Defensible Space Work Plan

In the face of California’s recent wildfire season, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is enforcing more stringent Defensible Space requirements in neighborhoods adjacent to wilderness areas. According to OCFA, these requirements help to protect the community in the event of a wildfire. As SAMLARC owns and maintains property adjacent to wilderness areas, SAMLARC has developed a Defensible Space Work Plan to address the OCFA requirements. 

 

For questions regarding the Defensible Space Work Plan or Perimeter Defensible Space Master Plan, please contact Candice Fullenkamp, Community Executive Officer, at 949-709-0015 or candice.fullenkamp@fsresidential.com.

June 17 - Coto De Caza Drive


Beginning June 17, 2019, SAMLARC’s professional landscape service providers will be working on the SAMLARC-owned landscaping slopes along Coto de Caza Drive at Santa Rosa. The landscape crews will be removing plant material from these slopes per OCFA guidelines. The clearing work is anticipated to take approximately six weeks to complete. During this time, homeowners can expect the following activity:

  • SAMLARC owned and maintained landscaping will be modified within 100 feet of the property line
  • The area will be inspected for nests prior to work commencement
  • Landscaping crews will use motorized equipment to trim and remove plant material
  • Groundcover that exceeds 24” in height will be removed or trimmed per OCFA Defensible Space specifications
  • Trees will be pruned and/or removed under the supervision of an arborist to maintain sufficient distance between trees
​The landscape modification will focus on the Acacia plants on the east and west sides of Coto de Caza Drive. The area will be inspected for nests and protected areas before clearing work begins. Following completion of the clearing work (approximately six weeks), the area will be added to a replanting schedule (anticipated to conclude within two weeks). The entirety of the Coto de Caza Drive project is anticipated to be completed within 6-8 weeks. For questions regarding the Coto de Caza Drive clearing work, please visit SAMLARC.org/projects for updates. You may also contact George Blair, Assistant General Manager, at 949-709-0014 or george.blair@fsresidential.com.




Overview of SAMLARC Defensible Space Work Plan


SAMLARC's Defensible Space Work Plan includes seven zones identified by OCFA for plant material removal and replacement according to OCFA Vegetation Management Guidelines. Over the course of 2019, SAMLARC landscaping crews will be removing plant material from these zones to comply with OCFA’s requirements. These areas include:

  • Santa Margarita Parkway at La Purisima

  • Rose Canyon (side slopes adjacent to property lines)

  • Los Portillos (rear perimeter)

  • Blufftop Trail

  • Arroyo Maintenance Corporation Perimeter

  • Coto de Caza Drive at Santa Rosa

  • Sausalito Slope (rear perimeter)

All homeowners adjacent to these areas will receive notification prior to the start of the work. During this time, homeowners can expect the following activity:

  • SAMLARC owned and maintained landscaping will be modified within 100 feet of the property line

  • The area will be inspected for nests prior to work commencement

  • Landscaping crews will use motorized equipment to trim and remove plant material

  • Groundcover that exceeds 24” in height will be removed or trimmed per OCFA Defensible Space specifications

  • Trees will be pruned and/or removed under the supervision of an arborist to maintain sufficient distance between trees

  • The area will be scheduled for replanting 30 days following removal

The cost for compliance with the more stringent OCFA standards is projected to be $648,000 for 2019. It is anticipated that OCFA will continue its inspection efforts this year, which could pose an additional cost to the Association this year or next year. In addition to the Defensible Space Work Plan, SAMLARC is developing a Perimeter Defensible Space Master Plan. This Plan would call for all SAMLARC property abutting a wildland area to meet the stringent OCFA requirements.




April 23 - OCFA Discusses Defensible Space Requirements


Californians enjoy beautiful weather nearly year-round, and Rancho Santa Margarita is no exception. However, California’s climate and landscape also provide extensive fuel for wildfires. SAMLARC is committed to the safety of its Members and their property. As part of that commitment, SAMLARC is working with the Orange County Fire Authority to ensure its property abutting wilderness areas adheres to OCFA’s Defensible Space requirements.

Like many master-planned communities, SAMLARC and its professional landscape service providers maintain community landscaping according to Fuel Modification Standards. However, in light of the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, OCFA has also elected to enforce more stringent Defensible Space Standards. These Standards are targeted at communities adjacent to wildland and are designed to reduce the risk of wildfires throughout the community.

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, SAMLARC and other master-planned community representatives met with the Orange County Fire Authority to discuss the Defensible Space Standards. The meeting was facilitated by the Community Associations of Rancho (CAR) in order to discuss clarification of the requirements, enforcement, and compliance processes. As SAMLARC and surrounding communities have embarked on bringing landscaping into compliance with Defensible Space requirements, certain challenges have been identified, including: out-of-budget expenses, unrealistic compliance deadlines, legal ramifications, and certification of compliance.

Representatives from SAMLARC, Trabuco Highlands, Dove Canyon, Robinson Ranch, Laguna Niguel Summit, and Rancho Cielo, and Walden attended the meeting. Fire Marshal and Assistant Fire Chief Lori Smith, as well as Assistant Fire Marshal Nick Pivaroff and Deputy Fire Marshal Jennifer Bower attended on behalf of OCFA. Additionally, Senior Policy Advisor Sara May represented Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s office, and CAR’s legal counsel Dan Nordberg of Nordberg/De Nichilo, LLP were in attendance.

CAR Chair Derek McGregor and Fire Marshal Smith led discussion of the intention and context of Defensible Space requirements, as well as possible avenues of better partnership between OCFA and master-planned communities. OCFA is open to the concept of forming a stakeholder review committee, which would provide insight to OCFA as additional Defensible Space requirements develop. Additionally, OCFA suggested that CAR consider forming a local Fire Safe Council, which could offer grant funding and resources for homeowner education, and community wildfire protection plans.

The SAMLARC Board of Directors have identified wildfire safety as a key priority for the SAMLARC community. SAMALRC looks forward to participating in the development of the stakeholder review committee and the Fire Safe Council. Updates will be provided to the Membership at SAMLARC.org as they become available.

The CAR meeting was held in the Trabuco Canyon Water District Board Room, with refreshments provided by FirstService Residential.




April 8 - Work Plan Update


Master-planned communities throughout south Orange County are working with the Orange County Fire Authority to ensure that their properties comply with OCFA’s more stringent Defensible Space requirements. In late 2018, OCFA identified seven zones within SAMLARC’s boundaries that are adjacent to wilderness areas and must therefore adhere to defensible space vegetation guidelines. Over the course of 2019, SAMLARC landscaping crews will be removing plant material from these zones to comply with the more stringent requirements. Of the seven zones identified, two have been cleared of plant material that does not meet the OCFA Vegetation Management Guidelines. The remaining five zones will be modified over the duration of 2019, and include:

  • Arroyo Maintenance Corporation Perimeter
  • Santa Margarita Parkway at La Purisima
  • Coto de Caza Drive at Santa Rosa
  • Sausalito Slope (rear perimeter)
  • Blufftop Trail
The cost for compliance with the more stringent OCFA standards is projected to be $648,000 for 2019. It is anticipated that OCFA will continue its inspection efforts this year, which could pose an additional cost to the Association this year or next year. In addition to the Defensible Space Work Plan, SAMLARC is developing a Perimeter Defensible Space Master Plan. This Plan would call for all SAMLARC property abutting a wildland area to meet the stringent OCFA requirements. The Community Associations of Rancho (CAR) will meet with OCFA this month to request clarification of OCFA’s defensible space requirements, enforcement, and compliance processes. CAR includes management representatives from SAMLARC, Trabuco Highlands, Dove Canyon, Robinson Ranch, Rancho Cielo, Walden, and SAMCORP. Management representatives from additional Master-Planned Communities will also be in attendance. The intention of the meeting is to articulate and mitigate the impacts of these requirements on the south Orange County area.





The SAMLARC Board of Directors continually works to fulfill SAMLARC’s primary purpose:

The management and maintenance of SAMLARC property and the preservation of the value,

desirability and attractiveness thereof.