MILL VALLEY (KPIX) – Large wildfires may be the new normal in Northern California and everyone should be ready for power outages, as a result. Still, many cities and towns are still holding to regulations that prevent people from fully preparing for when the lights go out.
Reb Blake is a professional musician but he’s also a former firefighter. He even worked on the Oakland Hills fire. He is fully committed to protecting his Mill Valley home from wildfire.
“We had trees, bushes, all along here,” he said during a tour of his backyard. “It’s all been cut back.”
Blake has removed all the large trees that surrounded the house and has even purchased a sprinkler device to put on his roof in case glowing embers begin blowing his way.
But with PG&E warning that the power could be cut off for days, Blake was shocked when City Hall wouldn’t allow him to install a fixed backup generator at his house.
“They refused to give me a permit based on the mathematical calculations of the noise factor,” Blake said. “The city all of a sudden has decided in the middle of this emergency that, no, they’re denying permits to everyone.”
Mill Valley’s noise ordinance prohibits the installation of fixed generators even for emergency use. There has been heightened interest everywhere in having some kind of backup system, and up the road in San Rafael, they’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from the public.
“A lot more phone calls,” said Don Jeppson, Chief Building Official for the city. He admits that, in light of PG&E’s new policies, it may be time to revisit the codes regarding generators.
“I’m thinking the ordinance that we’re proposing might have language that would allow generators to be used under emergency situations,” Jeppson said. “They wouldn’t be allowed on a daily basis. But also it would have a provision for equipment to be tested monthly like most manufacturers require.”
Blake wishes Mill Valley would take the same approach.
“People are scared but City Hall doesn’t get it,” he said, “and they’re doing business as usual.”
Mill Valley’s Planning Director, Patrick Kelly, agrees the code needs to be amended and says they are watching how other communities handle the issue. The city currently has no plans to change the noise ordinance to allow generators.
Kelly says the noise regulations are a matter of public preference and if there is enough outcry, the code could be amended. He says that would be up to the City Council to decide.