The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance adopting the state of California’s updated building codes.
Each year, the state adopts building standards for uniform use throughout California, a process facilitated by the State Building Commission.
The city of Santa Barbara has consistently adopted local building standards and regulations that enable the enforcement of these laws, according to a city staff report.
“In 1954, the City stopped drafting building standards at the local level and, since that time, has adopted and amended regional, state, national, and international building standards. The draft Ordinance attached to this report represents the most recent cycle of building standards proposed for amendment and adoption,” the report reads.
Tuesday’s ordinance adopts the 2019 California Building, Residential, Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, Energy, Historical Building, Existing Buildings, Green Building Standards codes and the 2015 International Property maintenance codes.
Updates include staff changes to the Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals to ensure broader technical expertise and greater consistency in determinations of the board; providing an additional exception for the retrofitting of automatic fire sprinklers in existing buildings by the city’s Fire Prevention Bureau; revising the city’s grading permit regulations in order to ensure clearer enforcement of stormwater pollution prevention measures during grading projects; revising the definition of a fountain by the city’s Water Resources Division; and coordinating the State Housing Law and Property Maintenance Code standards for the use and upkeep of housing.
Staff asked for direction on whether the actions of the Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals should be appealable (on the record) to the City Council. This issue divided the council members, with Kristen Sneddon, Jason Dominguez and Oscar Guttierrez arguing for making actions appealable.
Ms. Sneddon expressed concern that the Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals would have final say on local disputes.
“It does not go well that this is the only place that that can be appealed when it’s really a design issue or has to do with drainage issues and then that’s the end of the line for that particular issue,” said Ms. Sneddon.
Councilman Randy Rowse said that making actions appealable to council would be a waste of energy, time and a misapplication of expertise.
“In this we shouldn’t be up here trying to digest and interpret what is mechanical, technical, engineering data. We don’t have that bed of expertise. Yeah, could we gain it over the course of a hearing? Perhaps, but is it really the direction we want to go? Is that where our skillset is? Is that what we do? And my answer is no, absolutely not,” said Mr. Rowse.
“I understand everybody’s apprehension about this not being a subject that’s easily comprehensible during a meeting,” said Mr. Guttierez, “but I just feel that fundamentally our residents have the right to appeal any decision that a government body has imposed upon them.”
Ultimately the council adopted the ordinance without the section making Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals actions appealable to the City Council. Council members discussed working with city agencies to update the appeal process at a later date.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 12 in the council chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.