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The Proposed Mill Valley Fire Protection Ordinance

The following comment letter has been sent to the Mill Valley City Council, regarding the newly proposed Fire Protection Ordinance.


Dear Councilmembers,

I am writing to encourage you to revise the Fire Protection ordinance before you. Reduction of the risk of a catastrophic fire in Mill Valley is of course a worthy goal, but this ordinance is a bludgeon where a more refined approach is called for. In particular, the mandated 3’ hardscape provision is arbitrary, particularly onerous for homeowners, and in fact may not even be the most effective preventative measure you could enact.

For example, in my neighborhood, Scott Valley, homes back up onto open space which is loaded with fuel such as Scotch and French broom, tall grasses, etc., all of which is far more dangerous than a few well-watered potted plants.

A coordinated effort with the Open Space District to suppress fuel loads would be far more effective in my neighborhood than the approach you are considering. May I suggest a more targeted approach, with a couple of possible ways to get there, such as the one outlined in the recent article, linked below, in the New Yorker, regarding fire suppression in California wildlands.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/08/26/a-trailblazing-plan-to-fight-california-wildfires

A more thoughtful and effective approach would be to treat each home and each neighborhood differently, with different solutions proposed accordingly, as the article details. That may sound cumbersome, but if you’re really serious about this, and don’t want the backlash that will surely come if you try to enact the approach you have suggested, then show us your commitment to wise planning.

Finally, your earlier action to constrict the main escape route in and out of town by 50%, in an unnecessary move to mollify a few neighbors while putting the rest of the town at far greater risk, a move the Marin County Civil Grand Jury called “reckless”, does not speak well to your willingness to create thoughtful and effective fire safety policies.

It’s time to reconsider that plan in order to demonstrate that you’re really committed to the safety of your constituents.