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Igniting a Culture of Change: Evaluating the Los Trancos Community Maintenance District Home Hardening and Defensible Space Incentive Program

Brandon Alvarez, Patrick Kurzner, Jessica Reynoso, Matthew Sun
2020
The state of California has experienced an increase in catastrophic wildfires in recent years,
impacting our homes, environment, and economy. Wildfires, like the Tubbs Fire that burned in
Northern California in 2017, are difficult to prevent, but as community members, we can ensure
our homes are equipped to reduce wildfire risk and minimize destruction of our communities.
Considering the particularly dry winter of 2019-2020, there is concern of an intensified wildfire
season this year; additionally, because communities have focused their efforts on addressing
COVID-19 instead of wildfire prevention, western states are more vulnerable to wildfires. For
these reasons, it is crucial that cities address wildfire risk through education and accountability.
 
In San Mateo County, an incentive program exists for homeowners who proactively mitigate
wildfire risk by pursuing vegetation management and home hardening measures. Residents of
two hillside communities, Los Trancos and Vista Verde, are eligible for an annual rebate of up to
$5,000 for approved wildfire mitigation measures. The program is administered by the
Woodside Fire Protection District (WFPD), which conducts home risk assessments for eligible
properties within the program area and makes specific risk mitigation recommendations for
homeowners. The program is funded by property tax revenue collected by the Los Trancos
County Maintenance District (LTCMD), which was repurposed after the dissolution of a water
district.
 
At the request of the WFPD and the Town of Portola Valley (PV), we undertook an evaluation of
the effectiveness of the LTCMD incentive program in encouraging homeowners to adopt wildfire
prevention measures. To do so, the project analyzes: (1) home risk assessments performed by
Fire Marshal Don Bullard, (2) home-hardening measures adopted by homeowners through the
incentive program, (3) interviews with stakeholders, and (4) surveys sent to homeowners who
have participated in the program. The report also includes an overview of existing literature on
the effectiveness of wildfire prevention programs and social psychology to provide
recommendations on how the incentive program can be improved.