The photographs of the first home to be rebuilt on Kerry Lane in Coffey Park on Jan. 3 were inspiring, hopeful and just what was needed.
The Santa Rosa City Council, not so much.
In its very first opportunity since the October fires to approve desperately needed new housing, the council flinched.
Presented Dec. 19 with a proposal to rezone a long-undeveloped 40-acre commercial property in Fountaingrove so that 237 homes could be built, the council deadlocked 3-3, leaving the plan in limbo.
Surely it was an unfortunate coincidence that the property was in Fountaingrove in the path of the horrific October fires. But if you take fear of a future fire — or earthquake, for that matter — to its extreme, as three of six councilmembers did, nothing would be built anytime or anywhere.
Not in Larkfield. Not on Bennett Ridge. Not in Glen Ellen. Not in Wikiup, Shiloh, Mark West, east Sonoma, Fountaingrove and Coffey Park, all severely burned in the Tubbs and Nuns fires of that awful October night.
It’s possible the proposal will come back to the council, and the tie can be broken. But the lesson here is that the council — and city and county leaders throughout the North Bay — have to find a way to stop saying no and to start saying yes.
Otherwise, they are setting the region up for an ongoing and economically disastrous housing failure.
More thoughts on fire recovery: Tourism took a blow in the immediate aftermath of the fires, and officials have been hard at work — and successful — at getting the message out that the region is open for business.
It’s commonly noted that 90 percent or 95 percent of Wine Country was not physically touched by the fires.
But think like tourists for a moment? It would be difficult for them to not be struck when they see destroyed buildings as they drive into Wine Country on our major highways.
So, a modest idea might be to prioritize cleaning up sites most visible to our visitors such as highways 101 and 116 and on Napa Road, for instance.
This is not to minimize the importance of moving forward on the broad rebuilding efforts. Absolutely not. But I think there is wide agreement that when tourism does well, we all do well, and when it doesn’t, we all feel the impact it in our daily lives and businesses.
Brad Bollinger is publisher of North Bay Business Journal.
More business coverage of the North Bay fires recovery: nbbj.news/2017fires