Day After Deadly High Rise Fire: Councilman DeLong Says Questions Remain To Be Answered; Public Safety Chair/Councilman Lerch Says His Committee Will Meet April 3 Re LB Fire Safety Req'ts
(March 29, 2007) -- The day after a deadly blaze at the Galaxy high rise in his Council district, 3rd district Councilman Gary DeLong tells LBReport.com he doesn't know why city staff recommended in January 2007 that owners of high rise buildings (built prior to 1974 and now exempt from sprinkler requirements) be allowed ten years in which to retrofit their buildings to add sprinklers...but he intends to ask that question, and others, and get answers.
As LBReport.com reported last night as breaking news on our front page (www.lbreport.com), the blaze on the 18th floor of the "X" shaped building at 2999 E. Ocean Blvd. (at Orizaba) rapidly grew into a three alarm fire.
|At right is the blaze captured by ABC7 Eyewitness News. 60 year-old John Carlyle Crews jumped to his death from the east side of the building, witnesses say, as flames bore down on him.|
Mar. 28, 2007, 2999 E. Ocean Blvd.
Screen save courtesy ABC7 Eyewitness News
The day after, TV news crews lined Ocean Blvd. at Orizaba Ave. Their reports were carried throughout the day and will likely be in news cycles tonight.
We watched as 3rd district Councilman Gary DeLong finished a round of questions from a print reporter, then fielded a second round of questions from ABC7 Eyewitness News reporter Micah Ohlman. The general gist of both reporters' questions was what should City Hall have done and what's City Hall going to do now? The gist of Councilman DeLong's answers: we need to get more information, we shouldn't jump to conclusions and there are lots of questions to be answered.
LBReport.com asked Councilman DeLong a more specific question, based on the story we ran this morning (Mar. 28): We asked Councilman DeLong if he agreed with a city staff recommendation, offered in a January 2007 meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, that the City Council should require sprinkler retrofits on LB's pre-1974 high rise buildings (currently without mandated sprinklers)...but to allow the retrofits to be completed within ten years.
"I don't know why city staff recommended a ten year time period. I'd certainly like to know. That's one of things I plan to ask about, and there are others," Councilman DeLong said.
Also coming by to see what had occurred: Public Safety Committee chair Councilman Val Lerch...who confirmed for LBReport.com that he intends to hold a meeting of his committee on April 3.
The Committee will follow-up on a Jan. 7 report by LBFD and LB Bldg and Safety which recommended sprinkler retrofits over a ten hear period for high rises, and over a five year period for multi-unit hotels, motels and large residential facilities (with 50 residential units and above)...which would include apartments such as NLB's Paradise Garden, site of a fatal Dec. 8 fire.
As reported earlier today (Mar. 29) by LBReport.com, Fire Marshal Teran told the Public Safety Committee on January 7, 2007 that he considered the installation of fire sprinklers "of paramount importance for all types of occupancies, but especially for residential occupancies."
Teran added, "Because fire sprinklers react so quickly, they dramatically reduce the amount of heat, flames and smoke produced in a fire. Fire sprinklers are remarkably 96% effective in controlling a fire, and together with smoke detectors, cut the risk of dying in a home fire by 82%. In fact -- this is a statistic that I to this day find amazing -- is the fact that there has never been a documented case of a fire killing more than two people in a completely sprinklered public assembly, educational institutional or even a residential building when fire sprinklers were working properly."
Fire Marshal Teran reported that city staff had found that over thirty CA cities had adopted more restrictive fire codes than the so-called "model" fire codes [i.e. used by the City of LB.] He indicated that in 1989, the City of Glendale adopted a retrofit ordinance for fire sprinklers in existing retail and non-retail occupancies where building modifications were made.
"Other cities, such as the City of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose have all adopted a variety of retrofit ordinances for existing buildings. In fact, the City of San Jose fire sprinkler ordinance of 1990 requires all high rise buildings to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers," Fire Marshal Teran reported, adding "Staff found that by adopting more restrictive code requirements for fire protection systems, it's common and consistent with other jurisdictions."
He estimated the retrofit cost could be up to $6.00 sq. ft for high rises (amount could vary) but noted lower insurance rates could also result.
Fire Marshal Teran said city staff recommended what he called a "reasonable time frame" for adopting retrofits which takes into account the financial and logistical problems for owners.
"Building owners may have logistic issues, such as getting access to occupied tenant areas, possible tenant relocation, possible asbestos abatement, noise disruptions and other inconveniences. Staff understands these concerns and believes it is essential that a reasonable time frame be established that takes into consideration the financial and logistical problems associated with retrofitting of existing occupancies," Fire Marhsal Teran said on behalf of city staff.
|Fire Marshal Teran said staff's recommendation was that all existing high rise buildings, as defined by the CA Building Code, should be retrofitted with fire sprinklers within ten years. "The ten year time frame will enable owners to budget costs over an extended period of time. |
Mar. 28, 2007; 2999 Ocean Blvd.
Screen save courtesy ABC7 Eyewitness News
Specific benchmarks would be identified such as plan submittal, plan approval [and] installation over that ten year time frame..."
Fire Marshal Teran indicated that this would apply to 46% of LB's high rise buildings.
For existing multi family residential hotels and motels and similar buildings containing fifty or more units, city staff recommended sprinkler retrofits within five years. "This would require large type residential occupancies, similar to [NLB's} Paradise Gardens, to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers. The requirement would be over a five year period to assist owners and with costs and logistics associated with the retrofit. According to the Los Angeles County Assessor's office records, there are approximately 100 multi-family residential occupancies that could be affected by this requirement."
(Above are some of the worst damaged areas from Dec. 8 NLB Paradise Garden apartment fire.)
On January 7, the Council's Public Safety Committee made a motion (passed 3-0) to request the City Manager "to assist the Committee in outlining financial strategies that would provide incentives for retrofitting; to work with the Apartment Associations about their ideas on retrofitting and educating the public; to work with the Fire Insurance industry to look for incentives and educational programs; and report back to the committee in 45-60 days."
That put the item on track to return to the Committee in early April...which means April 3.
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