Responding to a fire in a 25-story Brentwood-area apartment building that killed one person and injured 13 others, three Los Angeles City Council members reintroduced legislation Friday that would require fire-suppression sprinklers to be installed in high-rise residential complexes.
Councilmen Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz and Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion calling on the City Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Department of Building and Safety, to draft an ordinance to require sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings.
The Barrington Plaza building that burned Wednesday morning on Wilshire Boulevard was built in 1961 and is not equipped with fire sprinklers because it pre-dates current residential fire codes. It was the second injury fire at the complex in the last seven years.
“Older residential high-rises absolutely need to be retrofitted to have sprinklers and potentially other fire safety precautions,” Bonin said. “Previous legislative efforts to mandate that have stalled.”
The motion will first be heard by the council’s Public Safety Committee.
“This is common-sense legislation to help further protect the residents of Los Angeles, and I’m thrilled that the council is taking it seriously,” Koretz said. “I introduced a similar motion a few years ago following another high-rise fire with the thought that the city should not wait for tragedy to occur in Los Angeles before taking action.”
The council members are also seeking guidance on whether Department of Housing and Urban Development or Federal Housing Act loans and other funds could assist building owners with the cost of the upgrades.
Critics of such retrofitting proposals have noted that the costs of installing the systems could be passed on to tenants, leading to increased rents in a city already struggling to provide adequate affordable housing.
The city does not require fire sprinklers in high-rises built before 1974.
The Barrington Plaza is no stranger to fire. On Oct. 18, 2013, a fire in the building heavily damaged an 11th-story apartment and left nearly a dozen people injured, including three firefighters and a critically injured 2-year- old girl who was found in a smoke-filled stairwell on the 23rd floor.
The city examined requiring sprinklers in 2013, and as late as January 2019 it considered an ordinance to expand sprinkler protections to the high-rises built in those gap years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell cast the lone vote at a committee hearing at the time to push ahead a strict sprinkler retrofit law, The Times reported.
“It seemed like a no-brainer. I remember thinking, `With the people who live there and the firefighters who have to respond, they deserve these protections,”’ O’Farrell told The Times on Wednesday.
The City Council adopted an ordinance earlier this month, authored by Blumenfield, that goes into effect in March, which requires sprinkler systems be placed in newly constructed townhouses, and one- and two-family dwelling units. The ordinance also applies to additions that exceed more than half the cost of the original structure.
“With a now year-round fire season, our region is increasingly prone to destruction regardless of the cause, and this legislation closes a critical loophole which has left our older buildings vulnerable to fire,” Blumenfield said.