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From housing crisis to fire crisis: S.F.’s exodus led many to new conundrum – San Francisco Chronicle

Lesley Estes has been waking up at 5 a.m. These days. Armed with a weed whacker, a pull noticed and …….

Lesley Estes has been waking up at 5 a.m. These days. Armed with a weed whacker, a pull noticed and sprinkler methods on her roof and backyard, she spends every morning battling again the wilderness surrounding her house To shield it from wildcoronary hearths.

“That’s The important skinnyg skinnyg, You’ve your zones,” Estes said.


There’s the 5-foot zone, which requires her to clear pine needles, dry leaves and Anyskinnyg ignitable away from her house. Then there’s the 30-foot zone, wiskinny which all vegetation Ought to be correctly spaced and coronary hearth resistant. Lastly there’s the 100-foot zone, which requires Estes To reduce off low-mendacity limbs of all timber wiskinny that distance from her house, and To Make constructive the timber that do exist are correctly spaced out.

A former watershed supervisor for The metropolis of Oakland, dubbed Creek Woman by then-Mayor Jerry Brown Wiskinny the late Nineteen Nineties, Estes, now 59, spent 25 years in metropolis authorities earlier than retiring Initially of 2019. After the pandemic upended her submit-retirement journey plans, she purchased her house in Oakland and relocated to Nevadverta City final October — two months after the Jones Fire destroyed shut toly two dozen buildings And compelled 4,000 residents of surrounding Nevadverta County to evacuate.

Her new house, 700 sq. ft huger than the one she left behind, overlooks a sprawling valley scattered with tall timber and coated in yellowing grass. On Thursday afternoon, smoke from the Dixie Fan the flames of north forged A skinny bluish veil over this valley, infusing the 95-diploma air with soot. The Dixie Fire hadvert by then Discover your self to be the sixth hugest coronary hearth in California’s recorded historic previous.

“It simply started coming in yesterday,” Estes said, gesturing in the direction of the smoke. “You’ll miss the blue skies that we’ve hadvert for pretty A the placeas.”

Decrease than Each week after Dixie Fire smoke started bcompletely differenting Estes, ancompletely different primary blaze, the River Fire, started Barely over 10 miles from her house. By Thursday, it hadvert burned Greater than 2,400 acres of land, destroyed Greater than 50 buildings And compelled hundreds from their houses in shut toby cities like Colfax.

The rising value of dwelling in Nevadverta City, left, and Grass Valley, proper, has triggered many longer-time period residents to relocate to extra pretty priced areas Similar to Mendocino and completely different states.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Estes’ migration matches Right into a regular pandemic-period pattern. Irritated by the extreme value of dwelling in metropolis areas, Freed from in-particular person work requirements and enticed by the prospect of proudly owning A a lot hugeger house — Or merely proudly owning A house In any respect — many Californians are shifting away from cities like San Francisco and Oakland, and into small cities like Nevadverta City and its neighbor, Grass Valley.

A Chronicle evaluation of U.S. Postal Service everlasting change-of-tackle knowledge statewide found that ZIP codes with any wildland-metropolis interface, outlined as areas the place people stay in or shut to wildland vegetation, noticed an unusually huge Quantity Of latest residents in 2020. Particularly, internet migration To these ZIP codes jumped by 40,000 in 2020 in contrast with 2019.


In some areas, such As a Outcome of the Grass Valley-Nevadverta City area, the sudden arrival of metropolis dwellers has jacked up house prices and squeezed the housing market, Jim Flaherty, a Realtor and enhancement agency proprietor, informed The Chronicle.

“It’s dramatically enhanced ever since COVID started, this inflow that simply Sort of took off,” Flaherty said.

Based mostly on Zillow knowledge, house values have enhanced by 29% Wiskinny the Grass Valley-Nevadverta City area As a Outcome of The start of 2020, in contrast with a 1% enhance in San Francisco. Homes Wiskinny the area spend simply 19 to 30 days Out there on the market on common, he advertded. If no new houses acquired here Out there on the market, Flaherty said, inventory would drain dry wiskinny a month.

Nonetheless, at about $530,000, The typical house in Grass Valley is significantly cheaper than in San Francisco, the place The regular house goes For shut toly $1.5 million.