Regarding the July 17 guest perspective “SB 9: Bane of San Mateo County,” the author dismisses legitimate concerns about this reckless bill.

Wildfire risk does not vanish merely because one describes development as “urban infill.” Senate Bill 9’s expansive definition of urban includes the suburban area of Santa Rosa where the 2017 Tubbs Fire incinerated 3,000 homes. SB 9 would change zoning there to promote four homes per lot, with 4-foot setbacks. It is well known that closely-spaced housing is dangerous in wildfire risk areas, because of structure-to-structure fire spread and clogged escape routes. In high-risk areas, the National Fire Protection Association and Firewise USA call for 30-foot setbacks. SB 9 exempts high-risk areas for that reason — but only if they are in unincorporated state responsibility areas, not in cities and towns.

The author seems to think it obvious that the state needs 2.3 million new homes in the next eight years. California already suffers from catastrophic wildfire, rolling power blackouts, water rationing and road gridlock. With California’s average household size of three, building that many homes would add almost 7 million people, the equivalent of adding a new Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose. Is that what California needs and its current residents want?

Neal Mielke

Los Altos Hills

Recommended for you

(4) comments


Dear Neal, my intent was not to dismiss the risk of wildfires, my intent was to clarify that you can't use a strawman argument against the bill and dismiss its merits through fearmongering with wildfires. Also, the housing that is needed is for the people already living on top of each other, in cars, on someone's couch, or in a tent on the street AND for growth. People born 20+ years ago are going to need housing once they leave the nest. Stating that we're adding the population of an entire city is simply false. -Rudy Espinoza Murray


If the theory is that in wild fire areas we shouldn't build then in areas that burned in a wild fire shouldn't be allowed to rebuild. Yet, the AIA changes up in the Tubbs fire area have been substantial and they are making markedly better design choices for more resilient structures. If Los Altos Hills is in danger of such a wild fire, perhaps there should be a moratorium on ALL building permits there. The entire town should engage in a managed retreat from the fire risk and updates, additions, or modernizations to homes there should be disallowed. Such statements are as preposterous as the premise of the letter writers suppositions.

Terence Y

Thank you for your letter, Mr. Mielke. Many letters are printed with pie-in-the-sky ideas, but when it comes down to details and implementation, there aren’t any. Thanks for pointing out several details that haven’t been addressed.


Well those 7 million you quote are stuck in their cars trying to get to the Peninsula to their jobs and to service Peninsula residents. And my guess is that the writer was against housing before the wildfire concerns grew.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for visiting the Daily Journal.

Please purchase an Enhanced Subscription to continue reading. To continue, please log in, or sign up for a new account.

We offer one free story view per month. If you register for an account, you will get two additional story views. After those three total views, we ask that you support us with a subscription.

A subscription to our digital content is so much more than just access to our valuable content. It means you’re helping to support a local community institution that has, from its very start, supported the betterment of our society. Thank you very much!