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Poll: 3 of 4 Californians want to restrict housing in wildfire-prone areas

Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Three quarters of California voters believe the state should restrain home building in areas at high risk of wildfires, a new survey has found.

The University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies Poll, prepared for the Los Angeles Times, shows bipartisan support for such restrictions after deadly fires wiped out tens of thousands of homes across the state in the last two years.

"The voters think there should be limits," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll.

The survey revealed broad backing across party lines, demographic groups and all regions in California for restricting growth in wildfire zones. Nearly 85% of Democrats support doing so compared with 57% of Republicans and 72% of independent voters.

At least 66% of respondents in every region of the state back the idea, including the non-Bay Area northern section. This includes the area surrounding Paradise, which was almost entirely destroyed in last fall's Camp fire and where many homeowners have said they hope to rebuild.

Overall, 37% of voters surveyed said they supported strongly limiting new home building in wildfire areas with an additional 38% saying they somewhat supported the idea.

 

Despite voters' willingness to restrict growth in wildfire areas, Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers have not openly discussed the idea among other options to prevent destructive infernos. State leaders have instead focused their discussions on utility companies' financial responsibility for the blazes, how to pay for damages from wildfires and cutting back vegetation and other ways to manage the state's forests.

Last year Ken Pimlott, the recently retired head of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that government should consider stopping home building in threatened communities because of the substantial loss of property and lives.

But in an interview with The Associated Press this spring, Newsom rejected it.

"There's something that is truly Californian about the wilderness and the wild and pioneering spirit," Newsom said. "I'm not advocating for no" building.

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