It’s not every day that a community can plan its own redevelopment from scratch. Following last fall’s devastating wildfire that destroyed Paradise, California, however, that’s exactly the silver lining that the town is facing. Paradise, having popped up during the Gold Rush and grown haphazardly over the years, never had a town center or any coherent pattern, and the opportunity to rebuild comes with the advantage of a clean slate; for neighboring communities like Oroville, California, whose population has swelled by 20% as it accommodates refugees from the fire, the need for significant housing expansion is urgent. Organizations like the Oroville Association of REALTORS® are determined to steer the new growth toward Smart Growth.
Ellie Rosebush, executive of the 131-member Oroville association, was at work when she lost her own house in the November 2018 Camp Fire. She’s quick to credit the California Association of REALTORS®, many local associations, and fellow AEs from across the country with providing her and her community with critical support that got them through the harrowing aftermath. When she began thinking of a topic for the association’s annual “20/20” forum, it made sense to be thinking of Smart Growth. With a REALTOR® Party grant, the Oroville Association was able to bring an expert to the table.
That expert was Kate Meis, executive director of The Local Government Commission, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that helps local governments grow smarter and more sustainably. She presented a compelling case for Smart Growth, with inspiring examples of places that have come back from devastation even stronger. Speaking to a gathering of 95 attendees interested and involved in the restoration of the area, she cited a town in the Midwest that was destroyed by a tornado and might have folded, rebuilt, instead, and is now a model of fundamental Smart Growth principles. She also described the success of San Francisco’s Embarcadero neighborhood, whose current prosperity as a cultural and economic center was only possible after the disastrous 1989 collapse of an overhead freeway. For neighboring towns like Oroville that are desperate for more housing but don’t have a ‘clean slate,” she emphasized the benefits of in-fill development. The buzz in the room was palpable, says Rosebush, as people saw solutions in the success of other once-devastated areas.
Rosebush explains that her team made a significant effort to bring a ‘who’s who’ of community builders to the forum. “We contacted all the local government groups, City Councils, County Supervisors, and Chamber and Downtown Associations leadership. Many attendees were newcomers to the conversation, which made us especially happy. One group, the Rebuild Paradise Foundation, connected with Kate immediately following her presentation, to invite her to come speak to another group involved in the growth of our community,” she reports. “As ‘The Voice of Real Estate’ here in the Paradise-Oroville area,” she notes, “it’s our responsibility to plant seeds like this, and bring the right people – interested, empowered people – together to hear, learn, discuss, and plan. We’re influencers, keeping the message of Smart Growth front and center in a region where growth is going to happen.”
To learn more about how the Oroville Association of REALTORS® is contributing to the vision of the community that will rise from the ashes of Paradise, contact Association Executive Ellie Rosebush at 530-533-9112. A more in-depth article on the work of the Oroville Association’s efforts can be found in this quarter’s issue of On Common Ground, The REALTOR® Party’s Smart Growth magazine.