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Eiref household input on fire sprinkler ordnance

From: domainremoved <Ben>
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:34:05 -0800

Dear Mayor Catherine Carlton and City Council,

I'm attaching a letter with inputs on the fire sprinkler ordinance. Thanks
for your attention.

Ben Eiref


January 26, 2015

Menlo Park Mayor Catherine Carleton and City Council,

I want to briefly follow-up my comments from late last year regarding fire
sprinkler requirements in Menlo Park. My own family is in the middle of
extending our home and our experiences may provide insight relative to the
Fire Department’s request to update the fire sprinkler ordinance*.*

We were originally excited with having the additional safety of sprinklers
but we were stunned and disappointed by the cost and complexity. We came
to the conclusion that it is totally impractical under the current rules.
We met with the fire department several times and agreed to make
alternative concessions to remove the requirement for sprinklers. This
includes widening our driveway to twenty feet and removing all the trees
along our drive. While we’re not entirely happy with doing this we decided
it was far less burdensome. *The fire department was very open to meeting
with us and we’re happy they worked with us.*

Here’ a summary of our findings, experience and recommendations. Figuring
all this out took extensive research which most homeowners would likely not
be able to do.

· *Our overall lifetime cost for adding sprinklers, required larger
service line and backflow prevention system would be roughly $40,000-50,000*.
This includes roughly $20,000 for initial installation and $20,000 - 30,000
recurring fees over thirty years.

· *Recurring fees to Cal Water of $93 per month* including $78/mo for
the larger meter service and $15/mo for service to private fire system.

· I’m assuming there would be hundreds of dollars in annual fees to
test the sprinklers and the backflow system but did not research this.

· We need *sixty-eight sprinkler heads*, half in the existing house
and half in the extension. Our house has interior beam ceilings which
increases the required number.

We were originally led to believe that we were required to have sprinklers
because we live on a flag lot. But as we went through the various state
and city regulations and questioned what the various entities were telling
us we realized that this is not the case. Instead the flag lot puts us in
a grey zone where we need to negotiate with the fire department to get
their approval. Hence the compromise solution of widening the driveway.
Even the fire department itself admits that a twenty-foot wide drive is
overkill but they were clear that they expected us to make concessions.

Here are some thoughts and recommendations to consider moving forward with
any new requirements.

1. *What problem are we trying to solve and is the cost to homeowners
and the community proportional to the benefit? * Do we have a lot of dense
urban and fire prone housing stock? Who is benefitting from
this…homeowners, the fire industry…?

2. Run the numbers. The cost for broad fire sprinkler system to Menlo
Park is large. If one conservatively assumes there are ten thousand homes
in the City and each one must spend ten thousand on sprinklers at some
point in the next few decades *that’s a cost of $100 million! That’s could
well be the largest construction cost on homeowners ever in the City’s

3. Consider the impact of lots of sprinkler systems on the City’s water
infrastructure and who should pay for that? We were told that the
increased service lines could trigger the need for larger water lines. On
a related note, several homeowners in our neighborhood have been required
to install fire hydrants at their own cost ($50,000+ per hydrant) even
though this is really a benefit to the whole city.

4. If all homes have sprinklers then is the cost of running the fire
district lower? Are there benefits in other areas that can be estimated?
Just a thought.

5. Note that as part of any new project homeowners are already likely
installing state of the art fire detection, electrical, insulation and
other fire resistant materials. It’s much cheaper to prevent a fire than
to try and stop it.

6. Do not agree to any change in the fire code without requiring a
cross-department effort with the Fire Department, City Planning/Building
and Water Company. Figure out a way to make the burden much less.

We were originally interested in having the additional safety of sprinklers
and disappointed in the way things turned out. But even after our
extensive research we were concerned that we still don’t have a complete
picture. More importantly *we lost confidence that any one entity is
giving the complete realistic story on all the impacts of sprinklers. *

The City does not provide clear guidance on the topic. The fire department
clearly wants homeowners to install sprinklers. The Sprinkler consultants
are conservative and don’t question the requirements. It’s not in their
interest. The water company is not a required part of the planning process
so homeowners are not likely to be aware of the costs for increased service
until after they start a project.

I’m happy to talk with the Council to provide more details on our
experience. Thanks for your attention.

Ben and Rosemary Eiref

1153 Santa Cruz Avenue

Menlo Park

Received on Mon Jan 26 2015 - 22:28:41 PST

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