(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Encouraging communities to take proactive steps to reduce risks associated with the climate crisis, Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) today announced a package of bills to support homeowners living in high climate crisis risk areas and prevent potential future property loss by encouraging planning that takes the realities of the climate crisis at face value. AB 1403 (Levine) would allow a governor or local government to declare a state of emergency related to at Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). AB 1409 (Levine) would require a local government’s General Plan to include emergency evacuation locations. AB 1439 (Levine) would require property insurance providers to take into consideration local government investments in wildfire prevention when determining insurance rates. AB 1445 (Levine) would require a local government to take emergency evacuation capacity and the impacts of climate change into consideration when determining future housing development. AB 1522 (Levine) would prohibit an insurer from denying a property owner insurance coverage just because the property is located in a high-risk wildfire area.
In October 2019, PG&E initiated a series of PSPS events that left millions of Californians without electricity. The unprecedented scale of these power shutoffs significantly impacted first responders and left millions of residents and small businesses scrambling to find alternative sources of electricity. Because the PSPS was a planned electrical outage, it did not meet the existing definition of emergency, delaying state and local government emergency declarations. Levine’s AB 1403 will give a governor and local leaders explicit authority to declare an emergency based upon a PSPS and ensure the rapid deployment of resources needed during this type of emergency.
Following the devastation in Paradise, California caused by the 2018 Camp Fire, Levine successfully authored legislation that required local government general plans to include emergency evacuation routes necessary to protect lives during an emergency. That legislation has helped local governments across the state better prepare for the next emergency, but did not require local governments to identify specific evacuation locations. Levine’s AB 1409 would update this law by requiring local general plans to include emergency evacuation locations, which will help local governments better plan ahead and save lives.
Devastating wildfires, floods and other natural disasters over the past decade have forced state and local governments to rethink their role in reducing future wildfire, flood and climate crisis risk. In March, 2020, Marin County voters approved Measure C, which levies a parcel tax on commercial and residential parcels to raise an estimated $19.3 million per year solely for wildfire prevention programs. Marin is the first county in the state to approve such a program. Levine’s AB 1439 would incentivize local governments across California to make investments in reducing and mitigating wildfire risk by requiring a residential property insurance discount if a local government adopts a dedicated local fire prevention program.
Climate crisis risk mitigation is only one of many ways California will need to be smarter about how the state grows in the future. We must also be smarter about where we grow. State law currently requires local governments to meet a Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goal - a blueprint of the total number of new homes a region must build to meet long term population growth estimates. Yet in many areas of the state, a region’s RHNA does not take into account risks and impacts associated with climate change. Levine’s AB 1445 would require a local government to take emergency evacuation capacity and the impacts of the climate crisis into consideration when determining future housing development. While action must be taken to address California’s housing crisis, building new housing in high-risk areas will only increase potential loss of life and property in areas prone to wildfire, flooding or other impacts of climate change.
As California’s wildfires and floods have become more deadly and destructive, many homeowners in high-risk areas have found their property insurance policies increasingly difficult to maintain. In November 2020, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies non-renewing or cancelling residential property insurance policies. This temporary reprieve helped over 2.1 million policyholders impacted by the 2020 wildfire season, but leaves these families in insurance limbo as their annual policies expire later this year. Levine’s AB 1522 would prohibit an insurer from denying a new or renewed residential property insurance policy because the property is located in a high-risk area. While property owners must take additional steps to harden their homes and reduce risks to future wildfire events, without Levine’s AB 1522, millions of California homeowners would be left without property insurance at the very time homeowners need insurance the most.
“The climate crisis shows that the threat of future floods, wildfires, sea level rise and other climate caused disasters across the state are here to stay,” said Assemblymember Levine. “Making California resilient to climate change will require us to think differently about how we grow as a state and how we respond to climate caused emergencies. My wildfire prevention and protection legislative package takes bold steps to make communities grow smarter and respond smarter to an ever-changing climate. Heading into another wildfire season, that’s what my community and communities across the state need. Adapting to the demands of a changing climate will not be easy, but they are essential to ensure that residents across California can have a safe place to call home.”
Levine’s AB 1403, AB 1409, AB 1439, AB 1445 and AB 1522 will be considered by the State Assembly this Spring.
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