Housing now – NIMBY never!
EDITOR: Housing crisis! No doubt about it. It was a crisis before the fires, now it is a tragedy (“A Rare Bird in the Land of Sonoma,” Oct. 27).
Some have suggested rent control. I really don’t know if rent control will do any good. It certainly will not create new housing, which is desperately needed.
I do know that we need solutions to create more housing, both temporary and permanent.
We need suspension of zoning laws that impede the quick installation of
1. Tent and RV camps
2. Mobile home parks
3. Tiny house enclaves and adding on tiny houses to established housing
4. Yurts in various settings
5. Use your imagination.
We need state and local governments, nonprofits, for-profit entities, coops, intentional communities, and creative partnerships among any of these types to immediately begin creating this housing.
Of course, we need some zoning standards to ensure safety and sanitation in whatever housing is created.
Those who were homeless before the fires and those displaced by the fires would have equal footing in obtaining shelter.
We need those fortunate people who still have homes to encourage the creation of these housing solutions in their neighborhoods, next door, and even on their own land! No more NIMBY and no more worrying about their own property values as opposed to human values!
No assurances when it comes to insurance
EDITOR: Our hearts go out to those thousands who lost their homes and everything they ever owned. That is a numbing experience, especially for those who fled for their lives in the middle of the night. All their possessions, gone, in a flash. Now comes Stage II: Recovery. It will not happen in a flash, maybe not even in a year or two – or three.
We sincerely hope that the insurance companies will be as forthright and just as the agents quoted in your article (“Insurance Experts: Save Your Receipts,” Oct. 20) say they will be. We fervently pray that no one who lost his home in the recent fire will have to hire a lawyer or a public adjuster. That was not, however, our experience 26 years when we lost everything in the East Bay firestorm which burned 3,000 homes.
What we all sadly learned was that the firestorm was only the first disaster; the second disaster was man-made by the insurance companies who, when they realized how much they would have to pay out in all those claims, dug in deep and played every trick they could think of to delay the payments and minimize the payouts.
The companies brought in out-of-state adjusters who played every mean and devious trick imaginable. Many fire survivors (I prefer that term to “victims”) ended up settling for much, much less than they were entitled to under their insurance policies, which, of course, was the whole point.
The agents, ours included, were helpless. Their job is to sell policies, not settle claims. Oh, sure, they can settle small day-to-day claims – but when it comes to the big disasters like these fires, they are not in charge. Our agent, who spoke up on our behalf in a couple of meetings with the out-of-state adjuster, was silenced when the company told him if he spoke to us about our claim again he would lose his franchise.
After several frustrating months we hired a public adjuster. He was on our side when, hard as it is to believe, our own insurance company was treating us like the enemy. It took us five years to reach a final settlement. Other families took even longer or settled for much less than they were entitled to under their policies.
I would like to believe that this time will be different. That would be the perfect world. Everyone will be able to rebuild and live happily ever after. But I’m afraid that’s not the real world. Fire survivors should be on guard and be smart as they file their claims. There are several things people can do and certainly keeping all receipts for fire-related expenses is a big one. The other one is to keep a log of all contacts with your company, including the name of your contact, the date, time and a note about what was discussed and asked for or agreed upon.
There is also good help for survivors from a nonprofit organization called United Policyholders (UPHelp.org). It was born out of the ashes of the 1991 Firestorm and since then has helped people all over the country.
It is a life-changing experience, but you never know where your journey will take you and good things lie ahead. Our journey, painful as it began, brought us here to Sonoma and to Hula Mai – and life doesn’t get any better than that.
Betty Ann Bruno
Red, white… or grey?
EDITOR: I think an ordinance was put into effect that new homes could not have wood-burning fireplaces. How about an ordinance that new construction and remodels must include greywater recycling? The ordinance should apply to wineries and winery expansion.