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On October 6, 2020 a public meeting was held by COSCA to address resident concerns around fire safety and mitigation. Below is a collection of questions posed during that meeting with responses from the City, COSCA, and VCFD.

If you have a question that is not addressed here, please contact COSCA for assistance. 

CATEGORY 

Environmental Impacts

 QUESTIONS

Why doesn't COSCA clear all the dead brush on its hillsides before the Santa Ana Winds?

 RESPONSE

COSCA undertakes brush management in the required 100 feet of defensible space when that zone overlaps COSCA property. Fuel treatments in this zone are effective at reducing radiant heat and flame exposure to structures. Fuel treatments over larger areas are not effective in preventing home ignitions caused by embers. Embers travel much further than can be accommodated by fuel treatments.

 

Chaparral and coastal sage scrub vegetation communities are particularly vulnerable to high frequency of fire or other disturbance. Frequent disturbance causes these habitats to convert to weedy grasslands that do not support local wildlife and actually burn more rapidly. Post-fire restoration is still possible in some weedy areas, but this capacity can be lost with frequent disturbance.

 

Neighbors are encouraged to enhance the safety provided by the defensible space buffer by implementing home hardening activities to prevent ember ignitions. Resources on home hardening are available at the VCFD website.

 

COSCA land is distributed throughout the Conejo Valley, and the boundaries shared with private homes are extensive. Any uniform change in defensible space areas impacts many acres of land and can have high environmental impacts. Many small neighborhood open spaces would have to be mostly cleared of vegetation. These small areas, however, have high value to wildlife and provide for habitat continuity along wildlife migration corridors. Destroying these habitats may have regional impacts beyond the areas impacted. Additionally, impacts of this magnitude would require complex environmental impact studies as there are many existing laws to protect these habitat areas. These include the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), state and federal Endangered Species Acts, the Migratory Bird treaty Act, Clean Water Act, and more.

Why doesn't COSCA clear all the dead brush on its hillsides before the Santa Ana Winds?

 

What's New?

What new steps are being taken to protect people and properties from wildfire?

On June 24, 2020 the COSCA Board approved a funding framework for Woolsey Fire recovery funds that included significant support for programs and services for neighboring landowners to assist with home hardening practices. On October 20th the COSCA Board is anticipated to approve funding for the Central Ventura County Fire Safe Council to support fire safety programs and planning for areas near COSCA open space. The fire department has also secured new helicopters with greater capacity for larger water drops.

What is the extent of COSCA-managed land in the City?

COSCA owns and / or manages approximately 12,700 acres in the Conejo Valley. Other large open space management agencies include the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority (MRCA), CA State Parks, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD). Maps of COSCA-managed land are available at www.conejo-openspace.org.

 

Fuel Load

It seems to many of us that the brush north of Hillcrest is alarming close to the homes surrounding the area .... we'd like to have that brush cleared or we are even willing to do it ourselves ...

The fuel load on COSCA open space adjacent to Hillcrest Dr. is significantly lower than it was prior to the Woolsey Fire. Before that time, the last fire at that location was the Dayton Fire in 1991; and since that time a fairly robust community of shrubs had grown on the hills. The vegetation is no closer to homes today as it has been since 1991 when the 100-foot defensible space requirement was adopted.

 

Fuel Mod Distance

As head of an HOA my members have requested an 200-300 foot clearance. This is the standard in LA County. Also why is there no controlled burn as this was the norm for hundreds of years with the native people. Also the only current dead area is of a ecological invasive species so why are you not trying to eliminating it while you have the chance?

Research on defensible space shows that the benefits only extend to about 100 feet. The Ventura County Fire Code requirement of 100 feet is supported by multiple research studies. Los Angeles County has established some zones where 200 feet are required, but the standard is not universal.

 

In many areas of LA County, homes are located up very narrow roads that extend deep into high hazard areas throughout the canyons. More space may be beneficial in these areas as they may not benefit from the presence of firefighters. Access is significantly better in most areas of Ventura County, and the Ventura County Fire Department has stated that they have confidence in the 100-foot defensible spaces as the established standard.

 

If private HOA's (Lake Sherwood) develop different standards and they can be implemented on private property, they are welcome to do so. It is difficult to compare todays risks with the practices of native Americans because we now have a population of over 130,000 residents and thousands of homes have been built in high fire hazard areas.

 

Most of the current vegetation on the hillsides at the Hillcrest Open Space is non-native mustard. Restoring these areas requires detailed planning, a long-term commitment of resources, and substantial funding. It may only be feasible in certain locations. Disturbing vegetation prior to planning and long-term commitment will not be successful in changing the vegetation type and could hamper any future restoration efforts.

Los Angeles County has increased their clearance to 200 feet. Considering our location shouldn’t we do this as well? at the very least.

Lake Sherwood increased their brush clearance to 200 feet? Why can't COSCA adapt a similar requirement?

If LA County has considered a 200 Foot space setback in certain areas with high volatile areas why isn’t the Hillcrest Open Space allocated such an accommodation?

Given the increase in and severity of fires do we feel that the 100-foot buffer set in place in 1991 29 years ago is still sufficient? Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County are both 200 feet (at least in sensitive area which comprise a large section of Thousand Oaks)."


Hidden Canyon

How can you handle weed abatement in the hidden canyon community

The defensible space zone surrounding the Hidden Canyon development lies on property owned by the Hidden Canyon HOA, and the vegetation treatments are the owner's responsibility. The number and spacing of trees are within the purview of the landowner.

 

The trees on the COSCA property at the western boundary have been limbed-up to the fire department's standard. Tree work there was completed in 2019.

Since hidden canyon is technically a forest of trees why are they not cutting down some of these trees that are fire hazard like eucalyptus and weed abatement on hill to avoid trees getting on fire.

What is COSCA planning on to increase weed abatement in Hidden Cyn

Are they going to require Hidden Cyn HOA to remove some of the trees

yes but the HOA only takes care of the bottom of the hills and they not only did weed abatement but laid Bale after last fire to avoid mud slides.


Fuel Breaks

Beyond defensible space by residents please provide more specifics on the system of fuel breaks and fire breaks that you maintain in the COSCA lands encircling our city to assist in firefighting efforts of containment and slowing. Where these are, how they're maintained

COSCA maintains the defensible space buffers where open space adjoins homes. There are no "Fuel Breaks" in the interior of open space areas. Fuel breaks are not a suitable fire protection strategy in southern California brush-dominated vegetation communities. Those that have been tried, such as the Nordhoff Fuel Break above Ojai, have shown to be ineffective and environmentally damaging.

 

Disturbing large areas of native vegetation in interior areas opens these areas to invasive weed infestations that overtake native vegetation and can permanently supplant native habitats. The areas where native habitats have been replaced by weedy invasive species actually burn more rapidly. A good article describing why fuel breaks do not work in our local plant communities can be found here.

 

Goats have the potential to damage the ecosystem if not managed for achieving an attainable restoration goal as part of a multi-year plan. COSCA remains open to using livestock for land management, but not in the way they are traditionally managed for fuel reduction.

The question was not DEFENSIBLE SPACE IT WAS FUEL BREAKS AND FIRE BREAKS

S A DIFFERENCE. PLEASE DISCUSS FUEL BREAKS AND FIRE BREAKS IN COSCA LAND.

Why not firebreaks?? Goats do not damage the ecosystem. Residents are ready to defray the costs.


Goats

Goats are relatively inexpensive. we would like to request that they be use for the open space North of Hillcrest.

Goats are a land management tool, and like other vegetation management methods their use must be aligned with overall land management goals. COSCA’s land management goals are to promote the protection and recovery of native plants and the wildlife that depend on these plant communities.

 

COSCA’s management goal related to fire safety is to create and maintain defensible space buffers of 100 feet from occupied structures. While the acreage COSCA manages for this purpose is large - at 425 acres, the individual areas are most often very small and scattered over a wide area in the Conejo Valley. This distribution creates logistical challenges for the introduction and removal of animals on a schedule to meet project deadlines. In addition, many areas require second or third visits. In order to meet schedule expectation, contractors with landscape employees are best suited to manage our defensible space program.

 

Goats may be effective at clearing land over larger areas, but this is not a COSCA land management goal. Clearing vegetation impacts the capacity of land to support native plants and wildlife habitats and risks erosion as was experienced on burned slopes after the Woolsey Fire. Repeated removal of vegetation causes native shrub plant communities to be permanently replaced with weedy grasslands. This phenomenon is called type conversion.

 

Goats as a land management tool may still be considered by COSCA as part of long-term restoration plans to address areas that have high restoration potential. These projects, which may be recommended by pending resource studies, may include goats but the methodology, density, and timing of their use will look much different than simply removing vegetation. Restoration areas will be prioritized by the potential for long-term success.

 

Regarding mustard, this is an invasive species that has successfully established itself in such a wide region that eradication is not seen by land managers as possible. In some cases, however, it can be managed to create improved habitat conditions. While mustard will burn, it has a lower fuel density than shrubs and trees.

 

Why doesn't COSCA use goats to clear the hillsides?

Black mustard could be controlled by goats. Mustard is ALWAYS there. At least get rid of it. Covers the hills. And apparently Brian says it is particularly successful in growth after a fire. Chief Spykerman states dead mustard is highly flammable which we have.

goats eat dried mustard and will eat the seed heads to decrease the reproduction of mustard next season. goats also put carbon back into the soil and help to keep the soil healthy.


Changes in Fuel Management

The brush clearance amount on COSCA land behind our property has been reduced from the amount that was done years ago. Why has this been done when the frequency and intensity of fires has greatly increased.?

Programmatically, the acreage of fuel modification has increased annually. The increases are a result of new property acquisitions and requests from the fire department to add areas to the program. In the past, contractors have changed the methods used for fuel modification, and in some cases have removed vegetation that they were not authorized to remove. In recent years, this work has been more consistent among the many fuel modification zones treated.


Insurance

Does COSCA know that some residents are having difficulty obtaining fire insurance when they live next to open space?

Staff has heard anecdotally that some residents have experienced difficulty with insurance companies, and some insurance companies have left California completely. This is a statewide phenomenon. Among those we have heard from, however, all were able to find new policies through local brokers. Insurance companies operate on their own set of measures to achieve their goals, which are strictly financial. These drivers may have little to do with local land uses or conditions. Those concerned about insurance may wish to contact local brokers for assistance with policies. The California Fair Plan program may also serve as an insurance coverage bridge if necessary. More information about that program can be found at https://www.cfpnet.com/ .

I didn’t hear an answer to the question about homeowner’s insurance. What is the answer?


Labor Sources

has COSCA thought of using local nonviolent crime prisoners to help conduct weed abatement

COSCA Partners with the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District to contract the brush treatment work. The contracting of labor is completed in compliance with the procurement policies of the City of Thousand Oaks.


What can homeowners do?

What can we do about overgrown vegetation on neighbors' properties?

This is an issue that can be best addressed through community education efforts such as those promoted by the fire department and organizations such as the Central Ventura County Fire Safe Council. COSCA will be sponsoring upcoming opportunities to address these issues in neighborhoods adjacent to open space.

If there are homes in our community that still have shake roofs when will they be upgraded?

The number of these homes is unknown but thought to be relatively low. There is no mandate to replace a wooden roof, so they get replaced when a home needs a new roof. Today, building codes require fire safe roofing material. These codes have been in place for some time now, so most shake roofs have been replaced.

Is there any way to decrease fire danger under this new normal?

Yes. The most impactful actions to protect homes in wildfires is to harden the home from ember ignitions. Embers cause most home ignitions and these are often avoidable by implementing practices within 30 feet of the home. Resources to assist homeowners with this are available here .

What can we do to protect ourselves now that fires have become stronger and more frequent?


Emergencies and the Pandemic

I am frightened about having to evacuate during a pandemic over the past several months in response to Covid-19

City staff has been working with the American Red Cross (ARC) and County Office of Emergency Services (OES) on a modified approach to sheltering during a wildfire. In addition to reducing shelter facility capacity to 30 percent, the use of a facility to temporarily house evacuees is secondary to the ARC’s use of local hotels and motels. The County and ARC are now employing the use of Temporary Evacuation Points (TEPs). These TEPs are typically large parking lots that have basic amenities, and are staffed by the American Red Cross, as well as City and County staff. Evacuees will be directed to TEPs in their vehicles. Upon arrival at a TEP, each evacuee is registered, tested, interviewed and directed to shelter in place at the TEP or asked go to a hotel with a voucher for overnight use. The last option is the use of an evacuation shelter.

The ARC has secured agreements with hotels throughout the Conejo Valley that have agreed to provide rooms via a voucher system. Being prepared for an evacuation is as important as ever. Additional items such as masks and hand sanitizer should be included in evacuation kits.


COSCA's Programs

Why does COSCA only do the minimum amount of clearing required by the fire department? I just heard the Chief say 100 feet is the minimum amount and when I have asked about clearing dried brush the response is that they are doing what is required. Why not do more as residents are asking to clear more.

COSCA's land management decisions as they relate to fire safety are based on research in the areas of ecology and wildfire science. The removal of vegetation within 100 feet of adjoining homes is considered an effective and reasonable amount of work that, when complemented by the actions of private property owners to harden homes from embers and fire suppression by the fire department, provides the best protection without compromising habitat quality and quantity for local wildlife.

 

COSCA's current program has condemned 425 acres of land for public safety while retaining other lands to support wildlife. A significant body of scientific research has shown fuel treatments to be effective to 100 feet, and that fuel treatments beyond 100 feet have not shown to effect whether a home ignites. This is primarily because embers can travel hundreds of feet and are not stopped by vegetation removal. Details on the effectiveness of brush management can be found here.

What does COSCA's open space management consist of?

How does COSCA balance preserving wildlife and protecting neighborhoods?

How does COSCA balance wildlife protection and neighborhood safety?

As homeowners we understand what we need to do to make our homes safe. The concern residents have is what can COSCA and other responsible agencies do to protect us? It seems as though cutting back some weeds and dry brush would have minimal environmental impact and yet tremendous benefit in terms of fire safety. The balance COSCA has struck is tilting in the wrong direction."


Science

The studies you refer to regarding brush clearance are outdated!

The studies referenced on the fire safety website were published between 2014 and 2019. Two of the studies were completed in 2019 and included data from the Woolsey Fire. You can find them Here. Their conclusions match the 2014 study also listed on the website.


Fire retardant

Has the FD or COSCA thought of laying down fire retardant on hills that have lots of brush when a fire is going on to prevent it from spreading to homes?

Fire Chief Spykerman responded to this question at the meeting. Fire retardant is costly and there is no way to predict where a fire might burn. For this reason, these materials are reserved for active firefighting when specific needs can be addressed.

fire retardant is not as costly as firefighting when the fire hits! not even close


Private Fuel Modification

What about large acreage private residential properties that abut other homes. These large residential properties maintain 100 ft of defensible space from their home but have no responsibility to maintain defensible space along their property line abutting other properties. Because of this some property owners abutting these large private residences have no ability to create defensible space. We need to change City fire ordinances to correct this. Please discuss

Private landowners receive the same notices for weed abatement as government agencies in places where the 100-foot defensible space extends past a neighboring property line. Portions of the land outside of the 100-foot defensible space zone do not have a brush management requirement. Weed abatement is enforced by the Fire Department when the property lies within their Fire Hazard Reduction Program Area. This should incorporate most larger vegetated properties, but often does not include the more urban/suburban areas.

private landowners with acres of land that don't clear brush - what is the thought on new ordinances for those Landowners and their undeveloped acres

overgrown vegetation on neighbors - is anyone considering new ordinances? because vcfd.org really doesn't deal with any properties that do not back up to open land - your response is not a good answer

Westlake BLVD at Peacock has private landowner with lots of brush...any ordinances to clear that?

 

Should more work be done in certain years?

Doesn't common sense in this particular year loss of property and lives experienced in California plus COVID19 tell us to clear more than the minimum 100 feet in Very High Fire Severity Zones? (like Lang Ranch) - nature will grow back (see the hillsides from Woosley fire now)."

COSCA seeks to maintain consistent management of open space over time rather than to alter management practices annually. Using this methodology, measured prescriptions for land management are applied that achieve multiple goals. Frequent disturbance of vegetation creates what can be permanent damage to the capacity of land to provide wildlife habitat and support native plant communities.

 

Research on the efficacy of fuel treatments in protecting homes has concluded that the benefit of brush clearance does not extend beyond 100 feet. Benefits do increase, however, when fuels are managed closer to the home than 100 feet. Home hardening actions, when combined with defensible space and active fire suppression efforts provide the best combination of practices for home protection.

 

Management for Past vs Future Conditions

You seem to be planning for a past situation but not for what is obviously the situation presently. Right now, along hillcrest it has been two years since the Woolsey Fire which you have just admitted NO department has the resources for. So, since that time the mustard weed has taken over the hills just off Hillcrest and grown to six feet high. Then it has died and now we have a forest of six-foot-high kindling just waiting for a spark. With just 100 feet of clearance there is minimal chance you will be able to stop a fire from coming into our neighborhood. So, we do not understand the intransigence to at least creating a greater distance of clearance of this invasive weed. We thought COSCA was meant to keep open space that is in accordance with the natural California environment not an invasive weed species."

Fire is an historic feature of the Conejo Valley, so fire threats here are not new. Prior to the Woolsey Fire, the area along Hillcrest Dr. last burned in the Dayton Fire in 1991. Since that time the area matured to contain valuable coastal sage scrub habitats. The shrub-dominated landscapes actually hold a much higher fuel load than weedy grasses.

 

Since the Woolsey Fire, the fuel load there is likely just a fraction of what it was prior to the Woolsey Fire. COSCA does intend to manage land for the benefit of native vegetation, but replacement of significant infestations of mustard is a difficult proposition as it has become ubiquitous on hillsides throughout Southern California. Some areas are probably not redeemable due to the high costs associated with restoration. While COSCA will soon embark on restoration activities in the burned areas, the priorities will be on areas that have a high potential for restoration due to their more recent condition of hosting native species, and areas that connect existing quality habitats to create habitat continuity.

 

Home Assessments

How can we order a site-specific analysis based on local conditions to assess for a Fire Protection Program for Northgate?

Residents with concerns about fire safety may call their local fire station. For the Northgate area, that is station 31 - They can be reached at (805) 371-1111 x31. The defensible space buffers created adjacent to Northgate were successful in preventing home loss.

 

The Central Ventura County Fire Safe Council (CVCFSC) will also soon be training a team of volunteers to conduct Home Ignition Zone assessments for interested homeowners. COSCA and CVCFSC will advertise opportunities when they are available.

 

Homeowners are also encouraged to follow recommendations in the Ready, Set, Go program promoted by the Ventura County Fire Department.

How do we get our Homeowner's Association to clear defensible space in our neighborhood between homes?

 

Individual Site Question

Temple Adat Elohim on Hillscrest Ave would have burned down from flying embers from COSCA land igniting fires on their property if there weren't citizens on site putting out those spot fires. There needs to be more brush clearance requirement!

There are no guarantees that any particular building will survive a wildfire, but if hardening practices are implemented, and there is active defense, the probability of loss decreases. The Temple is 840 feet from any vegetation on COSCA open space. The hill across the street is private property. Across the street and closer to open space, homes survived with approximately 70 feet of defensible space.

 

This neighborhood did experience much damage though, and when a single home ignites it increases the probability that the burning house can ignite others.

 

Individual Site Question

Is Hillcrest considered a Hazardous fire Area?

From VCFD: Yes, all properties in Ventura County that are adjacent to the Open Space, or what is termed the Wildland Urban Interface, is considered a High Fire Hazard area. These areas are in our Fire Hazard Reduction Program (FHRP), which requires 100 feet of defensible space to be maintained during the fire season. We also strongly encourage citizens to visit the Ready, Set, Go website to learn about and apply Home Harding techniques. These techniques can help reduce the risk of damage to your home from embers in a wind driven fire.

 

This link shows maps of designated High Fire Hazard Area.

So, Mr. Spykerman says that not all areas are high risk. What does he think that a group of homes that were close to being set afire by the Woolsey Fire but are now abutting a large area of dead six foot high kindling. Are we not HIGH RISK?"

 

Fire Code / Ordinances

When was the last change to the 100ft/10ft changed? Why was it changed.

The 100’ and 10‘ setbacks were established in 1991. The Ventura County Fire Code, which is approved as an ordinance by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, was last updated October 15, 2019. The setbacks were not changed. The Fire Code is updated every three years.

 

From VCFD: The Fire Marshal reviews data gathered after every fire season and at this time the 100-foot clearance requirement still gives us the best balance between fire protection, protecting the environment, and erosion control during the rainy season. New Ordinances are being evaluated and we should be seeing changes in what is being called the ember zones. These zones make up the areas within 5', 30' and 100' around homes.

If the Fire Code is authorized to established minimum clearance would it be advantages to modification it?"

if you don't own all of it - then NEW ORDINANCES being considered..I keep asking about this!!!??!

why can't you respond to NEW ORDINANCES being considered given the fires and taxpayers that are concerned about their homes.

Just because you are satisfied with a code setback of 100 feet in 1991 what have you done to ensure that a simple process like increasing the set back an additional 100 feet will protect property 29 years later?"

The scientific research since the standard was established, including two recent 2019 studies that included the Woolsey Fire, has consistently found that 100 feet of defensible space adds protection to homes, but adding distance beyond 100 feet does not show a significant added benefit. There may be some special cases where more is required due to specific topography or access constraints and other outlying factors. Research links are available Here.

Since the 2018-2019 fires that burned Hillcrest any discussion of modification to the minimum requirements?"

From VCFD: The fire code was last updated on October 15, 2019 and no changes in this requirement were made. The Fire Marshal reviews data gathered after every fire season and at this time the 100-foot clearance requirement still gives use the best balance between fire protection, protecting the environment, and erosion control during the rainy season. Property owners can expand beyond the 100' and there are areas were more clearance is required. These areas are usually based on the topography and fuel type. An example would be were a value at risk is located at the top of hill or located in a saddle on a ridgeline.

 

Do you believe that the Ventura County Fire Code adequately protect residents adjacent to the Hillcrest Open Space?

From VCFD: Yes, the defensible space requirement of 100' does adequately protect and provide a safe environment for Firefighters to work in to defend citizens lives and homes on a daily basis. During a wind driven fire, like we experienced during the Thomas and Woolsey fires, the only way to eliminate the threat to citizens and their homes is to remove all the fuels available to burn. The combination between defensible space and citizens participating in the home hardening program will give us the best chance for success.

 

Fire Protection Grants

FYI Mr. Spykerman the State and Fed approved $1B of fire abatement grants. Ojai applied for and received $909.000.

The CREW, a non-profit organization in the Ojai area, received a grant for work that will likely have the effect of reducing the spread of wildfire in stream corridors by removing invasive plants along a local stream. This is a continuation of a long-term effort to restore riparian habitats along San Antonio Creek and two tributaries. The project focuses on removing Arundo donax, Mexican fan palm, and eucalyptus trees from areas along the creeks. This is a multi-purpose project with the primary goals of improving habitats and reducing water consumption of invasive plants to increase stream flow. This project addresses some specific plants rather than clearing large areas for fuel management. COSCA is in the planning stages of some similar projects along streams to address some of the same species. Funds have been identified in the Woolsey Fire Recovery Fund for this purpose.


Fire Safe Vegetation

Can they remove weeds and plant succulents

There are not any native succulent plants that would grow in grasslands and shrub lands. Most of our native succulents in the Conejo Valley grow only on rocky outcrops. Succulents and other well-irrigated and less flammable landscaping near the home can add to home protection and are part of home hardening. If you are interested in landscaping for fire safety, there is a great local guide for this called S.A.F.E. Landscapes. You can download it Here. This publication also has interesting information about fire in Southern California and the nature of our vegetation communities.


Balance between safety and habitat protection

So is natural wildlife more important than taxpayer homeowners?

No. COSCA's land management practices are designed to protect both, and decisions are made based best on the best available science and in compliance with the fire code and environmental laws.

Is Hillcrest considered as a Public Nuisance area?

Not of which we are aware.

You are interested in saving local vegetation what about protecting the homes of your constituents who employ you? The danger stems from Black Mustard which is not a native plant having been imported from Spanish explorers into the New World. Why protect that invasive species?"

COSCA's position is that we have taken reasonable and required steps to contribute to community fire safety. Fire safety is not the responsibility of a single entity, but a whole community. The actions that contribute most to preventing home losses are those taken on private property within the first 30 feet from the house, and when combined with defensible space and active fire suppression offer enhanced community protection.

 

Mustard is not a desirable plant species for our open space. In Southern California, it is considered a species for which eradication is not a realistic goal. It is possible to control it in specific locations and COSCA is currently evaluating locations where this may be attempted. The priorities will be on areas where project success is most likely. A successful project is one that results in the restoration of native plants and habitats. Fire has long been a feature of our region and climate impacts and development of housing within a high fire hazard zone comes with inherent risks. State and local fire experts have made detailed plans to respond to fires as the threat has evolved. Much of what is being done today was not in years past.

The habitat does not exist along Hillcrest. The plants have been driven out by Mustard weeds and now that is the only Habitat which is available."

I'm hearing status quo and the most destructive fires in CA state history have occurred since 2007. Meanwhile since 2007 our hills are covered with non-native mustard plants ready to burn. Are you going to do anything decrease the risk they post to human life?

Our homes and lives are more important than native plants! clearing the dead brush in the 15000 acres will help protect our properties. use some of that money to clear more brush!"

COSCA values life and homes. COSCA open space is natural land, and the vegetation is a natural feature of the land. Removing large amounts of vegetation, alive or dead, upsets a delicate natural balance on the land that allows it to support wildlife and recreational use, while creating a valued sense of place in the Conejo Valley through its expansive views.

 

The City of Thousand Oaks and COSCA have worked for 50 years, since the very first General Plan, to create an open space system that now defines our community. Our open space system is consistently chosen as one of the highest priorities for our community and is why many have chosen to live here. COSCA takes great care to steward these community resources on behalf of all. Still, we have removed vegetation from 425 acres of land that when combined with home hardening by the homeowner, and fire suppression by the fire department, provides reasonable and effective fire protection. There is no guarantee that a home will survive any fire, especially in a region that has always had a high fire risk.

 

 

 

Any substantial change in defensible space distance cannot be accomplished immediately in any case as the impacts would rise to a level of significance that COSCA, the City, and CRPD would have to prepare formal environmental documents to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). There are also concerns about compliance with the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, state and federal endangered species acts, Clean Water Act, and other protections for habitats.

 

 

Site Specific Question

I can state for a fact that the amount has been reduced and I can provide pictures to support that. There was even a controlled burn

This is a site-specific question about the area along Chalet Cir. The width of the maintained defensible space area was 100 feet between 2004 and 2015. In 2016 the area was slightly expanded due to a contractor error. In 2018 it was 100 feet.

 

Homeowners working on public land?

"If COSCA won't clear additional areas itself why doesn't it allow residents on its property to do this work?"

COSCA works to achieve consistent management throughout the open space system. This is best accomplished by having COSCA oversee all work done on COSCA property. COSCA does not permit neighbors to remove vegetation from open space and doing so is a violation of the COSCA Ordinance. The decision not to remove more vegetation is based on research, the fire code, and the desired ecological value of the land rather than a lack of capacity to undertake the work.

How can local residents obtain access permission to clear the offensive and dangerous brush?

Hillcrest Open Space

THIS COSCA MANAGED HILLCREST OPEN SPACE SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN OUR FIRE PREVENTION PLAN. Science common sense and past experience demonstrate that underbrush and weed growth areas need attention. The Joint Powers Agency needs to take action to protect its citizens from fire danger.

The Hillcrest Open Space area is already included in the Fire Department's Fire Hazard Reduction Program and weed abatement work is completed on the open space in the form of defensible space creation. On portions of the open space directly adjacent to homes, the buffer is maintained to 100 feet from structures. Where the open space meets Hillcrest Dr., COSCA maintains the required 10-foot zone from the road, which also results in clearance of over 100 feet from homes located adjacent to Hillcrest Dr. The homes within the Westlake Hills community that abut Hillcrest Dr. all have over 100 feet of defensible space.

City of Thousand Oaks County of Ventura Cal Fire and federal agencies should work together to establish current workable and effective rules ordinances policies and if necessary legislation to ensure adequate funding and resources to implement seasonal brush mitigation measures in the COSCA controlled open spaces next to the Northgate Condominiums located at the intersection of East Hillcrest Drive and Westlake Boulevard 91362 zip code. This area is next to Arroyo Conejo and abuts profuse timber protected ancient oak and high chaparral growth fuel for brush fires. The brush growth on COSCA managed land is invasive Black Mustard that scientists acknowledge constitutes a fire ladder.

The primary ordinance that applies to fire safety is the Ventura County Fire Code. It is enacted by ordinance by the County of Ventura and is updated every three years. It was last updated on Oct. 15, 2019.

 

Implementation of the fire code is the responsibility of the Ventura County Fire Department. Among the requirements in the fire code is that if a property owner has brush on their property that lies in the defensible space zone, described in the ordinance as 100 feet from structures and 10 feet from roads, the property owner is responsible for its management to specific performance standards.

 

COSCA receives the same brush management notifications as any private landowner and implements the program to comply with the requirements. Between COSCA, the City of Thousand Oaks, and CRPD, approximately $350,000 is spent annually on this work. Fire protection, however, is also addressed in the City of Thousand Oaks building code. Building requirements address elements of the home that can be designed to be resilient to fire threats.

 

 

This is not 1953 or January 1 1981! How about updating your code like the Uniform Building Code updates to accommodate change of circumstances?"

Who makes the guidelines COSCA is following?

if you don't own all of it - then NEW ORDINANCES being considered. I keep asking about this!!!??!

 

Woolsey Fire Settlement Funds                 

What category of the settlement will be applied toward removing (or preventing the growth) of the non-native invasive black mustard weed so prevalent in the COSCA open space that is taking over native plant resources?"

Several of the allocation categories for Woolsey Fire settlement funds may be used for vegetation management projects that promote COSCA’s management goals, including defensible space projects. There is a specific weed management and restoration allocation with approximately $2.7 Million. The other allocation is the Vegetation / Fuel Management Reserve ($676K), although this was anticipated to cover added costs for work in years with above-average precipitation, when more work is necessary rather than expanding the program footprint. The restoration funds are anticipated to be used for invasive plant management / restoration, and planning is underway to determine where these funds are best used. The intent of the program is to restore habitats damaged by the fire. Priorities for these areas are based on the pre-fire conditions on the land and where healthy habitats can be made larger or connected together for habitat continuity.

 

More information about the framework for expenditure of these funds can be found in theCOSCA staff report for the Board Agenda for June 24, 2020.

What is COSCA doing with the $8.5 million SCE settlement?


Irrigation

Irrigating private properties is so expensive due to the cost of water. could the city offer a reduced rate during the fire season?

Keeping an irrigated landscape on private property or on HOA property may be a contributing element of home hardening. Most home hardening practices can be implemented without irrigation, and we encourage homeowners to find practices that work best for them. There are no plans to offer reduced water rates for this purpose.


Meeting logistics

We are in a Nextdoor group - all have been discussing this - we have all read all of the materials. These are questions seem insincere and written by you!!!! We want to know what you are doing and whether you can do more! Do all of you drive by the area with a clear conscience?!?!

All of the questions from the neighborhood meeting came from community members. Some were submitted in advance, so they were added by our staff into the chat so all attendees could see them. Most were re-submitted during the meeting, however. All submitted questions track back to an individual with a valid email address. The neighborhood meeting was hosted by senior officials with the Ventura County Fire Department and COSCA that have expertise in fire and land management.


Mustard Management

A lot of the vegetation that grew in post Woolsey Fire were the tall mustards not the native chaparral. Wouldn't it make sense to trim these to help restore native vegetation?"

This is true in some areas. Restoring the native habitats will include weed management. The methods and timing used, however, need to be selected carefully so the act of weed removal does not also remove native plants. COSCA intends to undertake weed management projects in the coming years and is in the process of setting priorities and evaluating the land for the area's restoration capacity. Restoration is very expensive, and funds are best used in areas that make existing high-quality habitats larger or join two areas with good habitat together to increase habitat continuity. At the end of a restoration project, however, there is still fuel as the native plants are also fuel. Most of the Conejo Valley is in a high fire hazard severity zone, and many homes have been built in this this zone. Living in a high fire hazard severity zone comes with inherent risks and managing them requires an approach that includes defensible space, home hardening, and active fire suppression.

If the Black Mustard is ubiquitous and burned many times why not make a special situation in this year to allow abutting residents to remove it if COSCA refuses to carry its administrative burden for the safety of its neighbors?"

Presently, the fuel load at the Hillcrest Open Space is substantially lower than before the Woolsey fire when native vegetation existed on the upper parts of the hill. Having recently burned, most of the fuel is grass and forbs, which are considerably less dense as a fuel. The last time this area burned prior to the Woolsey Fire was in the Dayton Fire in 1991. Thus, it has likely been about 20 years since the fuel load was as light as it is today. Of course, the existing vegetation can still burn, just with less intensity. Because embers can travel hundreds of feet, it is still important that homeowners prepare their homes to prevent ember ignitions. COSCA is in compliance with all Ventura County Fire Department codes.

Fire codes are guidelines. Why not give residents a bit more sense of security by exceeding the guidelines.

COSCA's position is that exceeding the required defensible space, when applied to an open space system the size of COSCA's, would result in the destruction of large acreages of open space and valuable habitat lands. The City and COSCA have spent 50 years protecting open space in the Conejo Valley, and it is highly valued in the community. The City, COSCA, and CRPD have proactively altered 425 acres of open space to create defensible space. The conclusions of wildfire research are that clearing additional vegetation beyond 100 feet is not an effective strategy for preventing home ignitions. A more important factor is hardening homes to prevent ember ignitions. Research on this topic is available here.

Why can’t we clear the brush that remains in the Hillcrest Open Space even though your position is that the administrative regulations are satisfied? They are inadequate and a special review is necessary. Residents want to take action to protect their residences. Fire officials who were on-=site when you say you were on site during the 11/9 - 11/10 Woolsey fire said more space is necessary. Who is right?"

There is no evidence to suggest that the actions taken to date are inadequate. Embers can travel hundreds of feet and no practical amount of vegetation removal will prevent ember dispersal during a wind-driven fire. Studies of home ignitability strongly point to elements of particular homes and their landscaping that introduce fire to homes via embers rather than fuels beyond 100 feet.

Aggressive Santa Ana Winds will throw sparks farther than 200ft. yes?

Yes. In recent fires, embers have traveled more than a mile. Both the Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire crossed 300 feet of paved and cleared roadway on Highway 101. This illustrates the fact that embers landing at a residence are often coming from longer distances and the embers often fly over defensible space zones. Defensible space zones are created to allow safe access to firefighters, reduce radiant heat, keep flames of the fire from hitting homes, and to buy time for residents to evacuate. They are relatively ineffective in preventing ember ignitions during wind-driven fires, which is the cause of most home ignitions in a wildfire. Efforts at home hardening are more effective.

Chief Spykerman. Do your firefighters feel as if the 100’ guidelines are defensible? Wouldn’t firefighters be able to do their jobs better with firebreaks? How are they going to damage the ecosystem?

Yes, most firefighters feel comfortable with 100' of defensible space. On a normal day the defensible space will stop or slow the fire down enough for us to gain control and extinguish it. 2. There are firebreaks located in strategic locations throughout the County. We can also use Edison roads as firebreaks, like the one located in the Kevington area, that can be accessed off Hillcrest Dr. During a strong wind event a fire can easily cross a Firebreak or road, just like it did when it crossed the 101 Freeway. The Albertson Firebreak between Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks did hold the Woolsey fire from backing into Simi. That was due to the location of where the fire started, the direction it spread, and the strong winds keeping the radiant heat and embers from crossing to the North.

 

COSCA Funding

COSCA employees - how are you paid by taxpayers?"

COSCA is a Joint Powers Authority that is a partnership between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD). Each agency pays 50% of COSCA expenses. COSCA's administrative staff are employees of the City and the Rangers and Open Space Technicians are employees of CRPD. The City's portion of COSCA expenses come from general fund allocations made during the City's budget creation. COSCA also receives a portion of non-resident golf fees at the Los Robles Golf Course. The CRPD portion of funding is also a general fund allocation. CRPD receives approximately 80% of their revenue from taxes and about 20% in program fees.

 

Civil Unrest

Are police and FD prepared should violent protesters show up during Santa Ana winds.

Yes, When TOPD gets information on any protest they communicate the information to VCFD. Based on the information, we work together to develop a plan to mitigate the risks involved with the event.

 

CalFire Assistance

How much help can we expect from CalFire when their resources are spread so thin as they are now?

The Ventura County Fire Department has agreements in place for support from CalFire and they have been a reliable source of resources.