LA explores more restrictions on large wood-frame projects

Council considers expanding existing fire safety measures in densely-populated areas; opponents say construction costs would rise

Los Angeles /
Apr.April 07, 2021 10:21 AM
Opponents say the restriction will cause an increase in construction costs. (Getty)
Opponents say the restriction will cause an increase in construction costs. (Getty)

Los Angeles could expand restrictions on large wood-frame building projects as part of ongoing fire safety measures in some of the city’s more densely-populated neighborhoods.

The City Council voted Tuesday to direct the Fire Department and Department of Buildings and Safety to present a report identifying areas that could come under such regulations, according to Urbanize.

The restrictions would apply to projects with a floor-area of at least 150,000 square feet, as well as projects more than 30 feet in height with floor areas above 100,000 square feet.

The regulations would expand existing fire safety measures that already apply to parts of Downtown, Century City, Hollywood and Koreatown.

The report will study expanding that area — known as Fire District 1 — to parts of the city that are vulnerable to wildfires, such as Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Pacific Palisades. It would also study an expansion to any population centers with more than 5,000 residents per square mile.

Wood-frame and so-called heavy timber construction — in which wood is used for exterior and interior walls — is barred entirely within the current bounds of Fire District 1.

The city has also required landlords to strengthen existing wood-frame buildings with steel for earthquake resistance.

Wood-frame construction is popular with developers because it’s cheaper than other materials like steel. Such construction methods are commonly used for smaller apartment buildings in many parts of L.A.

Architect Simon Ha, who opposes the measure, wrote to the City Council that constructing a multifamily building compliant with Fire District 1 requirements would increase incremental costs by 5 to 10 percent compared to wood-frame construction, according to the report.

[Urbanize] — Dennis Lynch 


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