Santa Rosa supes considering allowing disaster emergency housing on agriculture land

- The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is exploring a proposal to allow temporary use and rental of existing primary dwellings and farm family dwellings on agricultural parcels for residents displaced by the wildfires in this month.
   
The proposal, which returns before the board on Nov. 7, also would allow temporary disaster housing as a compatible use on agricultural land under a California Williamson Act compact.
   
The Williamson Act provides relief of property tax to owners of farmland and open space land in exchange for a 10-year agreement that the land will not be developed or converted to another use.
   
Both proposals are contingent on not displacing or impairing current or future agricultural operations or displacing agricultural workers. The temporary disaster housing would automatically expire on Dec. 31, 2019.
   
The Tubbs and Nuns fires in Napa and Sonoma counties, known as the Sonoma Complex Fire, burned 110,720 acres, or 173-square miles and destroyed nearly 7,000 structures. Both are now 100 percent contained.
   
Affordable housing in Sonoma County for renters and buyers already was scarce before the fires that began Oct. 8, and the Board last week approved several measures to house those who were displaced. 
   
The Supervisors approved urgency ordinances to suspend new vacation rental permits for 45 days, and temporarily allowed the residential use of travel trailers and other recreational vehicles with adequate septic capacity on all residential lots outside of fire-damaged areas without county approval for 45 days.
   
The Board also approved extending seasonal farm worker housing from 180 days to 365 days a year, and agreed to allow existing detached guest houses, pool houses and other residential accessory structures without kitchens to be rented to fire victims.
   
Board members were insistent that the proposal for emergency housing on agricultural land not open the door to exploitation.
   
"We need to be nimble and innovative right now," Board Chair Shirlee Zane said.
   
"I don't want this to become a commercial enterprise. No profiteering," Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said.
 

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