Governor Newsom, who lately appears to have never seen a bill overriding local control of planning that he didn't love, has finally drawn the line when it comes to the state legislation mitigating wildfire risk in California communities. He returned AB 1516, which would have mandated extraordinary destruction of vegetation and natural habitat through out the state, to the legislature without signature.
According to the Legislator's Counsel Digest, among other draconian measures,
"This bill would require a person described above [in the WUI] to utilize more intense fuel reductions between 5 and 30 feet around the structure, and to create an ember-resistant zone within 5 feet of the structure, as provided. Because a violation of these provisions would be a crime or expand the scope of an existing crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program." [Emphasis added]
In plain English, this bill would have not only forced every single homeowner to denude every inch of living vegetation within 5 feet of their homes and residential structures, but not doing so would have become a criminal act, subject to criminal prosecution.
Wow. Talk about Big Brother.
In the press release signed by the Governor it states,
"Home hardening, adequate defensible space, vegetation management and compliance with mitigation measures are all critical components to making our communities in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) resilient to the threat of wildfires. However, each community is different and the best practices to achieve resiliency need to be crafted to meet the individual needs of that community. This bill takes a broad swath approach that does not reflect those individual needs."
His action ties directly into the possible outcome of the recent lawsuit filed against the City of Mill Valley's Fire Ordinance Vegetation Management Plan in the wildland urban interface (WUI).
Similarly, without admitting it, the Governor probably did this to avoid the biggest CEQA battle in the state's history: A legal battle the state would have most certainly lost, even with the political pressure on the state courts to dismantle our most basic environmental protections.