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agenda item H-5

From: domainremoved <Henry>
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2016 11:30:23 -0700

Council members,

As an architect doing several smaller projects per year in Menlo Park, I support the plan to add depth to plans review and inspection.

I also have a caution, based on experience with outside plans reviewers (primarily Kutzmann Assoc.) over fourteen years. Where the building code is written conservatively, it allows for interpretation by the "building official" where the code may over-reach or over-regulate. This is particularly important for projects under $10,000,000 in my experience. I have repeatedly seen fully conservative reviews from consulting reviewers, presumably thinking that it is not their role to "interpret". This is often followed by support for the conservative review by staff, who do not want to over-rule a professional consultant, presumably for liability reasons. Consultant reviewers also ask for additional detail and calculations that may not apply to a limited scope of project, "just in case".

For example, there is a different fire rating for a stage in an auditorium if it has a full proscenium (the tall space where the stage curtains wait above the stage) than if not. The first review of a performing arts project interpreted the presence of a proscenium, even thought it did not meet either the definition or intent within the code. The contract reviewer (who Menlo Park uses today) refused to alter the interpretation. It took four months and five professionals to make the clear, legal correction based on the codes own definition. This would have been a $40,000 cost addition for the owner, as well as an awkward modification of the stage, hence the effort.

Other examples may involve small (four weeks) or extensive delays and meetings - also a cost to owner but to staff as well.

I ask that Community Development present a plan that will encourage the use of judgement by the consultant reviewer so projects do not fall into this trap.

With thanks,

Henry Riggs, AIA
Received on Fri Apr 08 2016 - 11:36:05 PDT

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