Wednesday, February 6. 2008
If you haven't seen an abatement notice, here's your chance. It comes as a little packet.
Here is the first page. You'll notice that the inspector introduces himself as a weed abatement inspector. We have put a great deal of effort into reducing our weed problem, leaving only the native chaparral. We still do have a few weeds such as ice plant, so we will see if removing them will meet the requirements of this notice. Somehow I doubt it.
The second page details the actual complaint against us. Actually, it is mostly boilerplate, with just one paragraph explaining the actual complaint. You will notice that they claim that there are brush/weeds within 100' of our home. It is true. There is some iceplant that we have not yet removed. But I doubt that they are talking about iceplant. I suspect that they are talking about a small grove of laurel sumac with some live oaks growing up through them. San Diego county publishes a document entitled SUGGESTED PLANT LIST FOR A DEFENSIBLE SPACE. (More on the defensible space a bit farther down in this entry.) That document suggests both laurel sumac and various oaks for use in a defensible space. What's more, these are in an area which receives irrigation via runoff from landscaping just a few yards up the hill. Irrigated chaparral plants are far less susceptible to fire than almost any non-native.
The third page is just a boilerplate thing that summarizes the standards. I need to go through this and determine whether what they have written on their little handout is really what the county and/or fire district is recommending. Sorry, but it's late and this will have to wait. Most of it actually looks pretty intelligent. For now, take a look at item 2. We are more than one acre, so it does not affect us. But I consider this a very dangerous statement. It is ambigous and could be interpreted to mean that all vegetation needs to be cleared from parcels of less than one acre. I think that is probably not what the law requires, but most naive homeowners will probably interpret it that way.
The fourth page has two sides. (Side A, Side B.) It is a "HOMEOWNER'S GUIDE TO FUEL MODIFICATION". Notice their recommendation for the first 50 feet (Zone 1.) It says "Irrigated landscaping or drought-tolerant, fire resistant plants. (Native or non-invasive plants recommended.)" For the second fifty feet they say "Natural plants can remain. Thin brush to cover 50% of ground."
The fifth, and final page has a couple of photos presumably taken by the inspector. Yes, they really are that dark in real life, too. (That line across the top one is not really on the land, it is just where the page was folded in the envelope that they sent us.) The top photo was taken from the road below us looking up our very steep hill towards the house. The angle is such that you cannot tell what is within Zone 1 or 2. The second photo is taken along the road that borders the lower side of our property. I'm not sure why they included it. The neighbor who owns that house in the photo also owns 100' feet from their house. So our well-maintained chaparral landscaping is not within either Zone 1 or Zone 2 for that house.
Now what? I don't know. Janet will be home tomorrow and we'll walk the property, make our measurements, put out our little flags, and then I suppose we'll call the inspector and waste our time and his showing him that there was no reason to write this notice in the first place. It's happened before and it will probably happen again.
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