Santa Rosa hires global firm to issue permits for rebuilding 3,000 homes lost in wildfires

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Northern California wildfires
Map showing scope of Northern California wildfires (Wikimedia Commons)

To expedite rebuilding of homes and businesses destroyed by the Nuns and Tubs wildfires in October 2017, Santa Rosa will outsource processing of about 3,000 planning and building applications to Bureau Veritas North America Inc.

The City Council approved on Nov. 21, a $9 million contract with the international firm to establish separate and speedy permit processing for wildfire victims. The contract will last for two years, but a third year is anticipated. Some of the services will also be provided by the company’s project partner, Westlake Village’s California Code Check.

Permit fees paid by home and business owners will pay for the cost of the contract. However, to get the company on board, the city had to cover part of the $9 million budget.

France-based Bureau Veritas specializes in testing, inspection and certification. The company has over 61,000 employees in offices around the world. It was one of the nine companies that applied for the contract, which some council members claimed, was executed with speed. The request for proposals as issued Nov. 8 and the contract was awarded 13 days later.

“This is an extraordinary step during extraordinary times,” said Councilman John Sawyer.

In addition, the city director of planning and economic development David Guhin said the need for swift action forced the staff to make the decision quickly. He said they selected the company because of its understanding that Santa Rosa residents have been traumatized by the wildfires, and it is essential for permitting processors to bear this in mind.

“This fire has basically turned 3,000 people into developers over the next few years,” Guhin said. “So customer service was critical to our selection process.”

The city is working to establish a separate office at City Hall for permit applications of wildfire victims. A test model called “Resilient City Permits” was recently set up.

 

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