Fire Safe Landscape Policy

Approved For Review

            A three-phase Fire Safe Landscape Policy beginning with the removal of flammable plants and finely shredded bark within five feet of each house and removal of dead or partially dead trees from the property by Aug. 21, 2021, was passed by the Oakmont Village Association Board of Directors at its July 21 meeting.

            The policy adopts the Santa Rosa Fire Department list of Firewise trees, shrubs, bushes, perennials and ground covers. The list is available at the OVA Architectural Office or on the SRFD website (pg. 11 “Living With Fire in Sonoma County.”)

            The policy will be posted on the Berger Center bulletin board and printed in the Oakmont News as soon as practicable to allow a 28-day review by association members.

            Essentially, it was adopted in place of a broader one which was tabled at the meeting but was described as a “good master policy” as Oakmont moves forward with its efforts to become a fire safe community.

             The policy adopted specifies that landscaping plans for front, side and back yards must be submitted to the Architectural Committee with the AC application for approval before any work may begin. “All landscaping must be maintained at all times to assure attractive appearance,” it continues. “Trees, shrubs, bushes and all plant materials must be cut back to remove any dead material for fire safety and appearance.”

            All trees shall be limbed to at least six feet from the ground not to exceed 1/3 of the height, limbs must be pruned to allow six feet clearance from the roof; limbs within ten feet of the roof shall be removed and areas under tree canopies must be free of weeds, dry plant material and bushes creating a potential fire ladder. Also dead branches shall be removed and no newly planted trees will be allowed within 10 feet of the house or canopies of other trees.

            Other requirements allow the use of hardscape materials such as rock, gravel, brick, pavers or concrete to create a five-foot defensible space around the house. And the use of rock between plants in front yard landscaping is exempt from the rule allowing not more than 15 percent of rock in front yard landscaping. In addition, new installations such as gates, protective patio golf screen, sheds or portions of fence that attach directly to a home must be made of metal, not wood, and chimney spark arrestors are required on all wood-burning fireplaces.

            Along with the removal of flammable plants and bark within a five-foot defensible space, the removal of all dead or partially dead trees and finely shredded bark such as gorilla hair and removal of all leaves and pine needles from roof and rain gutters is required in Phase One ending Aug. 21, 2021. Other requirements have to be met in the second and third phases to be completed by Aug. 21, 2023.

            As a part of the Firewise USA Community designation obtained in 2018, the board approved the establishment of a Firewise Safety Committee including Iris Harrell, chair of the Building Construction Committee, as chair and Katy Carrel, Burt Schraga, Jackie Ryan and Dave Watts.

PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

            In a move to gauge their own performance, the board voted to conduct a “360 review” of the board members. This process, described as soliciting feedback from a variety of points of view, will include periodic input from OVA members, peer directors and OVA staff. OVA members will be invited to take part in a survey to provide performance evaluation and feedback concerning directors’ performance. Directors also will be asked to evaluate each other and request input from OVA staff about each director. The community will receive a summary report and each director will receive detailed feedback. All input will be anonymous.

            While Director Carolyn Bettencourt said she was uncomfortable with the review and conducted the only “no” vote, board president Steve Spanier said, “We all have weaknesses and strengths” and the purpose of the review is “to improve.” He added that “it needs to be done carefully.”

            The board lifted its previous closure of the Oakmont Library and authorized reopening as soon as practical after an applicable county order is issued. In the meantime, OVA staff and volunteers are allowed access to the library to perform “ground work” needed before opening.

            The board approved a $21,250 contract with True North for the removal of ladder fuels for defensible space from OVA-owned property between the backyards of 6374 and 6416 Stone Bridge Road and the adjacent creek. The fuels are described as potential fire hazards.

            A resolution to approve changes to the Hearing Procedures, Enforcement and Fine Policy recommended and reviewed by the association attorney failed on a 3-4 vote.

The vote hinged on a provision that association members cannot be accompanied by an attorney at a hearing. This was challenged by several directors.