In Malibu, one of the California cities devastated by last year’s Woolsey Fire, most of the destroyed homes have yet to be rebuilt.
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Now the community’s “character” could be at risk as many longtime residents consider leaving, the Los Angeles Times reported.
City officials have approved replacement plans for just 113 of the 650 homes that burned, according to the report. Construction permits for just 12 have been approved.
City Councilman Mikke Pierson told the newspaper he thinks 30 percent could sell.
“So many people are traumatized by the fire, a lot of people haven’t even started the rebuild,” he said.
Since the fire, residents and local officials have debated what property owners should be allowed to build. Malibu’s council voted in favor of an “anti-mansionization” ordinance in February, but later voted to shelve the law after it drew a large amount of opposition from residents who said it would devalue their properties, the Times reported.
”They ignited a firestorm with this,” longtime resident Don Schmitz told the Times. “People felt attacked and betrayed at a time that they were most vulnerable.”
Malibu has an existing maximum build size of 11,172 square feet, smaller than what’s allowed in some nearby wealthy communities, according to the report. The ordinance would have called that to just 8,500 square feet on the city’s largest lots, and 1,885 on its smallest lots.
Victims of the fire would have been exempt from the new rules, according to the report. Opponents said that would make their land less valuable in comparison.
In the meantime, people whose homes were destroyed have been forced to live on “loss of use” allowances paid out by insurance companies, the Times reported. But those payouts have limits, and if residents can’t rebuild before they money runs out, they may be forced to move on.
Resident Tommy Stoilkovich told the Times that the majority of homes on his street are now gone.
“I know a handful of families that are not coming back,” Stoilkovich told the Times. “The fear is that these poor unfortunates who cannot rebuild sell the dirt and developers max out the lot.”