guiding Principles:
- The process should be streamlined as much as legally
- Permit fees should be capped and debris removal fees at the landfill
- There should be a County rebuilding website with detailed information on the process and links to relevant forms and
- Property owners should be allowed to live in temporary housing on their parcels, with services, during the rebuilding of their
Consultants you may need:
- Who does what and what can I expect from them?
- Land Use Consultant: Land Use Planners create programs and plans for land development and usage. They will usually meet with a developer, public official, or community to discuss a particular piece of land and what their client wishes to accomplish with
- Architect: Licensed – Can provide land use consulting and a variety of architectural It all really depends on your needs.
- Home Designer: Non-Licensed – can provide similar services to an architect depending on the amount of experience; typically can only provide residential services and is not regulated or governed by a professional Here is a good link that explains the differences between an architect and home designer.
- Draftsperson: Simply can draft what you’d like with your direction
- Structural Engineer: Provides necessary structural calculations for building permit approval. Typically not designers or
- Geotechnical Engineer: Engineers that evaluate soil conditions
- Septic Consultant: Someone who can evaluate the septic conditions and capabilities
What can I do myself?
Many of the above steps can be handled directly by the property owner. We are available to answer any of your questions as you begin the process.