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November 25, 2020

Company to streamline rebuilding permitting process for CZU victims

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Santa Cruz County will hire a company to handle the permitting process for residents rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed in the CZU August Lightning Complex fires. 

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The County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved the plan to hire Pleasanton-based engineering firm 4Leaf, Inc. to set up and manage a Recovery Permit Center in the County Building.

County officials say the move was a way to ease the already cumbersome permitting process for residents looking to rebuild.

A key part of that effort, said Assistant Planning Director Paia Levine, is contracting with a firm with experience handling the issues that arise after a large-scale disaster such as the CZU fires.

“The county is very committed to providing integrated, and dedicated, expedited permit processing services for the rebuilding effort after the fire,” she said. 

4Leaf is performing similar services in Sonoma County and in Paradise, both areas that sustained major damage from fires. 

The CZU fire destroyed a total of 1,490 structures, and damaged 140. Permit requests are expected to pour in over the next three years as residents prepare to rebuild.

“The goal is to take an application from clearance and intake through review and inspection,” Levine said.

4Leaf was chosen after a request for proposals process and two interviews by a wide range of County staff, Levine said. The company will be paid by a percentage of the permit revenue fees, once they start coming in, which Levine said will take about one year. Until then, the County will pay a monthly minimum fee, in an amount “not to exceed $6.2 million,” according to the County.

The Supervisors also heard a report on how the County has spent its $27.7 million share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Approved by Congress and President Donald Trump in March, the money is intended to help local jurisdictions weather the pandemic. The money must be spent by Dec. 31 and only for a narrow range of costs specifically related to dealing with the virus.

According to Santa Cruz County Budget Manager Christina Mowry, the County spent $6.7 million from March through June, largely on disaster service workers, public health and mental services and social distancing compliance.

This also includes $3.8 million to 93 businesses, and nearly $1 million in rent and utility assistance for 109 families. The funds have also gone to shelter for the homeless, and to the Great Plates Program, which pays restaurants to prepare meals for elderly residents. 

The County has $20.9 million leftover.

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