Blumenfield Moves to Expand Fire-Resistant Building Practices

In the wake of devastating fires, Blumenfield aims to broaden safer building practices to more at-risk communities 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, along with Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, introduced a comprehensive measure to expand fire-resistant building codes, which are currently only applicable in dense population centers like Downtown LA and Hollywood, to other high fire risk areas such as the hills and other population centers of the San Fernando Valley. This motion would also require fire protection plans that help ensure safe construction sites when a structure is at its most vulnerable.

“From the Da Vinci Fire a few years ago to the horrific Woosley Fire last November, Angelenos know that fires can happen in the blink of an eye and change your life in a flash,” said Blumenfield. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a tall apartment building downtown or live in the hills of the West Valley, it is imperative that we use every tool in our chest to make sure our high-risk communities are as safe as possible.”

In recent years, the City has made strides enhancing the protection and character of our communities, specifically our hillside single family home communities. Both in 2011 and again 2017 the City adopted stricter Baseline Hillside Ordinances to better ensure public safety in those neighborhoods. These ordinances addressed out of scale development and neighborhood character, which helped ensure safer communities and better design that reduces risk during catastrophic events such as wildfires. However, those changes only impacted the Municipal and Building codes for single family homes. More must be done to protect our growing stock of multifamily structures which serve the diverse communities that are the heart and soul of Los Angeles. This motion would work to bring the fire and building codes into alignment with new building standards and technologies that have been put in place in the last 10 years.  As an example, fire resistance standards for equally sized office buildings are surprisingly much stronger than those for multifamily housing.

A tool already exists to address increased fire risk in our dense urban communities and is already in place in the City’s Building Code, Fire District 1. This code specifically dictates that developers and construction crews use enhanced fire protections and fire-resistant materials during the building process. However, Fire District 1 only covers a small percentage of the City, namely Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, to mitigate the risk of fire in these population centers. This overlay is currently enabling safer construction today.

Blumenfield’s motion specifically instructs the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) and the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to prepare and present an ordinance to expand Fire District 1 to include all areas within the City covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Very High Fire Severity Zone and City’s High Wind Velocity Zone as well as high density population centers with a population density of at least 5,000 residents per square mile. It also instructs LAFD and LADBS to:

 

  • Update Fire District 1 to reflect population growth based on the U.S. Census;
  •  Present an ordinance to require a Fire Protection Plan, as allowed under Chapter 33 of the Los Angeles Fire Code, for all new and significantly altered projects over 150,000 square feet and/or 100,000 square feet if the building is over 30’ in height;
  • And make recommendations to ensure proper enforcement.

With this motion, Los Angeles has an opportunity to lead the state and the nation in protecting against the growing risk of wildfires, by expanding the reach of High Fire Severity Zones and ensuring that new standards include the changing and growing regional centers and neighborhoods within our City.

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