In a letter to members of Oakland’s Public Safety Committee which will hear a report on the draft Local Hazard Mitigation Plan on May 11,2021, the Oakland Firesafe Council (OFSC) raised concerns about the process and the content of the plan:
- The outreach process was flawed—several of us who filled out the survey and asked to be contacted when the draft report was ready never received notification, nor did we see it on Next Door, although we were told it had been promoted there. We know that Sheng Thao’s office did not get a copy before the deadline closed for comments. Did your office receive a copy? We fear that it now may be too late to provide constructive feedback.
- The conclusion that wildfire impacts only a small percent of the City is unrealistic, given the weather/high wind patterns of recent years and the increased spread of flying embers that start fires beyond the WUI (think Coffey Park). In fact, the LHMP should proactively look beyond the very high fire hazard zone and high fire hazard zone to areas that are adjacent and vulnerable under severe wind/wildfire conditions. We believe the Wildfire ‘score’ of 33 is under estimated, but at the very least, 33 is closer to 39 (Severe Weather) than it is to 24 (Sea Level Rise and Dam Failure). Wildfire should be a higher Hazard Priority.
- No reference to Council Resolution No. 87940 making wildfire prevention a citywide priority.
- There are a number of serious problems with the wildfire chapter (15). The inattention to detail raises real concerns about the quality of the product and concerns about City Staff’s review of the product before it was made public:
- No mention of evacuation challenges caused by narrow roads throughout the hills. Because the Oakland hills are basically already developed, the streets are a fixed infrastructure and cannot be overlooked.
- The Plan underestimates population impact – the fact that fires jump freeways and endanger much more of Oakland than the VHFHSZs needs to be taken into account.
- There’s a discrepancy in the number of buildings in risk area – According to the City of Oakland website, Oakland inspects over 20,000 homes and vacant parcels in the VHFHSZ, not 15,000 as stated in the report, thereby underestimating impact
- Lack of specificity to Oakland (mis-characterization of WUIs, mention of Union City, etc., which indicates a less-than careful development and review process. The explanation about wildfires and WUIs in the early part of Chapter 15 seems to be a cut and paste job of boiler plate and was not tailored to Oakland’s situation.