Special Coverage: 2017 North Bay wildfires and the recovery

Fountaingrove rebuilding begins after October wildfires

The first home being rebuilt in Fountaingrove reached a milestone recently when framers began roughing in the walls of Ed and Kathy Hamilton’s Shillingford Place home.

Sonoma County takes building-permit scheduling online

Haircuts, DMV services, building permits. Those are among the appointments you now can schedule online. It's part of Sonoma County's promise to speed the rebuilding process, with thousands of homes lost to the wildfires.

Sonoma County hotels remain fuller after fires

The trend of much higher winter room occupancy and revenue continue after the October wildfires continued in Sonoma County in February, according to the latest data. Napa County's revenue was up slightly, while that for Marin and Solano dipped.

Sonoma County retail: 650,000sf affected by firestorm

“Retail and services businesses were effectively ‘suspended out of the inventory’ in the fall” by the October wildfires, writes Dino D’Argenzio of Keegan & Coppin.

Worried about the postfire ‘brain drain’

“What is worrisome is that these are teachers, nurses, doctors, tourism and service people. That’s critical for the economy of our area if we lose those,” says Casey Mazzoni, legislative director for Rebuild Northbay Foundation.

Kohl’s reopens after post-fire remodel

The big-box retailer’s soft reopening was welcomed by shoppers as another sign of north Santa Rosa’s recovery from the October wildfires.

Hundreds of vacant lots go on the market after wildfires

About 300 burned lots have been offered for sale in Sonoma County since the October fires. Find out how much they are selling for — and who is buying them.

Opinion: Though outside the wildfire path, a Petaluma company is deeply affected

“In the days and weeks that followed, Simply Solar, like many businesses during this emergency, had to balance the needs of our staff, customers and community in the face of tremendous uncertainty,” writes a top executive of the Petaluma company.

Fire victims: That state tax penalty is a bungle

California’s Franchise Tax Board granted an extension from Oct. 15 to Jan. 31 but then sent penalty notices anyway.

Fires blamed for rise in Napa, Sonoma mortgage delinquencies

Though lenders and loan-backers have offered help to borrowers in areas hit hard by the October wildfires, the proportion of those behind on payments there more than doubled in the months afterward, says a new report.

North Bay business briefs: Wildfire employee-employer help, Cloverdale assisted-living project and more

Sonoma County gets $3.25 million for wildfire-dislocated workers. Other North Bay business news on tax credits for wildfire-stricken businesses, Western Living Concepts (Cloverdale project), AUL Corp. and Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

Arsenic levels in soil complicate Fountaingrove cleanup

The effort to clean up debris from the October wildfires has been made more complicated by confusion over just how “clean” the cleared lots must be before rebuilding can proceed.

Senior-living firm: Residents suing over wildfire evacuation didn’t take ‘adequate precautions’

“Plaintiffs failed to use and exercise ... the proper care and precautions which a reasonable prudent person under the same or similar circumstances would have exercised,” attorneys for Oakmont Senior Living wrote in a response to the lawsuit.

Coffey Park businesses still feel fire impacts

Businesses surrounding the fire-ravaged Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa have experienced a drop in customers in the four months since the wildfires — and the emotional toll of working in the shadow of a burn zone.

North Bay business briefs

Constellation Brands donates $200,000 to the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County. Other North Bay business news from Patelco Credit Union, Charles Communications, Lifehouse, Dominican University, Model Meals and Cornerstone Properties.

Sonoma Co. releases fire-recovery plan; new housing is key

“(I)f Sonoma County does not create 8,143 new (housing) units by 2020 … there will likely be drag in the overall economy leading to slower employment growth,” says a new county plan released Thursday for recovery from the fires.

‘Fortunate to be diversified,’ says owner of Santa Rosa restaurant burned in the fires

One of its Santa Rosa Mountain Mike’s Pizza joints went up during the October firestorm, but Chandi Restaurant Group continues to expand in the North Bay, including a hotel planned for the burn site.

Cars sales and North Bay fires are connected, data shows

Sonoma County leads in fall sales among North Bay areas hit by the fires, but Napa County next door saw double-digit gains in the fourth quarter, according to new data.

Meet a champion for recovery of North Bay homes, jobs, community after the fires

Jennifer Gray Thompson talks about Rebuild Northbay Foundation’s role as “third responder” to help guide the region’s bounceback years after the October wildfires.

Editorial: Fire spurs employees to leave North Bay; it’s about housing and recovery

Getting this fire recovery and housing question right means everything, writes North Bay Business Journal Publisher Brad Bollinger.

Ill-planned recovery could sicken ‘good’ North Bay economy, expert warns

The North Bay appears to be skirting recession, but a financial crisis may be coming unless local government and private entities can table politics and effectively plan recovery from the October wildfires, says a noted local economist set to speak in Sonoma County on Friday.

Rebuilding the Mendocino, Lake construction workforce from the ground up

Following a Sonoma County pattern now in its second year, Mendocino County Construction Corps starts training high school seniors to be ready to employ in the building trades this summer.

Fires fuel a daunting push to solve Sonoma County housing crisis

Officials are calling for a surge in Sonoma County home construction not seen since the decades after World War II. But can such a bid overcome enormous labor, materials and planning obstacles?

New Retirement: Volunteerism flourishes after the wildfires

The impact of the fires quickly doubled the number who stepped up at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County. Volunteerism is also one of the pillars of a rewarding retirement, writes columnist Gloria Dunn-Violin.

Company under investigation for allegedly doing debris-removal without license

Authorities say the company may be seeking additional business as the private cleanup deadline approaches.

Sonoma Co. hotels unseasonably full in January; Napa Co. revenue up 8%

Three months after the wildfires left thousands without homes, Sonoma County continues double-digit gains in hotel occupancy and revenue, besting strong Napa County growth, according to January figures released Wednesday.

Number of Sonoma Co. homes for sale ‘has never been this low’

January ended with the fewest number of homes for sale in Sonoma County since at least 1990, another startling ripple of October’s wildfires, which claimed more than 5,100 homes.

Mendocino to host fire rebuild expo March 24

Coming Home: Redwood Fire Rebuild Expo is a free all-day community-centered event geared at educating, informing, and connecting the communities affected by the recent fires with resilient, affordable rebuilding options.

Group promoting green rebuilds to host free expo

Homeowners looking to rebuild after the North Bay wildfires with energy-efficiency, fire protection and water conservation in mind can attend a free Santa Rosa expo next Friday.

Time is running out to remove wildfire debris in Sonoma County

As government-organized cleanup of properties burned in the October wildfires is in the home stretch, officials set a deadline for private debris removal in Santa Rosa and unincorporated areas.

Owner of Journey’s End mobile home park in Santa Rosa won’t rebuild after Tubbs fire

End of the road for Journey’s End

Study: Sonoma, Napa vineyards 99% undamaged by wildfires

A new survey from Sonoma State University says North Coast vineyards and wineries were largely untouched by the October wildfires.

Santa Rosa: No fines for wildfire-cleanup contractor hosting workers’ trailers

A Santa Rosa official said staff still will determine how many trailers can remain on contractor Michael Wolff’s property.

How will fires impact Sonoma’s and Napa’s vineyards?

Most vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties were unscathed by the October wildfires. But growers with vineyards exposed to extreme heat are anxious to find out how the fires will affect their prized crop.

Santa Rosa wildfire cleanup workers may get evicted over permit dispute

A Santa Rosa contractor providing a free place for employees to live while they clean up wildfire debris is in a showdown with the city. The dispute could force him to evict the workers from his Coffey Park property.

What would it take to build 30,000 new homes?

Sonoma County voters could be asked to approve a housing bond to speed reconstruction, and the county and Santa Rosa could combine campuses and free up land. These other lofty housing ideas were floated Tuesday.

Businesses struggle back after wildfire

Retailers and restaurants along Santa Rosa’s Cleveland Avenue affected by the October fires remain mostly closed nearly four months later.

Exchange Bank’s deposits jump $300M

Most of the fourth-quarter increase for the Santa Rosa-based institution came from insurance settlements after the North Bay wildfires in October.

New Retirement: Turning North Bay fire tragedies into stories of hope

We need to accept that this major change will cause most of us to go through normal stages of grief, and be aware of how their impact on us may affect others, writes columnist and author Gloria Dunn-Violin.

PG&E power lines sparked 2 Santa Rosa fires, investigation reveals

The findings mark the first public reports by government authorities into what caused some of the dozens of blazes that erupted Oct. 8 and became the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history.

13 unlicensed contractors accused of targeting North Bay fire victims

The unlicensed contractors attempted to bid on rebuilding jobs in the burn zone, investigators say.

Donors give $31M to fire-relief fund

Groups in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties are among those receiving money from the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

Sonoma Gives: Local business helps the fire recovery

Contractors who lost tools in the October wildfires get free replacements. Owners of a Sonoma Valley inn spared the flames give back to firefighters. Read more stories on help coming from local commerce and nonprofits.

Debris removal completed in fire-ravaged Coffey Park

Elected and neighborhood leaders applauded the news, saying it opens the door for rebuilding homes in the devastated area of northwest Santa Rosa.

North Coast postfire rebuilding: ‘Era of the great unknowns’

“It will be slow in 2018 and then significantly ramped up in 2019,” says Keith Woods, CEO of North Coast builders Exchange about the pace of rebuilding the thousands of burned homes. But key questions remain unanswered for the construction community.

Sonoma County OK’s $23M to speed postfire rebuilds

From action taken Monday, overall fee cuts are projected to be in the 80 percent range for Sonoma County permits to rebuild thousands of homes burned in the October wildfires. A permit-streamlining center is set to open in mid-February.

Registration closes Wednesday for a conference on the economic toll of North Bay fires

Sonoma State University Outlook Conference is set to include a North Bay diagnosis by economist Robert Eyler and “Stories of Resilience” from local businesses that suffered losses in the fires.

Sonoma County brewery raises nearly $900K for wildfire victims

“If ever there was a time, it was now. Desperate times call for desperate measures,” says Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Russian River Brewery, behind Pliny the Younger and a fundraising effort among local beermakers.

Permit Sonoma seeks $23M to speed fire rebuilds

Faced with processing reconstruction permits for 3,000 burned homes in unincorporated areas, the Board of Supervisors on Monday is set to consider funding an outside plan-check company and bolstering in-house staffing.

Turning off powerlines in extreme weather suggested

Downed powerlines have been suggested in lawsuits as a cause of the October’s wildfires in the North Bay.

Insurers to pay more for fire losses without documentation

Under pressure, many insurance companies have agreed to make additional payments for personal property lost in the October fires in the North Bay without requiring policyholders to fill out a detailed inventory. See what your insurer is doing.

Making construction jobs ‘cool’ again

Whither the 19,000 construction workers for the North Bay wildfire rebuilds? Santa Rosa businessman Lawrence Amaturo pitches a $2 million-plus campaign to make the trades a “cool” and “patriotic” career choice for young adults.

Legislation proposed to address fire insurance woes

“I really do believe that the state has the moral authority to act on this,” said State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa,

Rebuild North Bay names new director

A former aide to a Sonoma County supervisor is the new executive director of the Rebuild North Bay group aiming to coordinate fire-recovery efforts in multiple counties. Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, named to lead the foundation in October, will remain in different role, the new director says.

Sonoma County opening permit center aimed at speeding postfire rebuilds

Sonoma County wants to give victims of the wildfires certainty over how much it will cost and how long it will take to get permits to rebuild in the unincorporated areas. Officials plan to open a special construction permitting center soon, designed to speed that effort.

FEMA housing in surprisingly low demand following October wildfires

Of more than 3,200 victims of the North Bay wildfires who FEMA said were eligible to be considered for temporary public housing, just 189 said they needed it.

Smartt Principles: After the fires, it’s time to talk about employee retention

How have the October wildfires in the North Bay impacted local businesses that are still standing? Columnist Nicole Smartt of Star Staffing explores how local employers and employees are faring with finding housing and managing their finances.

More owners rush to sell scorched Fountaingrove lots

Investors are wading in as homeowners in Santa Rosa’s wildfire-ravaged Fountaingrove neighborhood decide they will not rebuild. The median lot price among listings: $350,000.

Editorial: Now not the time for Santa Rosa to flinch on construction

With thousands of destroyed homes and buildings from the October wildfires, government leaders in the North Bay must stop saying no to construction and start saying yes, writes Brad Bollinger, publisher of North Bay Business Journal.

Napa winery rises from ashes twice

Napa Valley’s 4-decade-old Signorello Estate winery became the worldwide face of the Northern California firestorms, but lessons learned during an epic blaze that shook the local wine world a dozen years ago prepared Signorello for the rebuild.

Blazing towels likely saved Fountaingrove Athletic Club

Fire may have been a friend to Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove Athletic Club, even as the deadly Tubbs firestorm howled around it. Here’s how a bin of towels is thought to have saved the building.

Frey Vineyards rebuilds after Mendocino County wildfire

Frey Vineyards, one of the pioneers of organic and Biodynamic wine, is serendipitously positioned to bounce back quickly after taking a bit hit during Mendocino County’s devastating Redwood Valley fire in October.

North Bay business briefs: Jan. 8, 2018

A wine auction fundraiser in Washington, D.C., supports Redwood Credit Union Community Fund’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund. Also, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Foundation contributes $117,687 for fire relief. Bank of America donates $10,000 to The Epicenter’s Goals Foundation. Santa Rosa Junior College is among 39 organizations to receive a Transforming Youth Recovery grant.

Santa Rosa seeks to speed rebuilding after wildfires

Santa Rosa launches Resilient City Rebuilding Permit Center to speed reconstruction after the October wildfires, and it has serviced more than 550 walk-ins through the first week in January.

Removal of wildfire-damaged trees made easier

California eases regulations for tree removal in Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties, where the October wildfires damaged or killed vegetation.

California official: New laws needed for wildfire insurance

Homeowners in fire zones in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties could see their insurance rates soar or lose coverage altogether. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones wants the Legislature to do something.

How have the fires affected your business?

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board is surveying businesses countywide to gauge the impact of the October wildfires on them.

Video: Homeland Security chief tours North Bay wildfire burn areas

Video: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen visits fire-affected neighborhoods in Sonoma County on Jan. 3 with federal, state and local officials and talks about recovery efforts.

Damaged PG&E equipment found near origins of North Bay fires

California regulators have released previously withheld details in reports filed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. revealing the location of damaged transmission equipment found near the ignition points of the October wildfires.

1st new home rises from ruins of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park

Construction just started in Santa Rosa’s devastated Coffey Park neighborhood to replace a home destroyed by the October wildfires. It’s the first house to be rebuilt there.

North Bay homeowners race to bump up insurance coverage after fires

The policyholders are responding to reports of Sonoma County homeowners who found themselves underinsured by upward of hundreds of thousands of dollars after filing their claims.

Lost assets in the fires? Here’s how to handle the taxes

A Moss Adams tax expert shows victims of the North Bay wildfires how to navigate the IRS claim process. Losses affect businesses differently from individuals.

Red Cross galvanized North Bay fire response

An American Red Cross top local official reflects on what went right and wrong in the response to the deadly October wildfires that raged in five North Bay counties, and what is changing for future crises.

Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove heals the burn

Business resumed in the prominent Santa Rosa neighborhood of Fountaingrove after the wildfires, but life there remains far from normal.

Chloé’s French Café closes in Santa Rosa

After a decade in operation, Chloé’s French Café closes after significant damage in the October wildfires. But the owners have plans for a new location.

Opinion: North Bay housing need’s great, but here’s an opportunity

We have an opportunity to create affordable housing for North Bay renters and homeowners, many of whom are struggling with rising living costs and loss of homes in the wildfires, writes Rachel Ginis of accessory-unit promoter Lilypad Homes.

Marin waives fees for second units after fires

Marin County is encouraging the addition of junior accessory dwelling units to existing homes to increase the supply of housing. Officials noted the dire need after the wildfires.

What’s your risk for mudslides in North Bay fire areas?

Property owners in areas burned by the October wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties are warned to be ready for sudden floods and mudslides from heavy winter rains. New online maps show areas at risk.

2017 Big Stories: Housing rebounds before fires worsen ‘crisis’

Here's one of 2017's biggest North Bay stories that will impact local business in 2018: Home construction in Sonoma, Napa, Solano and other local counties rebounds before fires worsen the housing 'crisis.'

2017 Big Stories: Wildfires redefine North Bay business

Here's one of 2017's biggest North Bay stories that will impact local business in 2018: The deadly, devastating wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties. No other event caused so much disruption to local commerce since the earthquake of 1906 toppled downtown Santa Rosa buildings.

Restaurant group helps out employees

The manager lost her home, car in the October fires.

PG&E stock plunges 13 percent on fire liability worries

Company aims to conserve cash in case courts find liability for North Bay wildfires

Fires turn up big business for attorneys

Attorneys are converging on the North Bay, promoting their services in full-page newspaper ads and in town hall-style meetings. They are sending their own investigators into the field, documenting losses with drones and personalized videos.

Sonoma, Napa hospitality industries feel fires’ after burn

Ripple effects from the wildfires threaten tourism-related businesses.

Builders stake out ground to rebuild Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park

Fire survivors in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood need builders. A number from inside the area and beyond now have stepped forward to offer their services.

Cave saves Napa winery from wildfire

Two of four vintner families whose brands are produced at the Caves at Soda Canyon custom winery lost their homes as the deadly Atlas Peak wildfire raced toward Napa Valley in early October. But the winery itself was shielded from the flames overhead.

Fire victims find they are underinsured

“We are finding the numbers are so grossly insufficient,” said Michael Bidart, a Claremont lawyer who has consulted with more than 200 local residents who lost their homes in the fires.

Mountain of concrete recovered from fires recycled, headed for roadbeds

Unlike other debris heading to area landfills, concrete from driveways and foundations torched in the North Bay wildfires is being crushed and reused.

Top Real Estate Projects: Keysight Technologies, Rohnert Park

The largest of Keysight Technologies’s temporary facilities after the Santa Rosa wildfires wins one of North Bay Business Journal’s Top Real Estate Projects Awards in the Office–Technology category. Here’s more on the project.

Sonoma County prosecutors charge six landlords with price-gouging

As fires destroyed homes, Sonoma County prosecutors allege six landlords illegally increased prices by more than 30 percent. Forty-plus cases are under investigation.

Santa Rosa mayor: Fire recovery should be like nothing seen before

Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey talks with North Bay Business Journal about the city’s ongoing response to the October wildfires.

Insurance claims from fires reach $9B

The October fires have resulted in about $9 billion in insurance claims, according to new data released by the state of California, triple the figure from about a month ago.

FBI task force to crack down on North Bay fire fraud

A group of more than a dozen agencies, including several from Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, will investigate and prosecute fraudulent activity related to the October fires, the FBI announced Tuesday.

When will businesses burned in Santa Rosa fires reopen?

Owners of burned businesses are slowly making repairs to damaged store fronts and destroyed restaurants, painfully visible along Highway 101 in northwest Santa Rosa.

Local nonprofits feel squeezed out by fire fundraising

North Bay nonprofits say they can’t concentrate on end-of-the year appeals, and fundraising has fallen behind, even as donations pour in for fire relief. There is also a fear that donors are burnt out on giving.

Sonoma County fire-displaced ag workers to get $430K

More than 150 Sonoma County agricultural workers and their families displaced by the October fires started getting on Monday the first of $430,000-plus from a recently established housing-recovery fund created by Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation and Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

Sutter Plaza office reopens after fires

Santa Rosa’s Sutter North Bay Health Plaza has begun phasing in services after closing Oct. 9

Fires wipe out work for housekeepers, gardeners, pool cleaners

The October fires destroyed more than 6,000 homes in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, upending the lives of the families who lived in them and the workers whose jobs revolved around them.

Jobs? Construction has plenty

During the Great Recession, Sonoma County dipped to 9,700 construction jobs. In 2014, it slowly climbed back to 11,000. But thousands of new workers are needed in the industry to rebuild thousands of burned homes and build ones previously underway.

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