Wild Fire Bills for 2021
An Overview from Brian White, FLC Legislative Advocate
On Monday, December 7, legislators were sworn in to start the 2021-22 legislative session, and they began introducing new bills for consideration. They introduced about 170 new bills on December 7 and then adjourned until January 4. But there will likely be several other bills introduced during the coming weeks before the holiday break (there is pent up demand from last session and new legislators want to hang their hats). The official deadline to introduce new bills is February 19 and most bills get introduced closer to the deadline. I will be keeping track of them that apply to FLC to include on the legislative report.
For now, below are descriptions of some bills to flag. Not surprisingly, several are focused on wildfire prevention, and in particular, these three should garner a lot of discussion - SB 12 (McGuire), which is as a comprehensive wildfire prevention and zoning bill, SB 55 (Stern), which is a wildfire bill that bans new development in high wildfires area, and SB 63 (Stern), which is a defensible space bill and reintroduction from the bill that failed last year (SB 1348 – FLC went neutral on it).
Attached below is language for the three wildfire bills and I’ll get more information from the authors’ office as things start moving. Interestingly, some of the concepts in the wildfire and land use bills borrow from statutes already in place that are related to banning new developments in flood prone areas, and developments that are unable to prove adequate water supplies prior to tentative map approval.
SB 11 (Rubio) would require the Insurance Commissioner to convene a stakeholder group of expert parties to identify ways to measure and incorporate various fire damage mitigation strategies into the homeowners’ insurance ratemaking process and to report the group’s findings to the Legislature no later than December 31, 2023.
SB 12 (McGuire) would among other things, do the following:
- Require a city or county’s safety element to be reviewed and updated on or after July 1, 2024, to include a comprehensive retrofit strategy to reduce the risk of property loss and damage during wildfires;
- Require a city or county that contains a “very high fire risk area” to amend its land use element of its general plan to contain the locations of all very high fire risk areas within the city or county and feasible implementation measures to protect lives and property from unreasonable risk of wildfire;
- Require by January 1, 2023, the State Fire Marshall, in consultation with Office of Planning and Research and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, to adopt wildfire risk reduction standards that meet certain requirements and reasonable standards for third-party inspection and certifications for a specified enforcement program;
- Prohibit a city or county in a very high fire risk area, from entering into a development agreement for property located within a very high fire risk area, or approving specified discretionary permits, unless the city or county makes specified findings based on substantial evidence in the record that the project and all structures within the project are protected from wildfire risk in accordance with the “wildfire risk reduction standards” at the time the application for the tentative map or parcel map is deemed complete;
- Require each city or county that contains a very high fire risk area, to adopt a very high fire risk overlay zone or amend its zoning ordinance so that it is consistent with the amended general plan;
- Establish a new CalFire-administered wildfire grants program, using revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade program to provide small jurisdictions in very high fire hazard risk areas with grants to help meet the requirements in the bill.
Note: there are new Gov Code Sections 3 and 4 that would create a new “wildfire risk reduction standard” to be approved by State Fire Marshall/CBSC with references to Chapter 7A, the CA Fire Code, and other national standards.
SB 30 (Cortese) would prohibit a state agency, on or after January 1, 2022, from designing or constructing a state facility that is connected to the natural gas grid. The bill would require the Department of General Services to develop the California State Building Decarbonization Plan that will lead to the operational carbon-neutrality of all state-owned buildings by January 1, 2035. The bill would, except as provided, prohibit state agencies from providing funding or other support for projects for the construction of residential and nonresidential buildings that are connected to the natural gas grid.
SB 45 (Allen) would enact the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2022, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $5.5 billion to finance projects for a wildfire prevention, safe drinking water, drought preparation, and flood protection programs.
SB 55 (Stern) would prohibit approval of a new “development” (residential, commercial, retail or industrial use) in a very high fire hazard severity zone or a state responsibility area.
Note: this is a reintroduction of SB 474 from last year that failed to move.
SB 63 (Stern) would among other things:
- Require the CalFire director to identify areas of the state as moderate and high fire hazard severity zones and would require a local agency to make this information available for public review and comment;
- Require the State Fire Marshal, HCD, and CSBC to adopt expanded application of existing building standards for high fire hazard severity zones to include application to moderate fire hazard severity zones;
- Provide that fuel modification beyond a property line may only be required by state law, local ordinance, rule, or regulation in order to maintain the 100 feet of defensible space;
- Require the CalFire Director to establish a statewide program to allow qualified entities, to support and augment CalFire in its defensible space and home hardening assessment and education efforts.
Note: this is a reintroduction of SB 1348 that failed last session due to state costs implications.
AB 9 (Wood) is a spot bill to address wildfire prevention.
AB 33 (Ting) would prohibit the Department of General Services from approving or providing funding from the construction on new school buildings that have natural gas connections, and would prohibit new public buildings for which construction begins on or after January 1, 2022, from having natural gas connections.
Appellate Decision on WFMP Case
Good News -- Exemptions and NTMPs
CAL FIRE has reversed its policy change regarding the acceptance of exemptions for NTMPs. Please refer to the link below to view the letter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Ken Pimlott) to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Keith Gilless).
Should you have any questions, please send an email to the FLC Legislative Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter and Supporting Content from CAL FIRE to Board of Forestry
Legislative Committee Assignments
Public Policy Institute of California
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) issued a report in mid-September on the status of forest health in the Headwaters Forests. On September 20, there was a panel debriefing on the report. Click on the links below to download the documents.
If you are interested in wathcing the panel debrief, the video is posted on the PPIC's website: