City of Los Angeles Moves to Increase Building Standards for New Construction

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

On April 6, 2021, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a motion entitled Building a Safer Los Angeles (“Motion”) that would significantly expand the fire rating requirements for new buildings and restrict the use of light wood-frame construction throughout large parts of the City of Los Angeles. The Motion is broadly written and, contrary to some reports in the press, it does not call for exemptions based on building size or square footage.

In summary, the Motion directs City staff to prepare and present an ordinance that expands the requirements for Fire District 1 to all areas:

  • With high population density of at least 5,000 or more residents per square mile; and
  • Subject to the California’s Very High Fire Severity Zone and the City’s High Wind Velocity Zone.

The Motion also calls for: (1) mandating a Fire Protection Plan for all new and significantly altered projects over 150,000 square feet and/or 10,000 square feet if over 30 feet in height; and (2) recommendations to ensure skilled workers are employed for new multi-family and commercial structures within Fire District 1.

The Motion was originally introduced in 2019 by Councilmembers Blumenfield and Rodriguez. The Motion was supported by a coalition of labor and advocates for concrete construction but was met with resistance form business groups and some affordable housing developers. Some of the concerns raised were that, in theory, such an ordinance could conflict with the state Building Code and increase construction costs by limiting the use of Type V construction.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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