March 14, 2021
Dear President Koenes:
I am writing you about something of vital interest to all of Tahoe Donner’s homeowners. It deserves the attention of TD’s senior management and the board of directors within the next two weeks.
Below is a link to an article from the March 12, 2020, issue of the Sierra Sun weekly, entitled, “Proposed Insurance Rules Would Give Property Owners Access to Wildfire Risk Score,” pertaining to the continued availability of fire insurance in Sierra Nevada communities like Truckee, including Tahoe Donner. (https://www.sierrasun.com/news/proposed-insurance-rules-would-give-property-owners-access-to-wildfire-risk-score/)
The article indicates that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has proposed adoption of new state regulations that will require insurance companies to provide wildfire risk scores for property owners. The draft regulations provide that such scores must take into account a homeowner’s actions to create defensible space and fire-harden his or her structure from wildfire, plus provide time for the homeowner to implement such mitigation measures. Tahoe Donner should publicly support their adoption.
For the past several years Tahoe Donner has annually allocated significant financial resources to make our community’s open space and forested common areas more fire safe and is continuing to do so. In addition, TD homeowners are being required to remove flammable vegetation and tree branches near their homes, keep trees on the property properly limbed to reduce “ladder fuels,” plus remove downed branches and woody materials. These requirements are being enforced by Tahoe Donner as part of our community’s CC&Rs and can result in hefty fines for noncompliance. For the past several fire seasons, TD has also prohibited homeowners and renters from burning outdoor wood and charcoal fires, and vigorously enforces this ban.
In 2019, my wife and I removed 16 trees on our property that had been flagged by the TD Forestry Department as “dead” or “dying,” posing a wildfire hazard, plus to generally improve forest health. We also were required to trim limbs and branches from a number of our healthy trees. Despite undertaking similar measures on their own properties, in recent years numerous TD homeowners have experienced cancellation of their fire insurance policies. They have been forced to endure huge spikes in their premiums and deductibles, with much less coverage, from alternative providers.
The TD community represents over $3 billion in value and maintains a well-regarded wildfire mitigation program, but it is unclear what — if any — insurance benefit this delivers to its homeowners. Large-scale collective action is urgently needed to maintain insurance coverage at reasonable rates.
For these reasons, I urge the board of directors and the TD management team to support the regulatory reform effort now being pursued by State Insurance Commissioner, plus proactively engage in this process. On March 30th, the Commissioner will be holding public workshops on the wildfire risk score regulations. On April 6th, Lara will be completing rate filing regulations.
Because the Tahoe Donner Association is one of the largest HOA’s in the region, our community is an influential player and needs to be engaged in this effort. I am also bringing the issue to the attention of the TD General Manager. I urge that the board of directors consider supporting the proposed state regulations at its March 26th meeting and make their adoption a priority. I, along with other TD homeowners, would be pleased to discuss this matter with you at your convenience.