The idea: One in three homes in California is in an area at risk for wildfire. Those residences, poised on the edge of, and sometimes in the midst of rugged, flammable wildlands, are increasingly in peril. And too often, only the rich can afford the kind of insurance that’s necessary to rebuild.
The pros: This is a zoning issue. If people can be prohibited from building in a flood plain, or warned about living on a fault line — why not write ordinances that either say no to building in dangerous places or require homeowners and businesses to sign a waiver absolving authorities from the need to provide fire protection to them?
The cons: Property rights are big in American jurisprudence. People want to build where they choose and get irritated when the state steps on local control. Sometimes financial necessity forces people to homes in rural places. And build-at-your-own-risk isn’t the mantra of a society that believes public safety is part of a government’s role.
The odds: Imagine a local elected official telling a property developer — who may or may not donate to political campaigns — that we will no longer make room on forested hills for new luxury subdivisions, with their alluring property tax potential. Not gonna happen.
In any case, Gov. Gavin Newsom has rejected such a building ban, telling the Associated Press last year, “There’s something that is truly Californian about the wilderness and the wild and pioneering spirit.” Odds are zip.