RCC - Archives

ROSS VALLEY FIRE DEPARTMENT STAFF REPORT

For the meeting of October 14, 2020

To: Board of Directors

From: Jason Weber - Fire Chief

SubLect: Homeowners Insurance Non-Renewals & Cancelations

RECOMMENDATION:

Receive staff report regarding challenges homeowners are facing in Marin and California related to fire insurance cancelations / non-renewals.

BACKGROUND:

Many California insurance companies have notified homeowners that they will not be renewing a policy on their home, quick action is required by the homeowner. By law, they have to give you 75-days notice, and you may need that much time to get them to reverse their decision and/or find a replacement policy you can afford.

In most parts of the state, you still have buying options and insurance companies are still competing for your business. But if you live in a brush-heavy or forested area that has been hit by recent wildfires, it may be hard to find a company willing to insure your home. When you find a replacement policy, it will probably cost more and provide less protection than your old policy. It may be through a "non-admitted" insurer. * These types of companies are picking up customers that "admitted" (well-known brand) insurers are dropping.

United Policyholders may be able to help you shop and deal with this unfortunate situation, and they are working on initiatives to fix it. To learn more about the reasons why so many insurance companies are reducing the number of homes they're insuring in parts of California, visit the Advocacy and Action section of uphelp.org.

TRY TO GET YOUR INSURER TO REVERSE ITS DECISION AND RENEW YOU!

• Act quickly! You have a very limited timeline to argue for a decision reversal!

• Contact your local fire department and request a wildfire hazard inspection immediately. They may be able to inspect your property, give you a list of corrections, and then once you complete the required work, write a letter attesting that your property meets fire codes and standards. Note: your property MUST meet defensible space standards to the letter of the law before the fire department will write this letter! You should consider making home hardening upgrades immediately as well.

• Contact your current insurance company and ask them if there are improvements you can make to your home that will help qualify you for a renewal. Give them your best arguments for keeping you as a customer. If you bought your expiring policy through an agent, ask him/her to go to bat for you with the company.

• NOTE: If your insurer did not give you 75 days notice, or their reasons for dropping you seem unfair, seek help fromthe California Department of Insurance (CDI) at 1-800-927-HELP, www.insurance.ca.gov.


DON'T PANIC, START SHOPPING

Contact the insurance agent you've been using or ask trusted sources for recommendations to an "independent" insurance agent. Independent agents have relationships with multiple insurance companies. A "captive" agent that sells for companies like State Farm, Farmers, or Allstate probably can't help you, as they're limited to only one insurance company.

Visit UP's website, www.uohelo.org and click on the "Insurance Finder" link on the right side of the home page. Try using the Match UP Insurance Finder.

Try the California Department of Insurance's shopping tools. They offer a list of CA home insurance companies with toll-free phone numbers, and a list of companies that sell "DIC" (Difference in Conditions) policies that fill gaps in Fair Plan policies. www .insurance.ca.gov

If your best coverage and price option is through a "non-admitted" (also called "surplus lines") insurance company, check their financial strength rating with Demotech, A.M. Best, or another agency before you

buy. This is important. If a non-admitted insurer runs out of money to pay claims, (becomes "insolvent") their customers are not protected by the same safety net*** that "admitted" well-known brands have under them, and the CA Dept. of Insurance has less oversight power over them.

SHOP SMART

Your policy should cover what it would likely cost to rebuild your home in compliance with current building codes if it were to be completely destroyed by a natural or manmade disaster of any kind. But many policies don't. Don't blindly trust that your agent or insurer is selling you a policy that will fully protect your assets. UP surveys show that 2/3 of U.S. homes are underinsured. Shop for a policy that will adequately insure your dwelling for a total loss fire, (including building code upgrades) then add coverage for flood and quake protection if you can afford it. Ask the right questions and take good notes while shopping.

• Aim to insure your property for Replacement Cost Value, not depreciated Actual Cash Value.

• Coverage for building code upgrades and an extended replacement cost rider are worth paying for.

• Your dwelling coverage limit should match local construction costs (per square foot) for a home of similar style, age, and quality, plus an "extended replacement cost" feature for extra protection.

• Choose the highest deductible you feel comfortable with to keep the cost of your coverage manageable.

THE FAIR PLAN IS A LAST RESORT

If you strike out in the "normal" marketplace, you can buy home insurance through the California Fair Plan. Call them at (800) 339-4099). www.cfonet.com The CA FAIR Plan is a state-run home insurance program for people who can't find a better option. Fair Plan policies provide only basic fire protection (no liability or theft) and cost more than a traditional policy. If you end up having to buy a Fair Plan policy, we recommend two things: Shop again in 6 months. New options may be available. And, if you can afford to, add supplemental coverage for what a Fair Plan policy excludes. Not all insurance agents are familiar with these options, so visit www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/105-tvoe/5residential/carriersDICoolicies.cfm for more info.

Discounts are available on the FAIR plans for homeowners who live within nationallv recognized Firewise USA Sit es. FIRESafe MARIN can help you achieve Firewise USA recognition! Marin is the fastest growing Firewise county in thenation!

*"Admitted" insurers are fully regulated by the CA Department of Insurance, and their customers are protected byCIGA, the CA Insurance Guarantee Association if their insurer becomes insolvent (runs out of


money). "Non-admitted" insurers are not.

**With a few exceptions, your insurance company can drop (non-renew) you as long as they give you written notice at least 75 days prior to the date your old policy will expire, and as long as they are following their own guidelines and not discriminating against you. Their guidelines must be objective, have a substantial relationship to the risk of loss, and be applied consistently. Common reasons include wildfire risk, the age or condition ofthe property, lack of defensible space, type of roof, or construction. The 75-day notice must contain the reason or reasons for the non-renewal, the telephone number of the insurer's representatives that handle consumer inquiries or complaints, and a statement that you can have the insurer's nonrenewal decision reviewed by the COi.

***CIGA- the CA Insolvency Guarantee Association pays up to $500k per home if the insurer goes insolvent.

Please notify United Policyholders if you have trouble finding affordable coverage for your property by emailing info @ uphelp.org.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Download a printable version of this information.

YouTube video from United Policy Holders regarding California homeowners insurance prices/issues ht tps: / /www .vout ube.com/ wat ch ?tune cgntinJ.Je=3r&v=O5SMPWVz-RY&feature=emb logo

FISCAL IMPACT:

There is no fiscal impact to provide this report. Homeowners may experience significant cost increases related to homeowner's insurance non-renewals/cancelations.


May 1, 2020 - RCC Firewise Action Plan

READY COUNTRY CLUB FIREWISE COMMITTEE ACTION PLAN – Year 1:

  1. Achieve Firewise recognition and maintain membership.

  2. Provide ongoing information and education to homeowners to help them achieve the above goals. Actions include:

            • Ongoing outreach to all members of the community to encourage their parDcipaDon. ConDnue to build a database of name, address, email and telephone number for all residents. Identify any with special skills or special needs.

            • Implement “Chipper Days” for the community when funding is available.

            • Creation of Country Club website to support education and dissemination of information.

            • Publish Quarterly NewsleTer to all who have opted in, with a special Firewise focus, each to be a different subject.

            • Quarterly community meetings with expert guests (virtual if necessary).

            • Promotion of “Alert Marin.”

            • Identiy and agree highest priority needs for Year 2 Action Plan.

  3. Develop a “Performance Review” for the first year and communicate that to all residents.


READY COUNTRY CLUB FIREWISE COMMITTEE ACTION PLAN – Year 2:

  1. Review Year 1 understand what has worked and what needs greater attention in Year 2.

  2. Move focus in Year 2 from “Education” to specific “Actions” that we recommend. Make this as specific as possible to the geography and conditions of each area so that we prioriDze the most urgent and effective actions that each homeowner can take.

  3. Continue “Chipper Days” as funding permits.

  4. Continue communications with the community through meetings, newsletters and website.

  5. Ask our Community for feedback on what help they need to take the actions that are required.

  6. Aim to achieve visible improvements in the fire safety of the neighborhood.

  7. Develop a “Performance Review” for the year and communicate that to all residents.


READY COUNTRY CLUB FIREWISE COMMITTEE ACTION PLAN – Year 3:

  1. Review effectiveness of the Commitee to date, make any changes necessary to increase effectiveness in Year 3

  2. Continue “Chipper Days” as funding permits.

  3. Continue communications with the community through meetings, newsletters and website.

  4. Highlight “Success Stories” as examples of action that have led to positive changes. Encourage others to follow.

  5. Develop a “Performance Review” for the year and communicate that to all residents.

April 11, 2020 -Request from RCC Committee

Dear Country Club Homeowners,

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey request last week. Some of you had problems with the survey, we apologize for that.

If you did not complete the Survey Monkey survey, we ask that you you either do so now, or fill in the information below and return it to us at: neighbors@readycountryclub.com. If you prefer, you can print it and drop it into the mailbox at 265 Summit Avenue. If you completed a survey at our last Homeowners Meeting, please also complete this survey as questions have changed. Please try to return it by Tuesday April 14, thank you.

We aim to complete and submit our Firewise application this coming week.

Q1: Vegetation Removal:

A major component of wildfire risk reduction is the removal of vegetation (shrubs, limbs, trees, etc.) How much vegetation did you remove in the past year? Please estimate in cubic yards (e.g: green can = 1/3 cubic yard, pickup truck = 2 cubic yards)

…………………………………..cubic yards

Q2: Vegetation Management

How much time in total hours has been invested in vegetation management in the past year? (e.g: installation of hardscaping, replacing combustible mulches, tree and shrub removal, lawn and native grass maintenance etc.).

………..…………………………….hours

Q3: Home Hardening

How much time has been invested home hardening in the past year, in hours (e.g: cleaning vegetation from roof and gutters, upgrading to metal gutters, screening vents, flammable item removal under decks and porches, roof inspection, maintenance or upgrade.)

………………………..…………..hours

Q4: Approximately how much money have you spent in the past year, on:

Chipper costs, disposal $…………….……………..………….

Equipment purchase or rental $………………………………..

Contractors $………………………………………………..…..

Landscaping / DIY $…………………………….……………….

Home hardening $……………………….……………..………..

Other Costs $………………………………..……………………


Thank you and Stay Well

Ready Country Club Committee

January 21, 2020 - RCC Committee Meeting

Minutes

Opening:

A meeting of the committee was convened at 4 pm on January 21, 2020 at the home of Steve and Janice Barlow, 205 Margarita Drive, San Rafael.

Present:

Attending the meeting were:

Steve and Janice Barlow, Margarita Road

Gail David-Tellis, Fairway Drive

Malcolm Davies, Summit Drive

Michael Alvarado, Point San Pedro Drive

Steve and Nancy DeMartini, Fairway Drive

John Hansen, Director, Firewise Liaison (www.firesafemarin.org)

Sean Rule, Fire Inspector-Vegetation Management, San Rafael FireDepartment (sean.rule@cityofsanrafael.org)

Meeting Summary:

The purpose of the meeting was to have John Hansen from FIRESafe Marin outline in more detail the steps required to become a FIREWISE Community.

John started by outlining the objectives of the program. The objectives include reducing risk to life and protecting homes, infrastructure and the environment. Getting to know your neighbors and community resources is an additional benefit of becoming a FireWise Community.

There are eight steps to FIREWISE USA recognition.

1. Form a FIREWISE board/committee: this group will collaborate on developing the assessment and oversee the completion of the annual renewal requirements needed to retain an “in good standing” status

2. Create a WILDFIRE RISK ASSESSMENT: the assessment is usually conducted by the neighborhood committee with help from FIRESafe MARIN and the local fire department. The assessment will be used only to help inform future risk reduction strategies. To prepare for the assessment there is as online Firewise Risk Assessment training. The risk assessment template (www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire- for2019) can be downloaded from the FIRESafe Marin website. One can also review examples of other Marin Community FIREWISE US assessments on the FIRESafe Marin website.

3. Develop an Action Plan: Action plans are a prioritized list of reduction for the participating site, along with suggested homeowner actions and education that participants will strive to complete annually or over a period of year.

4. Conduct educational outreach: Each participating site is required to have a minimum of one wildfire risk reduction educational outreach even or related activity annually.

5. Make a wildfire risk reduction investment. At a minimum, each site is required to invest the equivalent of $25 per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions annually. Your volunteer time and the time spent b homeowner clearing their property counts toward the investment. Also any expenses related to improving wildfire resistance-for example, replacing or upgrading a deck with fire-resistant material or landscaping with the intent of improving defensible space.

6. Application: FIRESafe MARIN will help prepare the application. One can start the application at any point in the overall process by creating a site profile in the FIREWISE USA portal.

There was a discussion about whether or not the fire flow of the Country Club hydrants had been improved under Marin Municipal Water District’s Fire Flow Program. Fire-flow is the term firefighter us to describe how much water can be delivered by a water system through one or more hydrants to fight a fire at a specific location. To meet fire-flow standards, a water distribution system must deliver large amounts of water in a short period of time, whereas for daily use, water systems provide small amounts of water on a continuing basis.

In 1981, in response to the Oakland Fire, Country Club residents worked with the San Rafael Fire Department to put in fire hydrants (see enclosed map). At that time the range of gallons per minute ranged from <500 gallons to >1500 gallons per minute. It is uncertain if this is an adequate fire-flow. Country Club area is not included in the list of projects found on MMWD website

Suggestions for next steps:

It was agreed that next step would be to schedule a neighborhood walk with committee members as well as anyone else in Country Club who is interested, John Hansen (FIRESafe MARIN) and Sean Rule (San Rafael Fire Department) to begin the Wildfire Risk Assessment.

· Steve Barlow to coordinate with everyone a date and time for a neighborhood walk

· Janice agreed to follow up with the fire department, MMWD and/or CC Supervisor regarding fire-flow in CC.

Update:

A community walk with FIRESafe MARIN, San Rafael Fire Department and committee members is scheduled for Monday, January 27 from 10:00am to 12:00pm. All are welcome. Meet at 205 Margarita Drive at 9:50am

December 7, 2019 - Notes of Community Meeting

Dear Country Club Homeowners,

As promised, attached are the informal notes of our meeting on December 7. Information handouts were available from Fire Safe Marin at the meeting, everything can be found at the Fire Safe Marin website, but if you would like a digital copy emailed to you, please ask by emailing us: neighbors@readycountryclub.com.

A few introductory notes of explanation:

  1. Ready Country Club (RCC):

RCC is as an informal group of volunteer Country Club neighbors who want to promote fire safety in the community. RCC is not a Homeowners Association (HOA) and does not plan to levy dues or have rules and regulations. At a future date, Homeowners within the Country Club may wish to re-start the Country Club HOA.

  1. RCC Goal:

We would like the Country Club to achieve Firewise recognition which may have benefits such as free chipping and home insurance discounts. Note that recognition as a Firewise Community will provide us with knowledge about what needs to be done to improve fire safety of our homes and community.

  1. Fire Safe Marin www.firesafemarin.org

This is a non-profit which exists to educate and support Marin Communities in making neighborhoods wildfire safe. As part of that, they support communities to achieve Firewise Status.

  1. Firewise USA https://www.firesafemarin.org/firewise

Firewise USA is a voluntary program that provides a framework to help neighbors get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and communities. Many of our neighbors are already Firewise Communities, including; Loch Lomond Highlands, Dominican / Black Canyon and Glenwood. For Country Club Homeowners who chose not to participate in the Firewise program, please note that there are currently no penalties.Think of Firewise as a source for reference and personal accountability.

  1. Wildfire Tax: https://www.marinij.com/2019/08/13/marin-supervisors-back-fire-prevention-tax-on-march-ballot/

There will be a measure on the March 2020 ballot to create a new property tax to raise $20m annually. A Joint Powers Authority (JPA) will be created which includes most of Marin (except Tiburon) to undertake fire prevention measures in Marin. We should have received a flyer about the tax measure in the mail yesterday. If you did not, we would be happy to email a copy to you, just ask.

  1. Mandatory Fire-Prevention Requirements.

While there are no current requirements for Country Club homeowners to comply with fire-safety recommendations, it is becoming increasingly likely that such measures will be promoted by the fire authorities.

At the meeting, we handed out a form inviting people to assist in data gathering and development of the Ready Country Club Firewise Assessment. A copy is included below. If you are able to help, please complete a form and return it to us.

We wish a very happy and fire-safe holiday season to all neighbors.


Ready Country Club (RCC)

Informal Notes of Meeting, Saturday December 7, 2019

Introduction:

Thank you to everyone who braved the wet weather to join us for an introductory meeting of the Ready Country Club. The meeting was moved to the Cabana at San Pedro Cove because of the weather, thanks to John Lenser for arranging this. Thanks also to Janice Barlow and Gail David-Tellis for providing refreshments.

The purpose of the meeting was:

  1. To solicit interest in Ready Country Club and,

  2. To provide an introduction to “Fire Safe Marin” and “Firewise USA.” www.firesafemarin.com.

Meeting:

Steve Barlow, Acting Chairman of RCC provided an introduction to the group and its current status. With a concern for the fire danger in our area, five neighbors came together to try to raise the issue in our community and to gain “Firewise” status for our neighborhood. Steve introduced the five, himself, Janice Barlow, Gail David-Tellis, Michael Alvarado and Malcolm Davies.

Next, Steve introduced Stuart Lum who had been running the Country Club Homeowners Association which was formed after the Oakland Hills fires in 1992. Stuart managed it for about ten years but had stopped when he became too busy and could not find someone to take over. Stuart provided some history and noted the success of the Association in bringing upgraded Fire Hydrants to the Country Club area. Essential for fighting fires, these remain a valuable asset, but, he noted, some need the area around them to be cleared. Stuart had also organized a chipping service which visited each house requesting it. Stuart also advised us that modest funds still exist from the Association.

Steve then introduced Cece McGraw who lives in our community and self-published a book: “San Rafael Country Club History: 1900-2018.” Cece gave us highlights of the colorful history of our neighborhood. Her book is a must-read for anyone interested in local history, it is available for purchase at $20 per copy from ccmcgraw@aol.com.

Our main speaker was John Hanson, Director and Firewise Liaison of Fire Safe Marin. John provided a history of Fire Safe Marin which was also started after the Oakland Hills fire as Marin presented a similar fire danger. John informed us of the upcoming ballot initiative for a wildfire tax and encouraged everyone to support it.

John said that we have been lucky not to have experienced a major fire which is a natural occurrence throughout California. We are located in the “Urban Wildfire Interface” (UWI), undergrowth and vegetation has accumulated over many years, making our neighborhood fire prone. John explained the different types of fire but emphasized that ember storms are the primary danger as burning embers can be blown for miles.

Many lessons have been learned from the Paradise fire. 54% of homes built after 2008 survived, while only 22% of older homes survived. This is due to improved building codes which made newer houses more fire-resistant. However, there is still a lot that can be done to make older homes safer.

John identified China Camp as a potential source of fire to our community as it was upwind of us on the highest fire danger days. He warned us to be extra-vigilant on “Red Flag Days.” There was also a discussion on preparations to evacuate and evacuation routes. We agreed to invite someone with specific knowledge of our area and evacuation knowledge, to a future meeting. We do know that to evacuate, we should always go downhill (not up) and should plan to congregate in areas such as Andy’s Market or one of the schools. John emphasized the need to not only be prepared to evacuate, but to practice evacuation as the process may take longer than anticipated without practice. Another lesson from previous fires is to close your garage door as you evacuate so that the contents of your garage do not catch fire.

John also discussed the benefits of becoming a Firewise Community, including the opportunity to get to know neighbors so that we can help one another. The key benefit of the program is that we will all become wiser about what we can do to save our homes from fire.

While insurance companies are withdrawing from high risk areas, Firewise status could lead to premium reductions. We may also have access to grants which can help with free chipping services.

The next steps for us to become a Firewise Community is for volunteers to complete a Site Assessment of the neighborhood. There are standard forms for this, and John offered to help us with the process. The assessment involves driving the neighborhood and noting conditions, it does not require entry into any property.

Finally, we held a Q&A period ending with Steve thanking John for providing us with his expertise and support.

NEXT:

The committee will plan the Firewise Assessment in the coming weeks and will keep everyone informed by email.

November 14, 2019 - RCC Update

Hello Country Club Neighbors,

Thank you for your interest in joining us to create a FIREWISE community.

We met last night to discuss the next steps and agreed to hold a meeting of all interested neighbors as soon as it can be arranged. We are tentatively looking at the first week in December and will inform you as soon as we have the speaker and venue confirmed.

We hope that you will be able to join us.

Thank you,

Steve Barlow, Janice Barlow, Michael Alvarado, Gail David-Tellis, Malcolm Davies

Please encourage your neighbors to participate.

November 13, 2019 - RCC Committee Meeting

Opening:

A meeting of the committee was convened at 5:30 pm on November 13, 2019 at the home of Steve and Janice Barlow, 205 Margarita Drive, San Rafael.

Present:

Attending the meeting were:

Steve and Janice Barlow, Margarita Drive

Gail David-Tellis, Fairway Drive

Malcolm Davies, Summit Drive

Michael Alvarado, North San Pedro Drive

Meeting Summary:

Steve Barlow started the meeting with a review of the recent spending by the committee. $176 was spent on the stamps, $78 on envelopes and red pens, and $46 on registering the domain “Ready Country Club”. All expenses were reimbursed by the Country Club’s earlier Home Owners Association’s Bank of Marin account.

Malcolm reported on the results (see attached report) from our November 7th mailing (see attached letter) to 289 Country Club residents. Prior to the mailing, 27 households (30 individuals) had responded to Malcolm’s earlier neighborhood network letter. The mailing added 23 households (40 individuals) A total of 50 households (70 individuals) are interested in attending an event related to becoming a FireWise Community. This represents 1/6th of the County Club residents.

Janice summarized what information she was able to find regarding County Club

(see attached). Most, if not all, of Country Club is in the Wildland Urban Interface. (WUI) which places us at risk from wild fires. The WUI is defined as any area where structures and other human developments meet or intermingle with wildland, i.e., vegetation fuels, the shrubs, trees and grasses that make Marin’s hills so beautiful.

We are not on the CAL FIRE’s very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ) list. Places in Marin on that list are Mill Valley, Larkspur and Corte Madera. Those areas have received the majority of grants given by FireSafe which gets a lot of money for vegetation management from a variety of sources. None of the grants have provided any services east of the highway.

Malcolm cautioned that we do not want to increase the visibility of Country Club’s risk for insurance reasons.

Templates for doing a risk assessment and developing an action plan were circulated among the group. Examples of other neighborhoods (Dominican and Glenwood) FireWise applications were also circulated. It was agreed that we should work to complete the process of becoming a FireWise Community,

Suggestions for next steps:

It was agreed the next step would be to hold a meeting/event for those who responded to the letter. It was decided to have, if possible, the event the first week of December, preferably on Saturday, December 7th or Sunday, December 8th, mid-day.

· Janice agreed to contact FireWise staff regarding the availability of speakers to come to the event during the first week in December

· Michael offered to hold the event at his house since parking is easy.

· Malcolm will respond to residents on his e-mail list and let them know we are planning an event the first week in December. Janice will let Malcolm know the exact date so he can send a follow-up e-mail.

· Gail and Janice will coordinate the food for the event.

· Steve will develop a small survey (using questions from the FireWise Assessment) for the people who attend the event. Also, it would be a good way to find out if any of the attendees have specific skills/resources that would contribute to the committee and/or the FireWise application process. We might want to include a question such as “Are any of your neighbors are disabled and would need help during an evacuation?”

We are still unsure of what the boundaries of County Club. There are many maps out there that show different boundaries for the area.

· Gail said she would go to the California Room at the Library to see if they have a definitive map of the neighborhood.

One of the Country Club residents, Cece McGraw, has written a History of Country Club Area: 1900-2018. A copy of the monograph is in the Civic Center Library.

Janice agreed to contact Cece to see if she might come to the event to let attendees know about the history. Also, Janice will find out if it can be purchased or if Cece might give it to attendees as a marketing strategy.