Is Public Safety Taking Back Seat?

Mayor Jerry Sanders is asking the City Council for another extension of the deadline for City Hall to comply with an ordinance requiring highrises to be retrofitted with sprinklers.

It woud be the fifth such waiver since the law was passed in 1986.

Last year, in the wake of a deadly highrise fire in Long Beach and another one in Texas, the San Diego County Grand Jury recommended that a partially installed sprinkler system at San Diego's City Hall be finished.

Only three of the 13 occupied floors have sprinklers, and it would take $5 million to do the rest at a time when money is in short supply.

The rationale for all these waivers over the years is, why spend that money when a new Civic Center complex is on the horizon?

The mayor's aides say one more 2-year extension would allow time for a feasibility study  on the $628 million proposal submitted by a Portland-based redevelopment firm.

A longtime Council opponent of the waivers said there's no guarantee the project would pencil out in this economy, or be more cost-effective than renting outside space.

"So I think that if this building is going to stay, it's important that it gets the sprinklering that we make other people do," said City Councilmember Jim Madaffer. " I don't see how we can vote to waive the law one more time."

So far, no response from the mayor's staff for interviews on all this.

As a consequence of extending the enforcement deadline, the City has been waiving the law for 17 private highrises that aren't in compliance.

This year, the owners of two finally spent the money to put in sprinklers.

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