Regional News

A FEMA superstar jumps into Wine Country recovery

October 27, 2017 4:25 pm

POSTED: OCT 25 2017 05:15PM PDT


OAKLAND, Calif. (Tom Vacar/KTVU) - A private/public partnership has hired a disaster rock star to head up rebuilding and recovery efforts in the North Bay. Experts say initially, the fire spread at 200 feet per second – six football fields a minute. Now, a public private partnership wants to ratchet up the considerably slower rate of recovery. It will operate for years to come.

Rebuild North Bay is a non-profit coalition of key elected officials, business people and non-government agencies, in North Bay counties affected by the firestorms. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to fill in the gaps where insurance, government and charities cannot make people fully whole.

The newly appointed interim director is no less than former Clinton-era FEMA Director, James Lee Witt. “They need to be identified and then, utilizing all of the FEMA, the state, HUD, SBA then maximize this for the people who have lost everything,” said James Lee Witt, Former FEMA Director and interim Director of Rebuild North Bay.

The fires destroyed 8,400 hundred structures, mostly homes.  Some 3000 of those homes were in Santa Rosa alone. That has created a massive housing shortage on top of the shortage before the fires.

“So, I think you’ll see a whole host of polices going out that are clearly gonna change the culture as to how we build housing here in northern California,” said Sonoma Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane.

One such possible incentive to build: wave development fees that can run from 40 to 60 thousand dollars per housing unit, lowering overall costs and streamlining permitting. Also, rent gougers beware. “We’re gonna make sure that we work with the local District Attorney, the state Attorney General and the new agencies to out these folks to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Darius Anderson, Rebuild North Bay’s founder.

The President has ordered and honored every California emergency request so far. “I’ve never seen it work so well in a disaster as it is following these terrible, terrible fires,” said Congressman Mike Thompson/(D) North Bay.

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit echoed Thompson’s sentiment. “I reiterate again, the amazing cooperation that has taken place since day one of this disaster and it continues with all our governmental entities. I want to thank our state and Federal partners,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit.

This may be the most targeted effort ever to truly try to make those who lost something or everything direct beneficiaries of donations.