Politics suspected in building code
CRITICS: CHANGES WOULD BE
A California commission
has picked a new state building code favored by a firefighters union that
is among the biggest donors to Gov. Gray Davis' anti-recall
Critics say the new code will lead to delays and
higher costs in construction.
Davis-appointed Building Standards Commission voted 8-2 Tuesday night to
replace the state's outdated code with one developed by the National Fire
Protection Association, a fire safety group. The code is used by only one
city in the nation -- Pasadena, Texas.
new regulations are supported by the California Professional Firefighters
and its national affiliate, among others. The two groups have contributed
at least $168,000 to Davis' anti-recall effort, according to data compiled
by opponents of the association's code. Moreover, the union's Sacramento
office until recently served as headquarters for the anti-recall
Commission members said they backed the new code
because it would lead to safer buildings.
city building officials, developers and others had favored a different
code adopted in more than 40 states. They suspect the commission's
decision may have stemmed at least in part from Davis' close ties to the
California firefighters union.
afraid of the political possibilities, but I don't know that they exist,''
said Margaret Bruce, environmental programs director for the Silicon
Valley Manufacturing Group, which had favored an alternative, dubbed the
international building code. ``The perception of many is that there are
some kinds of relationships -- or some kinds of, I don't know, biases --
that have led the commission to make this decision.''
Grijalva, Palo Alto's fire chief, shared Bruce's concern about the new
code, which will apply to all buildings except private homes and is
expected to go into effect in 2006.
``There appears to be a lot of influence of the
unions on this issue,'' he said. ``I'm disappointed in the outcome,
because in all the meetings I attended, the testimony was overwhelmingly
in favor of the international building code.''
Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio denied that the contributions influenced
the choice and said no one from the governor's office had lobbied the
commission about the matter.
members of the Building Standards Commission on Tuesday, including its
chair, Aileen Adams, denied being contacted by anyone from Davis'
a former president of the Los Angeles City Fire Commission and as someone
who lost both of my husband's parents in a high-rise hotel fire a number
of years ago because of inadequate building standards, I supported the
code that provides the highest level of safety,'' Adams said in a prepared
Supporters of the fire-association code said they
preferred it because the other code would have permitted high-rises made
of less-fire-resistant materials and with narrower stairways, making them
potentially less safe.
Unlike the international building code, they said,
the fire association's version also requires owners of buildings where
large public events are staged to assess the structures' vulnerability to
terrorists and other disasters. They also said the fire association's
process for updating its code was more inclusive of different interest
the international building code was supported by a wide range of
government officials, developers and some fire officials. Three of four
state agencies that reviewed the two versions picked the international
building code. They claimed the fire association's code was so vaguely
written that it will prove difficult for builders and city officials to
use, resulting in more lawsuits over alleged construction defects, as well
as costly construction delays.