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Ordinance Committee Clears the Way for Homeowners to Rebuild in Conejo Landslide Area

Revised policy helps owners stuck in limbo since losing homes in the 2008 Tea Fire

After years of litigation, property owners who lost homes in the Tea Fire soon will be allowed to rebuild under a revised policy approved Tuesday by the Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee.

If adopted by the City Council, the ordinance would allow rebuilding homes within the Conejo Road Landslide Area if they were lost during the November 2008 fire, or if existing homes are destroyed in any casualty afterward.

In January, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle ruled that three homeowners could rebuild their Sycamore Canyon homes even though the parcels are in the landslide area, which was previously prohibited because of a 1984 ordinance.

After the ruling, Ruben and Paula Barajas, and Luke Brost said they weren’t sure whether they would rebuild or sell their properties.

City Attorney Steve Wiley said there’s insufficient evidence of a dangerous condition in that area, such that the city could prohibit new construction in case of a fire or other casualty, so the city needed to amend its ordinance.

He added that it still won’t be easy to rebuild, since new construction requires foundation and soil inspections and adhering to recommendations from a geotechnical experts report.

Few parcels actually existed in the landslide area at the time of the Tea Fire. Many houses had been destroyed years before in landslides.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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