Santa Rosa easing construction noise limits to speed up Tubbs Fire rebuilding

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to Building a Better Bay Area. One of the big issues facing residents is housing, especially in areas still rebuilding from fire damage.

In the North Bay, both victims and the government are still rewriting the rules on how to rebuild entire neighborhoods.

Santa Rosa leaders are considering a noisy way to speed up the rebuilding process from the devastating Tubbs Fire: easing time restrictions on construction noise, allowing work as early as 5 am and as late as 9 pm in some circumstances.

It's another of those issues no one anticipated.

Most insurance policies provide homeowners with living expenses, including rent, for two years after a fire. In most circumstances, that would be long enough.

But when thousands of homes burned, some of which haven't even begun reconstruction yet, in the North Bay Firestorm zone, that's a looming crisis.

As Larry and Sally Keiser showed us through the framed, but not covered walls of their house in Coffey Park, she put it succinctly.

"What do you face in October?" I asked.

"Homelessness."

October-- that's when State Farm stops paying rent, and they'll begin doing so on their own if the rebuild of their house does not finish on time.

This region has many homeowners facing the same deadline.

"It's too big. Too many people fighting for the same resources and it will take a while," said Dave Cully of Fountaingrove.

"Whatever it takes to get us through this disaster," said Sally.

Now, the City of Santa Rosa has stepped in to speed up the process.

"We are doing something that would normally take five years-- rebuilding a city. And we're trying to do it in two," said Gabe Osburn of Santa Rosa Development Services. "We need to be nimble."

With so many houses approaching the insurance deadline, the city has eased restrictions on construction noise, allowing work as early as 5 am and as late as 9 pm in some circumstances, though frankly, contractors like Mike Williams tell us the city had not been enforcing those rules, anyway.

"The only difference is it's okay now. Before, people did it anyway."

But now, it's a policy in a region where every cut piece of wood, every pounded nail, beings people closer to being whole again. What might be noise to one person has become beautiful sound to another.

"To me, it is the heartbeat of coming back to our neighborhood," said Larry Keiser.

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