County of Santa Cruz Fire Recovery Permit Center

Firefighters make a stand in the backyard of a home in front of the advancing CZU August Lightning Complex Fire Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Boulder Creek, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The CZU Lightning Complex fires erupted on August 16, 2020, the result of a thunderstorm that produced close to 11,000 bolts of lightning and started hundreds of fires throughout California. These lightning strikes initially started fires separately known as the Warnella Fire near Davenport, the Waddell Fire near Waddell Creek, as well as three fires which would merge with them to become conflagration now known as the CZU Complex Fire destroying approximately 1,490 buildings. In response to the CZU Complex Fires the County of Santa Cruz implemented a Recovery Permit Center (RCP), a resource dedicated to rebuilding after the fire. In order to accelerate its efforts, the County Planning Department outsourced the fire-recovery permitting efforts to the Pleasanton-based consulting company 4Leaf, Inc. This article outlines the goals and objectives of the Recovery Permit Center (RCP) and it’s procedures, particularly as they continue to evolve. Continue reading

Your Discretionary Permit on the Central Coast: The California Coastal Commission

The California Coastal Commission is a state agency with quasi-judicial regulatory oversight over land use and public access in the California coastal zone. The Commission’s mission is “To protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline”. The Commission was established in 1972 by voter initiative via Proposition 20, initiated in part in response to the controversy surrounding the development of Sea Ranch, a planned coastal community in Sonoma County. Sea Ranch and other similar coastal projects of that era prompted the formation of activist groups whose efforts eventually led to putting Proposition 20 on the ballot.

Development Defined:
Development activities are broadly defined to include construction of buildings, divisions of land, and activities that change the intensity of use of land. Development usually requires a Coastal Development Permit from either the Coastal Commission or local government. The Coastal Zone is described as the area from the Mean High Tide Line to a distance of between a couple of hundred feet in urban areas, to up to several miles in rural areas.
The Commission is the primary agency which issues Coastal Development Permits. However, once a local agency puts in place a Local Coastal Program (LCP) certified by the Commission, that local agency takes over the responsibility for issuing Coastal Development Permits. A Local Coastal Program (LCP) is composed of a Land Use Plan and an Implementation Plan. A Land Use Plan details the Land Uses permissible within the local jurisdiction’s area, specifying the general policies applicable to each Land Use. The Implementation Plan is responsible for implementing the policies contained in the Land Use Plan. The Implementation Plan is generally a part of a city’s zoning ordinance.

Coastal Zone Regulation, County of Santa Cruz:
In Santa Cruz County this zone extends about five miles inland from the North Coast. From Natural Bridges to 41st Avenue in Capitola, it extends about 0.6 miles inland. From Capitola to the south County boundary, it extends to Highway One.
Within this Zone, any person who wishes to do any sort of land development must obtain a Level 5 development permit. “Development” includes:
• Construction, reconstruction, alteration, or demolition.
• Grading, removing, placement, and extraction of earth material.
• Subdivision and minor land division.
• Change in the density or intensity of land use.
• Harvesting major vegetation, except for agriculture and timber harvesting.
Coastal Commission proceeding in the County of Santa Cruz are administered as Level-V application and heard in Public Hearing by the Zoning Administrator. For more information see:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Santa Cruz:
The City of Santa Cruz has a fully certified local coastal program. Applications are processed either by administrative review or, if necessary, before the City’s Planning Commission. For more information go to:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Capitola:
The City of Capitola has a fully certified local coastal program. Applications are processed through the Planning Department’s discretionary permit process administered by the City’s Department of Community Development and if necessary, heard by the Planning Commission. Additional information go to:

Coastal Zone Regulation in Monterey County:
The Local Coastal Plan for the County of Monterey was written in conjunction with a citizen’s advisory committee and adopted by the Board of Supervisors as part of the the County’s Zoning Ordinance. Because the County of Monterey’s Coastal Plan has been certified by the State of California Coastal Commission, the County is authorized to issue Coastal Permits. Implementation is through the County’s Regional Management Agency (RMA):

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Marina:
The City of Marina has a fully certified local coastal program. For information about Marina’s local coastal land use plan go to:

Coastal Zone Regulation in Sand City:
Sand City has a fully certified local coastal program. For information go to:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Seaside:
City of Seaside has recently implemented a local coastal program in accordance with California Coastal Commission requirements:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Monterey:
City of Monterey has recently implemented a local coastal program in accordance with California Coastal Commission requirements:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Pacific Grove:
The City of Pacific Grove does not currently have a local coastal program in place. Coastal permit applications within City limits are referred to the regional California Coastal Commission. The City has an implementation plan located at:

Coastal Zone Regulation in City of Carmel:
The City of Carmel has a fully certified local coastal program. Carmel-By-The-Sea’s Local Coastal Program (LCP) was certified by the Coastal Commission in 2004. The link to the City’s Coastal Land Use Plan is at:

A Guide to Gypsum Wallboard

Drywall is a construction material used to create walls and ceilings. It’s also used to create many design features, including eaves, arches and other architectural specialties. It’s quick and easy to install, incredibly durable, and requires only simple repairs when damaged. In the commercial building world, drywall is used to wrap columns to conceal steel beams and is an easy and inexpensive way to top off masonry walls above ceilings. Drywall is also used to add fire resistance at walls and ceilings, containing the spread of fire so people can evacuate safely during an emergency. Continue reading

Tile Flooring 101: Types of Tile Flooring

Tile flooring is manufactured from a variety of materials such as clay, stone, metal, terrazzo, and quartz. Each type of tile flooring has its own defining characteristics. Generally speaking, the two most commonly used types of tile flooring are ceramic and natural stone. Continue reading

What is Construction 3D Printing?

Construction 3D printing refers to various technologies that use 3D printing as the method to fabricate entire buildings or parts of buildings. There are a variety of 3D printing methods used at construction scale, with the main ones being extrusion (concrete/cement, wax, foam, polymers) and powder bonding (polymer bond, reactive bond, sintering). 3D Printing advantages include faster construction, lower labor costs, increased complexity and/or accuracy, greater integration of function, and less waste produced. Continue reading

Mind-Altering Affordable Housing Ideas from Around the World

Within the context of an ongoing global affordable-housing crisis, communities across the world are looking at ways to contend with the issue. What can be done to provide affordable housing? The book “Emerging Ideas in Architecture & Design”, produced by Archhive Books in the U.K. includes case studies, interviews, and results from numerous design competitions focused on solutions to affordable housing. There are some many interesting, creative, and mind-altering ideas. Here are but a few. Continue reading

10 Eco-Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction

Homes have always made use of natural materials. But these days you can find many products and techniques incorporating tried and true materials in surprising ways. Many of these techniques were used historically and are making a come back. In fact, the percentage of construction firms expecting to have more than 60% of their projects certified green has grown from 16% in 2016, to 32% in 2018 to upwards of 45% by 2021. With more people building green, more sources are also developing innovative, green materials to take advantage of this growing market opportunity. Continue reading

The World’s Tallest Wood Building

Mjøstårnet in Brumunddal, Norway, has been verified as the world’s tallest timber building by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The 280-foot-high tower was built using cross-laminated timber (CLT), a pioneering material that allows architects to build tall buildings from sustainable wood. Continue reading

What Is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable architecture is a general term that refers to buildings that are designed to limit humanity’s impact on the environment. An eco-friendly approach to modern day building encompasses every aspect of the planning and construction process. This includes the choice of building materials; the design and implementation of heating, cooling, plumbing, waste, and ventilation systems; and the integration of the built environment into the natural landscape. Continue reading

New Ultra-white Paint Reflects to Cool Buildings Even in Bright Sunlight

Scientists have developed a white paint that cools below the temperature of its ambient surroundings even under direct sunlight. Their research, published in Cell Reports Physical Science journal, demonstrates a radiative cooling technology that could be used in commercial paints, could be less expensive to manufacture, and that passively reflects 95.5% of sunlight that reaches its surface back into outer space. In contrast, commercial “heat rejecting paints” currently on the market only reflect 80%-90% of solar irradiation and cannot achieve below-ambient temperatures. Continue reading