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December 11, 2023
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Farmers Insurance extends CZU claim deadline for resident

It was on Aug. 11 that 69-year-old Lexington Hills resident Sidney French reached out to Farmers Insurance to gain more information about the “Additional Living Expense” coverage on her home insurance policy.

That’s the section that’s meant to help customers get reimbursed for costs incurred to maintain a normal standard of living after a natural disaster.

French is the homeowner who’s been ensnared in a dispute with the Santa Clara County Planning and Development Department, which has threatened to fine her thousands of dollars a day for violations she says relate to a tangled web of messy permits involving the cabin she lives in.

French failed to make the insurance deadline to file a claim for damage to her home caused by the CZU Lighting Complex storm, after the County blocked her attempts to get the ball rolling—as reported in last week’s edition.

She was trying to see if there was any way the company could cut her some slack as she continues to struggle to get a positive result from the County.

The day that story appeared in print, Farmers sent French a reply.

“Under a State of Emergency…coverage for Additional Living Expenses shall be for a period of no less than 24 months from the inception of the loss,” it read. “Extension of up to 12 additional months, for a total of 36 months, will be considered if an insured acting in good faith and with reasonable diligence encounters a delay or delays in the reconstruction process that are the result of circumstances beyond their control.”

The insurance official confirmed her loss happened on Aug. 16, 2020, meaning the 24-month window did lapse on Aug. 16, this year.

“However, we have reviewed the information you have recently provided and we will grant you an extension of 12 months (for a total of 36 months) for you to claim applicable Additional Living Expenses, through August 16, 2023, subject to other Additional Living Expense provisions in your policy.”

The County did not respond to questions sent Aug. 22 about French’s case.

However, the next afternoon, Planning Director Jacqueline Onciano sent French an ambiguous email, and cc:’d the Los Gatan.

“The County Planning and Development Department looks forward to receiving a Building Application regarding the residential structure,” she wrote. “As stated in the previous email, a Written Determination has been issued, please proceed accordingly.”

French believes this means the County is unwilling to help her fix the permit problems on her file. 

She says if the County won’t admit her house was built in 1930—and therefore grandfathered in—she won’t be able to move forward, due to the new (more stringent) Building Code that’s now active.

The “Written Determination” explicitly relies on the 1997 violation document that has her address number, but features the street name of the house across the road—which was later crossed out with her street name written above.

French says all she wants is for the County to help her iron out the confusing paperwork.

Onciano did not respond to repeated calls for clarification sent Aug. 23.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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