02-08-24

8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 8-14, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com news Primaries can be relatively quiet elections. In a two-way race—like that of Wendy Root Askew and Jeremiah Pressey in District 4—it will be decided outright, no need to go to a November runoff. (Pressey reports zero fundraising compared to Askew’s $166,678 in the bank as of Jan. 20, according to the latest campaign finance reports.) In District 1, there is no contest; Luis Alejo is running unopposed. That could be in part because of his campaign war chest. As of Jan. 20, he reported $250,940 on hand. In District 5, there is a three-way race for an open seat. That means the top two vote-getters will face off again in a November runoff, unless one candidate—Alan Haffa, Kate Daniels or Bill Lipe—wins outright on March 5. That requires over 50 percent of the vote. Daniels reports a significant fundraising haul, $259,945 in 2023. She raised 13 times more than Haffa, who reported raising $19,546 last year. Lipe raised just $3,400 in 2023, and reports one $5,000 gift in 2024 so far. Despite running against each other, Haffa and Daniels each received a donation in January of $1,000 from the Monterey County New Progressives, a political action committee that seeks to train and financially support candidates for local office. The PAC’s largest campaign contribution this election cycle was $4,000 to Fernando Ansaldo, who is running for a seat on Soledad City Council. Donors to the New Progressives PAC in 2023 included elected officials such as Askew; Del Rey Oaks City Councilmember Kim Shirley; and Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board member George Riley, a cofounder of the PAC. Money In Campaign fundraising for county supe candidates ranges from zero to over a quarter-million. By Sara Rubin Sticker shock is how best to describe what the residents of the Mountain Shadows Townhomes in Monterey felt last month during a scramble to find property insurance, after Farmers Insurance declined to renew their policy. Previously the homeowners association paid $22,000 a year for fire insurance. Now they pay $250,000 a year. Their deductible went from $25,000 to $100,000. On Jan. 29, they had to put down $100,000 cash in order for a new insurance package to kick in at midnight on Feb. 1. Because of the jaw-dropping increase, HOA fees jumped from about $500 a month to $1,436. “All my life, I’ve been waiting to live here and now I don’t know if I can afford to stay here,” says Pat DeMasters, secretary of the HOA board. She did much of the legwork on finding new insurance. “We called over 40 insurance companies. It’s like drinking from a fire hose,” she says. The reason for the increase: Mountain Shadows is located in Skyline Forest, classified as an area at the highest risk on the state’s Fire Hazard Security Zones map. Like many other insurance companies, Farmers has pulled out of writing policies in California, and is reluctant to renew homeowners—the Mountain Shadows HOA filed two claims for damages caused by falling trees in the 2023 winter storms, reason enough to decline renewal. The HOA turned to insurance broker Eileen Topete, CEO of Wright & Kimbrough, who walked DeMasters through the process of finding insurance through the California FAIR Plan, a syndicated fire insurance pool composed of all insurers licensed to write property policies in the state. It was created by the state Legislature in 1968 as a temporary solution for owners having trouble finding insurance. Through FAIR, Mountain Shadows found coverage through a layer of five companies—four covering fire insurance and one for liability. The fire insurance alone is $250,000. Liability costs over $5,000. “We are in an insurance crisis in the State of California,” Topete says. It’s the worst she’s seen in her 40-year career. “Over the last 24 months, carriers have either completely ceased writing policies, or put a pause on writing anything new.” The FAIR plan is reportedly receiving over 1,000 applications a day. Topete says that for every dollar insurance companies take in, they pay out almost $1.90 in claims. Some of the biggest wildfires in the state’s history, fueled by climate change, have cost insurers a combined $13 billion. “Insurance carriers are saying, ‘Forget trying to break even or make a profit. Until something changes we’re choosing not to write [policies] in California anymore,’” Topete says. Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order for “prompt regulatory action,” and the California Department of Insurance is said to be working on solutions. In the meantime, Topete advises homeowners who are renewed to pay the higher premium because it will be cheaper than finding something new. By law, companies must give policyholders 75-days notice on nonrenewal. If they’re not renewed, policyholders should immediately ask their agents to apply for insurance with the FAIR plan. Time is of the essence—it could take up to two months to get quotes from the agency. Pat DeMasters and Alan Romero live in the Mountain Shadows Townhomes in Monterey, where the fire insurance premium ballooned from $22,000 to $250,000. Sky High The state’s fire insurance crisis means Skyline Forest homeowners face steep rate increases. By Pam Marino Jane Parker (above) served as a county supervisor until she retired in 2020. She cofounded Monterey County New Progressives PAC, the largest donor to Parker’s successor, Wendy Root Askew. “I don’t know if I can afford to stay here.” Daniel Dreifuss nic coury

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