Fire safety-minded city council members embrace better building practices

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association-chartered Build with Strength Coalition reports progress among its Los Angeles allies in promoting safe construction methods. Los Angeles City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez led the Public Safety Committee in advancing a motion that would ultimately enact an ordinance mandating fire life safety building practices. The action followed preliminary measures her colleagues initiated in 2019 and pursued in the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Representatives from Build with Strength, whose members range from housing advocates, architects, builders, engineers, and labor organizations to emergency services personnel, faith leaders, and community activists, testified in favor of the City Council’s efforts. Improving local and national building codes and ensuring the use of non-combustible materials, especially in fire prone Los Angeles and all of California, are top Coalition priorities.

“We fully support the City Council’s efforts to strengthen building practices in our city,” says Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Ron Miller. “We represent the skilled men and women who build LA. We see firsthand how important safety is. This ordinance will have a huge impact on many communities, and I encourage the City Council to act swiftly and give all residents access to safer and more resilient housing.”

In addition to his group, Build with Strength Coalition members in southern California include Los Angeles Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, California Conference of Carpenters, and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC).

Current measures address increased fire risk in densely populated communities through the City’s Building Code and Fire District 1. The motion from Councilmember Rodriguez instructs the Los Angeles Fire Department and Department of Building and Safety to identify areas in the City where the stricter code dictates that builders and construction workers use enhanced fire protections and fire-resistant materials during the building process. It specifically instructs the two departments and city attorney’s office to prepare and present an ordinance to expand Fire District 1. The Public Safety Committee has further detailed ordinance criteria:

  • 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 feet in height; and,
  • Make recommendations to ensure proper enforcement.

“Our city faces severe fire threats year after year. We want our communities to be safer while still allowing for development,” affirms NaLEC Vice President Walter Contreras. “Passage of the motion sponsored by Councilmembers [Bob] Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez will allow our city to do that. They’ve shown great leadership on this issue and we are hopeful that the draft ordinance will be approved by the full Council quickly. The future of housing in Los Angeles will be much better off with this policy in place.”