Careful planning essential post-fire

Let’s take the time and consideration to build well-planned, sustainable communities

The Camp Fire cleanup is likely to take months and months. The temptation for Chico, and maybe Paradise, might be to approve every housing project under consideration to try to meet perceived housing needs. That would be a mistake. Now is the time to think of sustainable, well-planned and healthy communities that are good for people and the environment.

We should plan for the health of our large, new extended community. For Chico, this means less sprawl into rural land, less use of fossil fuels and the accompanying dangerous CO2 emissions, less stress on our infrastructure, less building out and more building up, more protection of our waterways, greater emphasis on connecting in community. For Paradise, now is the opportunity to create a well-planned, sustainable community.

In Chico, our focus needs to be on denser development, more diversity in housing, and infill (within the city, not at the edges). Rather than adding sprawling new housing projects, we can quickly and less expensively create housing within Chico (there are 4,000 lots available, according to the Land Absorption Study approved by the City Council in October).

Think of a compact city with electric buses, bicycles and pedestrians, and material needs met not by big-box stores, but rather services that are within the city. Think of communities with retail on the street and apartments on the second story. Think of communities that share resources with central buildings, shared gardens and green space, and surrounding living space for families with children, singles and elders. Imagine living lightly on the land in ways that are rich in community.

We are living in times of tremendous stress—the victims of the Camp Fire, all those helping and making space for those victims, our public officials who have to try to accommodate those victims. The pressures are great, but now is not the time to make hasty decisions. Those of us affected by the fire (citizens, businesses, public officials alike) have to consider carefully what we want our new community to be, to look like, to feel like.