New members elected a month ago joined Chico’s city council last night, and the body moved ahead with measures aimed at spurring the construction of temporary housing for those displaced by the Camp Fire.
Randall Stone will serve as mayor for the next two years, winning a quick contest after three new city council members were sworn in.
The outgoing members — all conservative — said their goodbyes, and three new members: conservative Kasey Reynolds and Liberals Alex Brown and Scott Huber joined the body.
Despite a heated, and at times acrimonious campaign, the council moved ahead unanimously with a series of emergency ordinances aimed at encouraging construction of small, affordable housing units and allowing a wide range of temporary housing.
The decisions come after the Camp Fire decimated nearby Paradise, obliterating nearly 14,000 housing units and sending as many as 20,000 fire refugees to Chico.
City Manager Mark Orme said officials are doing their best to improvise.
“In City Manager’s courses, there’s no book on ‘when your population grows by 10 or 20 percent in 24 hours. This is just not the norm and we’re writing the book on this.” Orme said.
Officials approved language making it significantly easier to obtain permits for temporary dwelling units in Chico, which includes manufactured homes and RVs. Under the right circumstances, such units could appear in residential, commercial and industrial zones. Permits for such temporary structures would expire after five years.
Separately, Orme said that FEMA has selected a site to place a number of trailers, and he hopes to make a public announcement in upcoming days.
The council also approved a further rollback in development impact fees for so-called accessory dwelling units or A.D.Us, sometimes referred to as mother-in-law units. Several members of the public, including housing activist Ken Fleming, asked the council not to waive a requirement that an owner be somewhere on the premises,
“As soon as you do that, you don’t have an A.U.D., you have a condo.” Fleanng said.
He predicted waiving the requirement would increase neighborhood impacts.
The council left open the option of revisiting and revising both measures. In other council action, Chico, along with the county, Oroville and Paradise to continue exploring an electricity proposal called community choice aggregation. The program offers options for more local control over power generation, and cost customers an estimated 2 percent less than rates charged by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.