Los Angeles City Council Votes 5-0

Within city limits, the Los Angeles Fire Department has seen a spike in fires of all types. With a 45% increase from September 2019 to September 2020 alone, it highlights the need for safety. The unanimous 5-0 vote on March 4 by the Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee now moves the “Building a Safer Los Angeles” motion forward.

Safety first

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, Chair of the City’s Public Safety Committee, and Councilmember Bob Blumenfield co-sponsored the motion, previously approved unanimously by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) on December 3, 2019.

“Building a Safer Los Angeles” would ultimately enact fire life safety building practices in the city of Los Angeles.  

There are already measures in L.A. that address increased fire risk in densely populated communities through the City’s Building Code and Fire District 1. However, Fire District 1, which includes many of Los Angeles’ high density, commercial zones, only covers a small percentage of the City.

This motion instructs the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) and Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to identify areas where the stricter code dictates that builders and construction workers use enhanced fire protections and fire-resistant materials during the building process. 

Blumenfield and Rodriguez’s motion specifically instructs the LAFD, LADBS and the city attorney’s office to prepare and present an ordinance to expand Fire District 1 to include:

  • Amend Fire District 1 to include high density, commercial, and multi-family designated areas;
  • 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.

Community support

When the motion was first passed by PLUM in December 2019, Michael Lawson, CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, commented, “The communities that we represent are at risk for fire and disaster, so passing this ordinance would have a tremendously positive impact on their well-being and safety.”

Build with Strength, a coalition of housing advocates, architects, builders, engineers, union organizations, emergency services personnel, faith leaders, and community activists testified in support of the City Council’s efforts.  

Ron Miller, Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, wrote in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, “Los Angeles is seeing an ongoing influx of new residents, and buildings made with combustible materials are particularly dangerous in areas with such a great population density. As we build more housing, we run into the frequent objection from current residents in risky areas that their escape routes will be blocked or compromised by more homes. Preventing those homes from being fire risks in the first place will help keep neighborhoods safe.”

After the unanimous vote, Miller commented, “We fully support the City Council’s efforts to strengthen building practices in our city. We represent the skilled men and women who build L.A. We see firsthand how important safety is. This ordinance will have a huge impact on many communities across the city, and I encourage the City Council to act swiftly and give all residents access to safer and more resilient housing.”

Walter Contreras, Vice President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) added, “Our city faces severe fire threats year after year. We want our communities to be safer while still allowing for development.”

He also noted that Blumenfield and Rodriguez have shown “great leadership on this issue and we are hopeful that the draft ordinance will be in front of the Committee in 30 days and be approved by the full Council quickly. The future of housing in Los Angeles will be much better off with this policy in place.”  

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