To:  HONORABLE MAYOR AND                       From:   Stephen M. Haase

            CITY COUNCIL                                                             Dale Foster    

                                                                                                             

Subject:  CONSTRUCTION FIRE protection       Date:     November 14, 2003

                     ORDINANCE

                    

 

COUNCIL DISTRICT:  City Wide

 

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Approve an Ordinance amending Title 17 of the San Jose Municipal Code by adding a new Chapter 17.82 relating to Construction Fire Safety (Attachment A).

 
BACKGROUND

 

On June 24, 2003, during discussion of the recommendation for an ordinance to enhance fire safety during construction of large wood-frame buildings, Council directed staff to:

 

·        Provide additional information on construction fire safety practices in other jurisdictions

 

·        Explain why 350,000 square foot was selected as the "trigger" for requiring fire resistive walls ("mitigating fire protection barriers" or "MFPBs") to be installed and explore whether other triggers might be appropriate.

 

                                                     

ANALYSIS

 

SURVEYS OF OTHER JURISDICTIONS

 

In September and October 2002, Fire and Building staff surveyed 33 jurisdictions, identified in Attachment "B", by email or phone.  Attachment "C" provides a summary of construction fire safety measures exceeding Uniform Code requirements that were identified by the jurisdictions that responded to the 2002 survey.

 

During this survey, staff learned that a large fire had destroyed much of the original wood frame construction in a large Ventura County multi-family project.  As a condition to rebuild, Ventura County set a limitation of a maximum of 200,000 square feet of exposed lumber at any one time.  This restriction was not an ordinance or code change, but rather a one-time requirement that applied to that one project only.  Portland also had a large fire in a project under construction.  Portland continues to permit wood-framed construction without special requirements until the building exceeds 4 stories, but for buildings over four stories, compartmentalization must be provided and sprinkler systems activated as soon as possible.  (See Attachment C).  Wood framed structures over four stories are not permitted in the State of California.

 

In July and August 2003, Fire staff conducted a survey of 22 additional medium to large municipalities.  Attachment "D" provides a summary of the construction fire safety measures exceeding Uniform Code requirements that were identified by the 12 jurisdictions that responded to the 2003 survey.  Although there were similar fires in Minneapolis and Las Vegas, there is no city in the country that has an ordinance imposing square footage limits on unprotected combustible construction.

 

"TRIGGER" FOR REQUIRING MITIGATING FIRE PROTECTION BARRIERS

The June 24th staff recommendation was to apply the most stringent new ordinance requirements, relating to Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers, only to projects exceeding 350,000 square feet of wood framing.  This 350,000 square foot threshold trigger was developed through a collaborative process with City staff and the development community.  

After reconsideration of this trigger for MFPBs, staff is now recommending an additional trigger of two hundred thousand (200,000) square feet for buildings that are more than fifty feet in height above the adjoining natural ground surface.  Attachment A highlights this change in the proposed ordinance as well as other minor technical changes.

Installing mitigating fire protection barriers will not prevent a fire from occurring, however the barriers may help limit the spread and size of a fire. Developers, contractors and community interest groups expressed concern that setting too low a threshold for MFPBs would result in substantial additional project costs and construction delays, which would potentially deter or reduce the number of units built in future developments, and increase the rental or sale price for new units due to:

·         Inefficiencies in methods of construction, i.e. the normal construction sequence would be altered by certain trades working at different times and in different areas (rather than contiguously) and, some trades (e.g.: framers and drywall workers) forced to work in multiple construction phases (i.e. start/stop cycles, rather than a continuous flow of construction activity). According to the development community, these inefficiencies would result in several months of delays and result in significant cost increases.

·         Delays in construction would result in increased indirect costs (costs of supervising the project, and materials/equipment required for building).

·         Delays in construction would result in significant loss in anticipate rent revenues.

 

If the ordinance were to result in developers reducing the size of structures to avoid the costs associated with MFPBs, owner/developers might choose to build large development projects in adjacent jurisdictions rather than San Jose.  Over the past three years the City has approved permits for the construction of the following number of projects based upon size of the wood-framed buildings:

 

 

Project Size (in square feet)

Total Number of Projects

Greater than 350,000

   8

200,001 to 350,000

  10

100,001 to 200,000

  4

50,000 to 100,000

  4

 

The 200,000 sq. ft threshold limit for projects over 50 feet above natural grade will require projects like Santana Row to have Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers at lower thresholds due to these taller structures presenting greater firefighting challenges.  In recommending this additional threshold, staff took into consideration the one time 2 million board feet construction size (approximately 200,000 square feet) threshold that was applied by Ventura County. 

 

The Santana Row building that burned in the August 19, 2002 fire (Building 7) had two levels of parking, resulting in the podium on which the wood frame construction was built, being approximately 18 feet above grade.  Building 7 also had mixed occupancy - commercial use surrounding the parking space at grade level.  The commercial uses needed 18 feet of height, thus the podium level was higher than typical residential structures that are 13 feet.  Requiring MFPBs at 200,000 square feet on buildings that have wood framing more than fifty feet above ground level makes sense because these taller buildings present more challenges to firefighter safety and firefighting effectiveness. 

 

The standard that staff is proposing makes sense, is justified in improving safety for the community and will require a Santana Row like project to have improved safety during wood frame construction.  In addition, the new Fire Protection Plan and Fire Safety Officer requirements, which will apply to all projects involving 50,000 square feet or more of combustible construction, should lower the risk of fire occurrence in these projects.

 

COORDINATION

 

The proposed recommendations have been coordinated between the Department of Planning, Building & Code Enforcement, Fire Department and the City Attorney’s Office.

 

 

PUBLIC OUTREACH

 

An Informational Memo dated May 5th, summarizing the activities and recommendations of the industry workshops and focus group meetings, was sent to the Mayor and the Council.  Additional meetings were held with industry representatives after the June 24th Council meeting.

 

 

COST IMPLICATIONS

 

No new fees for review and approval of Fire Protection Plans are proposed at this time.  The review and approval process of these Plans will be part of the plan review process for which fees are already charged.

 

It is expected that there will be a minor financial impact on the construction industry as a result of adoption of this ordinance.

 

 

IMPLEMENTATION

 

After the proposed ordinance is approved, the Fire Chief will adopt implementing regulations as authorized by the ordinance, and the Building Division and Fire Department staff will finalize the development of procedures, checklists and outreach material to implement the recommendations.  

 

 

CEQA

 

Exempt.  PP03-11-358

 

 

 

DALE FOSTER                                                           STEPHEN M. HAASE, DIRECTOR

Acting Fire Chief                                                          Planning, Building and Code Enforcement

 

 

Attachment A

 

 

 

ORDINANCE NO. ____________

 

AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SAN JOSE AMENDING TITLE 17 OF THE SAN JOSE MUNICIPAL CODE BY ADDING A NEW CHAPTER 17.82 RELATING TO FIRE SAFETY DURING CONSTRUCTION

 

WHEREAS, the California Fire Code as adopted by the City of San Jose in Chapter 17.12 of the San Jose Municipal Code, regulates fire safety during construction; and

 

WHEREAS, the Uniform Building Code as adopted by the City of San Jose in Chapter 17.12 and Title 24 of the San Jose Municipal Code, establishes fire safety standards that buildings must meet prior to occupancy; and

 

WHEREAS, in September 2002, the Council of the City of San Jose directed City staff to investigate improving City regulation of construction practices to increase fire protection during the construction of large wood-frame buildings; and

 

WHEREAS, City staff have surveyed other jurisdictions and conducted workshops and study sessions with the goal of identifying potential new regulations that would achieve two main objectives:

 

1.   Reduce the potential for occurrence of a fire while large wood-frame buildings are under construction; and

2.   Facilitate the ability to fight a fire that starts when a large wood-frame building is under construction, by limiting fire spread; and

 

WHEREAS, the Council of the City of San Jose desires to enact new regulations to apply during the construction of certain wood frame buildings, without altering such building standards or fire safety regulations as may otherwise be established by the San Jose Municipal Code, or other applicable law or regulation, including but not limited to the Uniform Building Code or California Fire Code;

 

NOW THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN JOSE:

 

Title 17 of the San José Municipal Code is hereby amended by adding a new Chapter to be numbered and entitled and to read as follows:

 

CHAPTER 17.82

FIRE SAFETY DURING CONSTRUCTION

 

Part 1

General Provisions

 

17.82.100       Purpose

The purpose of this Chapter is to minimize the potential for the occurrence and spread of fires, and to facilitate firefighting efforts, during construction of wood frame buildings.

 

17.82.110       General Requirements

A.                 The provisions of this Chapter shall apply only to activities occurring during the construction of certain wood frame buildings as specified herein.  Nothing contained in this Chapter shall be construed to alter such building occupancy standards or fire protection measures for wood frame or other construction methods as may otherwise be set forth in this Code.

 

B.                 No person shall engage in any aspect of construction on a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, or permit or authorize any such construction to occur, except in full compliance with this Chapter.

 

C.                The property owner, as identified on the application for a building permit for a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, shall be liable for full compliance with this Chapter.

 

17.82.120      Administrative Regulations

The Fire Chief and the Chief Building Official are authorized to, from time to time, as necessary to implement this Chapter, issue, review and revise administrative regulations to implement the provisions of this Chapter, including but not limited to regulations concerning the required content of Construction Fire Protection Plans and the manner in which Fire Safety Officer duties are to be performed.

 

Part 2

Definitions

 

17.82.200       Definitions

The definitions contained in this Part shall govern the interpretation of this Chapter.  Where terms are not specifically defined in this Chapter, the definitions contained In Chapters 17.04, 17.12 and Title 24 of this Code shall control.

 

17.82.210      Building Height

"Building height" for the purpose of this Chapter 17.82 only shall mean the vertical distance above a reference datum, measured to the highest point of the coping of a flat roof, or to the deck line of a mansard roof, or to the average height of the highest gable of a pitched or hipped roof.  The reference datum shall be selected by either of the following, whichever yields the greatest height of building: (1) The elevation of the highest natural ground surface within a five (5) foot horizontal distance of the exterior wall of the building when the highest such natural ground surface is not more than ten (10) feet above the lowest grade; or (2) An elevation ten (10) feet higher than the lowest grade when the natural ground surface described in (1) is more than ten (10) feet above the lowest grade.

 

17.82.220             Construction Fire Protection Plan

“Construction Fire Protection Plan” means a document, which specifies measures and practices to be incorporated into the construction process to minimize the potential for the occurrence and spread of fires, and to facilitate firefighting efforts, during building construction.

 

17.82.230      Exposed Wood Framing

“Exposed Wood Framing” means the area of a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project that is enclosed, in whole or in part, by wood stud framing and decking of the floor or roof above.  Attics not designated for occupancy, balconies open to the sky and other similar open space are not included in this square footage calculation.  For the purpose of measuring total square footage of wood framing, any adjacent ongoing wood frame construction is considered to be within the project when adjacent structures are separated by less than sixty (60) feet of open air.

 

17.82.240       Fire Safety Officer

“Fire Safety Officer” means an individual employed on a construction job site whose job function is to minimize the potential for the occurrence and spread of fires in accordance with the requirements of this Chapter 17.82 and the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan. The duties of a Fire Safety Officer shall be in addition to, and do not supercede, the duties of any contractor or individual engaging in activities which have the potential to cause the occurrence or spread of fire, including but not limited to the duties specified in Article 49 of the 2001 California Fire Code, as adopted in Chapter 17.12 of this Code, or such other fire safety code as may be adopted by the City from time to time.   

 

17.82.250      Hot Work

“Hot Work” means construction activities including, but not limited to, cutting, welding, use of open torch, brazing, and glass blowing, which are regulated by Article 49 of the 2001 California Fire Code, as adopted in Chapter 17.12 of this Code, or by any similar fire safety code or provision as may be adopted by the City from time to time.

 

17.82.260      Large Wood Frame Building Project

“Large Wood Frame Building Project” means a building project utilizing Exposed Wood Framing in the construction of fifteen (15) or more attached dwelling units, or construction exceeding a total of fifty thousand (50,000) square feet.

 

17.82.270      Major Wood Frame Building Project

“Major Wood Frame Building Project” is Large Wood Frame Building Project which will either:

(1)   exceed three hundred fifty thousand (350,000) square feet; or

(2) exceed two hundred thousand (200,000) square feet if the Project exceeds fifty feet in height as defined in Section 17.82.210.

 

17.82.280      Maximum Allowable Exposed Wood Framing Limit

"Maximum Allowable Exposed Wood Framing Limit" means:

(1)   three hundred fifty thousand (350,000) square feet; or

(2) two hundred thousand (200,000) square feet for a Large Wood Frame Building Project which exceed fifty (50) feet in height as defined in Section 17.82.210.

 

17.82.290      Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers

“Mitigating Fire Protection Barrier” means at least one layer of 5/8 inch gypsum board or other fire resistive blocking located at the end of a fire resistive area or separation wall or party wall, and installed such that the Mitigating Fire Protection Barrier(s) and fire resistive wall(s) enclose area(s) of not less than ten thousand (10,000) square feet and not more than fifty thousand (50,000) square feet.

 

Part 3

Specific Requirements

 

17.82.300       Construction Fire Protection Plan Requirements

A.                 No building permit shall be issued which allows the commencement of wood frame construction on a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, unless the Fire Chief has provided written approval of a Construction Fire Protection Plan for the project.

 

B.                 Construction Fire Protection Plans for a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, shall state how the requirements of this Chapter and all other fire safety requirements shall be met during construction of the project.  Construction Fire Protection Plans for Major Wood Frame Building Projects shall, in addition, state how off hours security will be addressed, and how construction sequencing, including the installation of Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers, will be utilized to minimize the potential for the occurrence and spread of fire.

 

C.                No person shall engage in, permit, authorize or allow any aspect of construction on any project for a Construction Fire Protection Plan unless the Fire Chief has provided written approval of a Fire Protection Plan for the project.

 

D.                No person shall engage in, permit, authorize or allow any aspect of construction on any project for which a Construction Fire Protection Plan has been approved except in full compliance with the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan for the project.

 

E.                 The approved Construction Fire Protection Plan shall be a condition of the building permit and a copy of the Plan shall be maintained on site at all times during construction of the project.

 

17.82.310      Fire Safety Officer Requirements

A.                 No person shall perform, permit, authorize or allow any Hot Work on any Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, after wood framing has commenced, unless a Fire Safety Officer is present on the project site at all times while Hot Work is being performed. 

 

B.                 A Fire Safety Officer shall monitor, confirm and document the following:

 

1.                  That a fire watch as required by Article 87 of the California Fire Code, as adopted in Chapter 17.12 of this Code, or by any similar fire safety code or provision as may be adopted by the City from time to time has been provided during all Hot Work operations;

 

2.                  That storage, use and handling of flammable liquids conforms to all federal, state and local, legal and administrative requirements;

 

3.                  That construction debris is promptly removed from the project site;

 

4.                  That fire protection equipment, including fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, standpipes, and other fire service connections, are in place and operational, as required by law or specified in the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan;

 

5.                  That Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers are in place on any Major Wood Frame Building Project, in accordance with this Chapter and the construction sequencing requirements of the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan;

 

6.                  That such other requirements relating to fire safety have been met, as may be specified in this Code, in the regulations adopted pursuant to this Chapter, or in the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan.

 

17.82.320      Basic Fire Protection Facilities

A.                 No person shall commence, permit, authorize or allow wood framing or engage in any construction activity after the commencement of wood frame construction, on a Large or Major Wood Frame Building project unless an all weather access road is in place meeting the requirements of Section 17.12.430 of this Code, or such other fire apparatus access requirements as may be specified in the Construction Fire Protection Plan for the project, or in any development or building permit for the project, are in place and functional. 

 

B.                 No person shall commence, permit, authorize or allow wood framing or engage in, permit, authorize or allow any construction activity after the commencement of wood frame construction, on a Large or Major Wood Frame Building Project, unless all fire protection equipment, including fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, standpipes, and other fire service connections, are in place and operational, as required by law or specified in the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan. 

 

17.82.330      Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers

No person shall continue, permit, authorize or allow any construction activity on any Major Wood Frame Building Project, unless Mitigating Fire Protection Barriers are in place and operational, in accordance the approved Construction Fire Protection Plan, to maintain the project at or below the applicable Maximum Allowable Exposed Wood Framing Limit.

 

PASSED FOR PUBLICATION of title this _____ day of ___________, 2003, by the following vote:

 

 

            AYES:

 

 

 

            NOES:

 

 

 

            ABSENT:

 

 

 

            DISQUALIFIED:

 

 

 

 

RON GONZALES

Mayor

ATTEST:

 

 

 

PATRICIA L. O’ HEARN

City Clerk

 

 

 

Attachment "B"

 

List of Jurisdictions Surveyed in 2002:

 

* Beverly Hills

* Burbank

* Downey

* El Segundo

* Gardena

* Glendale

* Inglewood

* Los Alamitos

* Los Angeles City

* Los Angeles County

* Long Beach

* Malibu

* Manhattan Beach

* Monterey Park

* Newport Beach

* Norwalk

* Oceanside

* Orange County

* Palmdale

* Pasadena

* Portland, Oregon

* Redondo Beach

* San Dimas

* Santa Clara County

* Santa Clarita

* Santa Monica

* Seattle, Washington

* Simi Valley

* Thousand Oaks

* Ventura

* Vernon

* West Covina

* Whittier

Attachment "C"                     Construction Fire Safety Measures in Other Jurisdictions

 

Jurisdiction

 

 

Type of Projects affected

Fire Safety Measures Exceeding Uniform Fire Code Requirements

Portland, OR

5 story wood frames[1]

City of Portland has enacted major provisions after a 1999 fire that was quite similar to the Santana Row Fire. Some of the requirements are listed below:

·                     Submit a fire protection plan

·                     Activate sprinklers as soon as possible

·                     Install standpipes at each stair as construction progresses upward

·                     Secure site 24/7 including security personnel and fencing.

·                     Compartmentalization by area separation walls with temporary protection of openings in       such walls  (Area Separation Walls will be as required based on Building Code)

·                     Temporary protection of openings in floors  (these openings in floor are temporary openings in floors during construction)

·                     Maintain structural stability by installing all required connection hardware

 

Los Angeles, CA

All wood framed buildings

Designate a Fire Safety inspector during all construction hours

Seattle, WA

 All wood framed buildings

Limitations on the number of LPG tanks stored at site

Downey, CA

All wood framed buildings

·      Construction site shall be secured (fenced, locked and patrolled) 24 hours, seven days per week.

·      All combustible wastes shall be removed before or at end of the day.

 

Burbank, CA

All wood framed buildings

·         Preparation of a fire safety plan

·         Designate a fire safety inspector

·         Complete fencing

 

 

 

 

Attachment "C

 

Construction Fire Safety Measures Exceeding Minimum Uniform Code Requirements

For Wood Framed Buildings*

 

 

Mandatory Fire Safety

Officer

Mandatory Fire Protection Plan

Mandate Off Hours Security

Limit on Total Exposed Wood Framing

1.  Atlanta

X

 

X

 

2.       Boston

X

X

 

 

3.  Charleston

 

X

 

 

4.  Chicago

X

X

X

 

5.       Cleveland

X

X

 

 

6.       Dallas

X

X

X

 

7.  Indianapolis

X

X

X

 

      8.  Kansas City

X

X

 

 

9.  Minneapolis

X

X

 

 

10. Philadelphia

X

X

 

 

11. Phoenix

X

X

X

 

12. Reno

X

X

X

 

San Jose Proposal

X

X

 

X

 

 



[1] For five story wood framed buildings only; no special requirements for buildings 4 story or less; in San Jose, wood frame buildings are allowed up to max. 4 stories