Santa Paula Times

Weed abatement: Property owners become better educated

July 18, 2007
Santa Paula News

With the drought, soaring heat and brush dried to almost-zero moisture content, fire is of particular concern.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesWith the drought, soaring heat and brush dried to almost-zero moisture content, fire is of particular concern. And so is weed abatement, although two Santa Paula Fire Department officials said that property owners have continued to be cooperative in clearing their properties.Or almost all owners. “There’s still one or two lots that haven’t been cleared,” with the clock ticking towards the city taking control of the situation, said Fire Chief Rick Araiza.“It’s been going pretty good this year,” Assistant Chief Kevin Fildes said Wednesday. “This year I have only sent out nine letters for people to clear their lots, and all of them are done except for a couple. I just sent out one today... I spoke to the property owner,” who confirmed receipt of past weed abatement letters, “but he has not taken care of it so he’s getting a two-day notice” that the city will correct the violation.Weed abatement is a long process with letters sent out in advance, a 10-day notice to clear property and “then a registered letter informing them that the property will be cleared” on a specific date by the city if compliance is not met. Asst. Chief Fildes said that having the city take care of the property is a pricey proposition.
If the city takes action the owner is not only liable for any clearing costs, but also a $300 city administration charge. In addition, a lien is filed against the property for the costs “so they’ll have to pay it that way... the clean up is the expensive part,” with an average size lot costing as much $1,000 for labor and haul away.Sparkuhl Ranch had been a particular concern because of the dead orchard trees on the property that stretches behind Cliff Drive. “We had them widen the defensible space to about 100 feet, taking it down to the dirt” to allow a fire buffer zone between the property and Cliff Drive residences. “That way, if a fire does start back there, the homes are not near any threat and it gives us ample space” for firefighting, noted Asst. Chief Fildes.Santa Paulans have become more cooperative with weed abatement mandates, said Chief Araiza. “They’re doing much better as far as compliance... and people are more aware” of fire dangers. More building on the hillsides of Santa Paula have eliminated several empty lots that were problematic in the past.“People are seeing what happened” during fires, where homes are lost due to a lack of weed abatement that would have created defensible space around their homes. “They’re getting a little more educated about what they need to do to protect their property, and most people are wanting to taken care of the problem,” noted Chief Araiza. “It’s really gotten better.”