Controversial New Legislation Seeks to Protect From Wildfires

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Robison Wells
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Californians face the increasing severity of wildfires at the beginning of fire season. The Los Angeles City Council seeks to slow fires with a new proposal: City Building Code Fire District 1 Expansion. This initiative expands fire safety measures in dangerous neighborhoods, such as Silver Lake and Pacific Palisades. The proposal severely limits the use of wood framing in large buildings (over 150,000 square feet).

Some critics push back on the proposal. Restrictions in timber framing translate into increased use of steel and concrete, significantly more expensive on large structures. One architect, Simon Ha, a partner at Steinberg Hart, wrote a letter to the LA city council, stating that the effect would raise costs ten percent; this goes against the City Council's other stated goal: to create more affordable housing in the region.

Urbanize Los Angeles reports swelling controversy around Build With Strength's lobby for the agenda. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association leads the group. They act as prominent supporters of the Fire District Expansion. Many residents cite their activism for the initiative as a conflict of interest.

Simon Ha cites the California Building Standards Commission's unanimous approval of new guidelines that seek expansion of timber construction. The International Building Codes, passed in August 2020, make way for tall wood buildings.

For now, the outcome rests on the Los Angeles City Council, which has not made a decision and is still open to public comment.

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