The Santa Barbara City Council this week cleared the way for victims of the Tea Fire to live in trailers on the properties of their burned-out homes as they rebuild.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote means the 150 Santa Barbara families who lost their homes to the Nov. 13 blaze can live in trailers after properly clearing their properties of debris.
So far, 106 families have pulled permits for demolition and debris removal, said Paul Casey, the city’s community development director.
Before living in a trailer, residents first must obtain a two-year temporary-housing permit from the city. Families would be able to receive a six-month extension on the permit if it appears they can’t finish on time, but progress is being made, Casey said.
“The spirit and the intent is to have this be temporary housing while rebuilding is occurring,” he said. “Not to be a permanent source of housing into the future.”
Eligible families must apply for the trailer permits within a year, and the trailers must be inhabited by either the property owner or the tenants of the property that was lost.
“It’s not intended to be rental income or another source of revenue for a property owner,” he said.
The city may prohibit 10 homes from being rebuilt. Those are in the area of a “landslide area” with unstable soil conditions on Conejo Road. However, Councilwoman Helene Schneider said she wants to revisit this issue.
Trailers must have either a connection to the sanitary sewer system or have a self-contained on-site system, as well as safe source of power.
“That’s a life safety issue,” Casey said. “We don’t want to have candles or kerosene lamps or those kind of things in these small confined areas.”
The city is not requiring families to take out a building permit before receiving a temporary-housing permit. But city officials on Tuesday said they want to see that happen within six months of issuing the housing permit.
Councilman Das Williams questioned whether six months is enough time, noting that he has heard that up to 20 families might have been uninsured. For them, he said, rebuilding might take more time.
However, he was satisfied with Casey’s response that city staff was trying to strike the right balance between giving people a reasonable amount of time to pull permits, and prohibiting people with no intention to rebuild from living in trailers for taking advantage of the program.
City officials said the definition of trailer would include RVs and modular homes, but said the dwellings must be safe — and temporary.
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