Woolsey Fire Victims: Site Clearing Confusion Continues…Sigh… Valuable Insight from Architect Lester Tobias

Our resident pitbull with building and planning (even more so after the Woolsey Fire!), Architect Lester Tobias, guides us through the very confusing site clearing process to date.

December 11th, 2018

The confusion surrounding the hazardous Waste Removal, Demolition, and Debris Hauling associated with the Woolsey Fire homes. It’s amazing how confused the people who apparently should be in charge of this portion of the rebuild process continue to be, nearly five weeks after the fire. My understanding is based on numerous, face-to-face discussions with city officials. Admittedly, I have not spoken to state or county agencies, but I think I should be able to rely on the City for valid, up to the minute information (did I really just say that?).

Okay first off, about this Hazardous Waste Removal. I have been associating that scary term with toxins and radioactivity and cancer causing leaky sludge (thank you, Robert Kennedy Jr.) As it turns out, it’s basically paint cans and propane tank removal. So we are being held hostage by paint cans and propane tanks.

After those items have been removed by people who apparently posses special training in moving paint cans and propane tanks, we reach a fork in the road. The state has made each fork undesirable, yet we each most choose a path.

Path #1 is the path of Big Brother. It is the so called “Free” option. You basically sign on the dotted line and the government comes and clears your site. Sounds great until you ask a few questions or read the fine print. The first thing is that they will remove your foundation whether you like it or not. So if you need to see, inspect, measure or otherwise engage with your foundation, cleared of debris, then this is an untenable offer. The second item of note is that if you are insured, this service is not free, as you will have to sign over all or part of the demolition line item in your policy to the state agency clearing your site “for free”. To a government agency, the only thing better than “other people’s money” is other people’s money from even other people. I’d love to see the lobbying efforts that went into that clause…

Path #2 is the so called “private” option, where you basically act like a logical human in the marketplace who hires a private sector company that performs debris removal and/or hauling (these two acts are typically performed by separate companies, working in tandem, to get the shit off your site and get it to the dump). If you choose this option you need to be aware that a special license is required by the state for fire debris removal. In a similar vein, the hauler must be also approved for fire debris removal. Now, I am assuming that companies that are licensed for this type of demo and hauling know the ropes, can fill out the paperwork, and get the job done. But I am just assuming at this point, so it’s still buyer beware….but it is free market pricing with this option, and the competition will be fierce, so the odds are that you will keep more of your insurance money with the private option.

I’m sorry that I have no definitive advice or recommendations on this matter, especially since it is such an obvious bottleneck and roadblock to getting our lives put back together. But this is the information on which I am basing my decision today, but since I may wait a month for that one paint can that didn’t incinerate at my house to be removed, I guess I am not in any hurry….sigh….

Cece Woods

The Current Report Editor in Chief Cece Woods started The Local Malibu, an activism based platform in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of pro-preservation ballot measures and seating five top vote-getters in the Malibu City Council elections.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the two-year law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings, and a few short months later provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over one million hits across her social media platforms.

Since 2020, Woods was the only journalist reporting on the on-going public corruption involving former L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington. Woods worked with Political Corruption expert Adam Loew, DC Watchdog organizations and leaders in the Capitol exposing Washington which ultimately led to the withdrawal of his nomination to head the FAA.

Woods also founded Malibu based 90265 Magazine and Cali Mag devoted to the authentic southern California lifestyle.

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