Shelter-in-place could be
alternative to second road,
say some property owners
San Diego County’s Planning Commission will address the issue of alternatives to secondary access fire safety requirements at an April 24 workshop, scheduled after commissioners denied a project that lacked a secondary, emergency access.
“I think it would be a very good workshop,” said Commissioner Bryan Woods. “I think it’s a worthwhile use of our time. I think we need to understand the issue better.”
Such understanding would allow the commission to review the adequacy of shelter-in-place plans for specific projects.
The workshop was set during the Planning Commission’s March 13 hearing, which denied a tentative parcel map for a proposed four-home subdivision in Pala due to the lack of an acceptable fire protection plan.
“There’s something that needs to be done in this area,” said Hadley Johnson, who is an ownership partner in the Pala property.
During a project issue resolution meeting on that property, Johnson requested that a “shelter-in-place” plan be accepted as providing the “same practical effect” of the secondary access requirements.
“We do have large parcels, so we can create cleared areas,” Johnson said. “That’s the only option that we have at this particular point in time.”
State fire regulations and the county’s fire code limit dead-end access roads in areas with four-acre zoning to 1,320 feet from the first opportunity to evacuate in two directions.
“It’s very difficult to meet that 1,320-foot requirement,” Johnson said. “Even county public roads are running into this problem.”
Seven other property owners throughout the county addressed the Planning Commission on the issue of shelter-in-place — staying rather than evacuating — as an alternative to secondary access requirements. The commission opted to schedule the April 24 workshop to address that issue.
County Department of Planning and Land Use Deputy Director Jeff Murphy said that two key elements were required for a shelter-in-place plan. The first is education and outreach.
“It’s important that this stay in perpetuity,” he said.
The second requirement for a successful shelter-in-place program is enforcement for clearing brush to ensure a safe area.
Families will be in the homes after the developer has left, said Woods.
“I want to make sure we take care of them,” he said.
Ivan Fox, who lives in Fallbrook, was the only one of the seven other landowners to address Johnson’s project specifically.
“We’re talking about people who want to live in rural communities,” he said.
Fox said he and his wife evacuated from the Rice Fire in October 2007, and, despite the presence of multiple access options, they still encountered an inability to leave the area.
“Secondary access is not the catch-all,” he said.
Evacuation also requires a functioning vehicle with enough fuel to reach the nearest gas station outside of the evacuation area. Shelter-in-place, staying does not require the presence of a driveable car.