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Sparks Fly in City Fire Maps Debate

How Mission Viejo homes should be designated leads to heated discussion..

The way Mission Viejo names its fire hazard zones ignited a verbal firestorm at Monday night's City Council meeting.

During the second reading of a city ordinance—usually a routine matter enacted without debate—council members accused one another of misleading the public during a 45-minute discussion.

Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to redefine "Fire Hazard Severity Zones" and similar terms to "Special Fire Protection Areas."

Councilwoman opposed the measure.

After the vote was taken, the council continued to debate. .

In February, to comply with the state's fire-map system, the Orange County Fire Authority asked the City Council to approve a new map saying 5,000 buildings—mostly houses—were in a "very high fire hazard" zone.

Residents spoke out against the designation, saying .

Removing the term required "some very clever and relentless efforts" from councilwomen and , according to City Attorney William Curley.

"I don’t say this lightly or with hyperbole: Rhonda and Trish worked a wonder—a miracle if you will—to get the city out," Curley said. "That’s a good thing in any book."

That's not how Councilwoman Schlicht saw things.

"I cannot disagree more strongly with what the city attorney has proposed," she said.

Schlicht said the name change was a matter of semantics. She said 15,000 homeowners stood to lose market value on their homes because of the city's decision. If houses in the affected areas are put up for sale, owners would need disclose to potential buyers that the homes sit in fire-prone zones, she said.

In the end, the houses will sit on the market longer, and sellers will have to lower home prices to stay competitive with nearby neighborhoods, she reasoned.

City Attorney Curley disputed Schlicht's claim that homeowners would have to disclose the fire hazard designations in their home sales:

"There will be nothing recorded against the properties. There will be nothing that shows up on title reports. There will not be anything that shows up on the permanent record that can be perceived by anyone as tainting or imposing some designation on your property."

Curley said the "bad boogie man taint" of a negative fire hazard designation was avoided when the city, along with OCFA Fire Marshal Laura Blaul, persuaded the state that city codes already accounted for fire dangers.

Councilwoman Reardon, who has often sided with Schlicht in the past, also disputed Schlicht's arguments. She told Schlicht that after reading her argument three times, "You have little pieces of truth, and then you take it and you go to a different place. And then people read it and they get very confused."

But Schlicht stuck to her guns, saying residents were being deceived by other council members' actions.

"I feel so sorry for the residents of Mission Viejo because you’re really being flummoxed here," she said.

Dan Avery August 22, 2012 at 09:40 PM
The housing bubble was caused by greedy bankers and mortgage loan "specialists," and most of the latter are now specializing in foreclosures. People by and large did not cause it. No one is hiding the truth. Residents have no value to add in determining what fire zones are where. That is just crazy. The fire department should set that. In combination with Insurance Companies. Unless you self-insure, you don't have any skin in the game. If your home burns down it will be rebuilt to the limit you insured it to by your insurance company. All you will be out is your deductible and after the insurance company pays out, they will never make any money off of you. The only reason your homeowner insurance is cheap, and believe me no matter what you pay it's cheap , is because we all pay in. It's called shared risk. That and FEMA make it affordable to insure a home. And that is what also makes it possible for developers to build huge housing tracts in flood plains, in Earthquake zones , in fire zones, etc.
sharon girulat August 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Dan, I thought the argument was homeowners who live in 'higher risk' fire areas not wanting them to be 'called' such....to preserve value! Sorry if I misread or misconstrued. As for 'bubble', if one didn't want a house they could not afford, no realtor or lender would be generating 'false' docs with hidden risk. That's the people and their greed; fueled and supported by the others. We all know 'those' who have done it.....and this is nothing different. The city should not even entertain having notations removed or rephrased to reduce the 'image' problem. Remove the 'image' problem by finding ways to reduce the fire risk..... now there's a solution! How about HOA controlled home-spray (wildfire suppressants) or wraps or ??? Real solutions, not hiding, would be the wise efforts. Again, sorry if I misunderstand.....truly.
Dan Avery August 23, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Hi Sharon, You say "if one didn't want a house they could not afford, no realtor or lender would" and that is where you lose your argument. Actually the lenders, the realtors, etc were all making so damn much money that they happily sold to people who they knew couldn't afford it. I was working in insurance at the time and we had these major banks calling us up wanting us to insure the home to the amount of the loan. That is illegal in this state. One can insure up to the cost of rebuilding the home. That is often hundreds of thousands less than the selling price. That is not the case in most states. So once again it wasn't people. It was greed on the part of a few wall street types. Just like this issue with the council. The council went to bat for the average person and they did so selfishly, because most people condemn government as not being able to get any thing right. Have you seen those photos from Mars, by the way? You ask me, Government gets an awful lot right.
sharon girulat August 23, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Dan, may we respectfully agree to disagree? I've been on all sides of of the above issues, in more ways than we can cover here. You are not wrong. The monsters were everywhere. But the personal 'greed' of people who KNEW they could not afford a given 'dream home', fed right into the monster's mouths. When a realtor tells me I can have an even BETTER house; "we'll submit the paperwork" for you..... and he moves a number or bit of information from here to there, etc..... and I sign the application..... I am ground ZERO of the problem. Sort of like 'who is responsible for the death of the lemmings'? The lemmings; for following! As for the government 'standing up for the homeowners'.... that story is WAY too long to discuss here. The irony is that by standing up for ONE group of homeowners, they adversely affect, long term, others! As for Mars: JPL, a non-political company of elite scientists; spectacular innovation, equipment and protocol and standards that would choke most folks, got it RIGHT! Run business and governments in the same way JPL runs and we'll all be better off. But there's no room for 'special interest groups'..... it is ONE mission, ONE goal, One team...focused together, not on their own needs. TEAM! I'll take my leave now; You are not wrong... Just a different view....
Dan Avery August 23, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Sharon, I know the bankers was greed. What I can't decide about those who bought the homes is if it was greed or just hope that they actually could share in the great American Dream of owning your own home. I'm leaning toward the latter. Most people without money are not exactly savvy about financial stuff.

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