5/03/22: Safer Homes, Safer Communities: Kelseyville Riviera Selected for Innovative Pilot Project

CA Wildfire Mitigation Program's Home Hardening Initiative Pilot Project Coming Soon

Lake County residents have become all too acquainted with wildfire.  66% of our landmass has been consumed by nine major wildfire events since 2015’s Valley Fire.  The loss of 5.5% of local housing units has presented tremendous challenges, with demand for low- and moderate-income housing vastly outpacing supply.  
    
To date, the Kelseyville Riviera (formerly Clear Lake Riviera) has escaped the worst effects of wildfire. Strong engagement and investments in defensible space and other Firewise practices, frequently led by their proactive Community Association, have done much to mitigate risk to the 1,200 associated parcels, home to thousands of Lake County residents.

The County of Lake is very pleased to announce Lake County, and Kelseyville Riviera, specifically, have been selected by CalOES and CAL FIRE as a “Demonstration Community” for the California Wildfire Mitigation Program’s (CWMP’s) innovative Home Hardening Initiative. As part of the State of California’s effort to strengthen community-wide resilience against wildfires, Cal OES and CAL FIRE are developing a state home hardening initiative to retrofit, harden, and create defensible space for homes at high risk to wildfires—with a focus on high social-vulnerability communities and providing financial assistance for low- and moderate- income households.

In Lake County, the CWMP- Lake County Home Hardening Initiative is being spearheaded by North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO), Lake County’s Community Action Agency.  NCO has been a leader in community disaster response since 2015, and disaster preparedness since 2019.  This program is in its infancy, with many details still in development. 

In December, NCO partnered with CalOES to develop a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Subapplication, which could result in an approximately $23 million investment to harden Kelseyville Riviera homes against wildfire through defensible space and retrofit measures.  In April, that Subapplication was completed and submitted to CalOES for review. 

If funded, the project will likely begin this fall, and offer defensible space and home hardening retrofit measures to approximately 25 homes in the first year.  The program will scale up to 100 homes in year two, and 375 in year three (500 total).  Up to $40,000 may be invested at each site, and no cost share will be expected from homeowners at or below the moderate-income level for the area (e.g., $84,850 for a family of four).

Currently, the project is in the environmental clearance stage, which is expected take several months.  The County and NCO will continue to partner to keep Kelseyville Riviera residents informed as this exciting process unfolds.  Applications are not yet available, but more information can be obtained by writing to homehardening@ncoinc.org.  

Once the project is fully approved and funded, the homeowner application will be available for residents of the Kelseyville Riveria on the NCO website and at NCO offices.

Why a single location, instead of a County-wide program?  Why Kelseyville Riviera?  When one home is hardened against wildfire, all surrounding properties benefit, as well.  To pilot the CWMP, Cal OES and Cal FIRE were looking for a higher density housing development in a low-to-moderate income area within Lake County. Cal OES and CAL FIRE looked to the local partners at Lake County and NCO to use their local expertise to assist in selecting a community that met those criteria. Furthermore,  most of the homes in this neighborhood were constructed within a relatively narrow timeframe, meaning upgrades would be similar across properties, which will simplify the roll-out of the program in the early stages. 

Several Lake County communities were closely evaluated prior to selection of Kelseyville Riviera as the best fit for this pilot project.  Other communities within Lake County could be eligible once the program has been fully developed.  Preventing a wildfire in the Kelseyville Riviera community would have considerable human welfare benefits; the lack of recent large-scale wildfire in this area means current risk is relatively high, and mitigation benefits brought by this program, if funded, will be highly significant.

“We could not be more excited one of Lake County’s communities was selected for this pilot project,” emphasizes Moke Simon, District 1 Supervisor and Chair of the Lake County Community Risk Reduction Authority (LCCRRA).  “Only three communities in the state were picked, and this brings one more wildfire mitigation tool to Lake County.  Recent investments to update our Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) and bring stakeholders together through the Community Mitigation Assistance Team (CMAT) process, and LCCRAA, itself, are just a few other pieces of the puzzle.  There is more to be done, and we are grateful to NCO and other community partners for their constant work to make Lake County safer.”

“Home hardening is community hardening,” notes LCCRRA Vice-Chair and District 5 Supervisor, Jessica Pyska.  “Bringing this pilot project to Lake County will reduce risk of evacuation and long-term displacement, for every County resident.  We also have a real chance to demonstrate community-level investments make a difference.  This is essential, as we navigate the paradigm shifts necessary to support communities already struggling with real effects of global climate change.”

“We have learned a lot since 2015, and one thing that is certain is wildfires are not going to disappear,” adds Robyn Bera, NCO’s Director of Community Projects. “NCO is committed to helping our communities be as prepared as possible, and we’re eager to work with homeowners to deepen their understanding of preparedness and support real action toward defensible space and retrofit measures.”

“The need is great across Lake County, and the State is recognizing us for that,” acknowledges Pyska.  “The success of this pilot phase could potentially bring the CWMP program to more Lake County residents, which is quite exciting, but we have to first focus on designing, refining, and implementing the template before it can be launched in other areas.”

“We have been blown away by the degree to which CalOES and CAL FIRE have already invested to better understand Lake County’s needs.” continues Pyska.  “That has paved the way for further collaboration.”

For more information, contact NCO at homehardening@ncoinc.org, or call (707) 461-0760.

Submitted by the County of Lake.

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