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Homes still being built in high fire zones

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Despite the risk of building a home, selling a home and moving into a home in a high risk fire zone, companies, homeowners and governments still find it acceptable finds the LA Times today.

"This is a land rush into danger," said Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service and author of a recent book on wildfires. "A land rush by people who do not understand what they are doing and who are subsidized by others to do it. It's crazy." Even if firefighters can save these homes, the firefighting costs are expected to continue to rise.

The state legislative analyst's office estimated that it would cost about $869 million to fight wildfires in fiscal 2007-08 -- an 83% increase over the cost 10 years ago.

Upcoming developments include Newhall Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley near the Ventura County line, Ritter Ranch and Anaverde near Antelope Valley, and three more in Orange County. The massively large Newhall Ranch, as destructive to the ecosystem it is, will most likely be the safest and well built product of all the developments because of
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Newhall Ranch & Farming Co.'s track record (think Valencia).

Las Lomas, on the Los Angeles side of the Newhall Pass, could be most dangerous and detrimental in more than just fire. Among the many groups against the project, Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith has been fighting it aggressively (.pdf):

Though touted as so called "smart growth," to the contrary, the project seeks to construct somewhere between 5,800 to 9,670 residences (depending on which documents the developer is using at the time), more than 2,000,000 square feet of commercial, recreational, and community development services on terrain where 60% of the land has a slope greater than 50%, with grading expected to reach 20,000,000 cubic yards. It lies at the confluence of five of the nation's busiest freeways, including the I-5, California 14, I-210, I-118, and I-405, currently averaging 230,000 vehicles daily. Gridlock is so severe, a federal study has been commissioned to look for ways to fix existing conditions, without considering further impacts from additional development.

Earlier this year, the state legislative analyst wrote in a report that local governments that approve high-risk fire zone developments should be required to foot the bill for the firefighting. Also, those who choose to buy in the risky environment should pay an extra fee towards firefighting.

Photo by Zabowski via Flickr