Residents outraged after HOA considering time limits on rebuilding

Some homes destroyed by '07 fire still not rebuilt

SAN DIEGO - Five years after the Witch Creek Fire destroyed hundreds of homes, a homeowner's association is considering new rules that would force residents to rebuild within an established timeline. The idea has some residents who lost their homes outraged.

Robin Kaufman is one of them. She lost everything in the 2007 fire that ravaged the Westwood community where she lives.

“I had nothing," she said. "The only thing that I had left when I came back was a little tiny vase that I have in my armoire that was from my grandmother that she brought from the old country."

It took Kaufman two years to rebuild, but when she moved in, she noticed that most of her neighbors still had vacant lots. Many were still dealing with their insurance companies, contractors and building permits.

So when Kaufman learned that the Westwood Club Board of Directors had voted to set deadlines on homeowners, she was upset.

In a letter written to homeowners in Westwood 7 and 11, the Board of Directors spells out the proposed amendment to the Association's CC&Rs. The amendment says owners of properties destroyed by fire, earthquake, flood or other casualty must begin reconstruction or repair within three months and that the work must be completed within two years. Those homeowners not in compliance could face fines of up to $500 per month.

"You will not be able to start in three months. Hopefully, you will be able to finish in two years but most likely not," said Kaufman, who encourages the Board of Directors to go back to the drawing board to rewrite the amendment in a more comprehensive way. 

Some residents have different ideas. Fred Gahm lives near a home that has been boarded up for five years. A chain-link fence surrounds it.

"This is ridiculous that it's gone on so long… Five years and there's no signs that anything's happening," he said while pointing at the house.

Another neighbor said she has seen vermin on the property that has gone into foreclosure while the owner continues to fight with her insurance company.

Neighbors in the affected areas will have their say. They have until Jan. 29 to vote on the amendment, which must pass by a two-thirds margin.

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