Chico Tries to Balance Housing Needs With Fire Risk

Like many California communities, Chico needs to build more housing to accommodate its growing population. But there’s a problem: much of the area is a tinderbox. 

The 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise came extremely close to Chico. It stopped just before a meadow in the Sierra Foothills where developers want to build a new 3,000-home subdivision known as Valley’s Edge. Over the years, other devastating wildfires also come very close to this meadow. The area has been classified as a “moderate” fire risk by CalFire.

The developers say Valley’s Edge would improve the economy, ease the housing shortage, and even act as a potential fire break thanks to the use of state-of-the-art fire-resistant materials. Conservationists say the development will only serve as fuel, putting thousands of people in harm's way and congesting critical escape routes. 

City leaders have been debating the issue for years. Like many communities, Chico is struggling to balance enormous housing needs with a world beset by climate change. Homelessness is on the rise thanks in large part to skyrocketing housing prices driven by a dearth of supply. 

If the project goes through, the Sierra Club’s Grace Mervin said she and other activists will file a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

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