California can’t recover from its devastating fires unless it overhauls its zoning laws

In November 2018, the Woolsey Fire ripped through the affluent beachside town of Malibu, California. It was the most destructive wildfire in the history of Los Angeles County, and destroyed 473 homes in Malibu.

Nearly two years later, only a few of those have been fully rebuilt. The main reason for the holdup: The city’s notoriously byzantine, restrictive zoning laws.

“Malibu’s entire history is built around a desperate desire to keep development from happening here,” said Jeff Baker, director of the Community Justice Clinic at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, in Malibu. “It’s incredibly difficult to rebuild. And that makes the effects of natural disasters worse.”

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