Rural California voters reject housing development in wildfire country

By Camille von Kaenel | 03/07/2024 06:33 AM EST

Preliminary election results suggest a decisive loss for the 2,700-home development in Northern California.

Flames consume a house near Old Oregon Trail.

Flames consume a house near Old Oregon Trail as the Fawn Fire burns about 10 miles north of Redding in Shasta County, California, in 2021. Ethan Swope/AP

SACRAMENTO, California — Voters in the Northern California city of Chico on Tuesday rejected a controversial 2,700-home development on the outskirts of town that has exemplified California’s push-and-pull over building in disaster-prone areas, according to preliminary election results.

The two ballot measures failed by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. The results suggest California voters are unlikely to accept housing development in disaster-prone areas as the costs of insurance increase in response to climate change.

Local environmental groups and a progressive City Council member had spearheaded the measures to overturn permits for the Valley’s Edge development, which the city approved last January.


They argued it would expose the town to more fire risk: The site has burned three times in the last two decades and was recently bumped from a moderate to a high wildfire hazard category by Cal Fire.