Posted on 09/30/2014

Article Originally Published by DTNews

From the roof of the 30-story AT&T Center, Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning announced the elimination of the requirement that all high-rises have flat roofs.

Although the change to the decades-old code will be in effect across the city, its impact could be felt most in Downtown Los Angeles, where high-rises, in particular residential towers, are sprouting with increasing frequency. Critics say the regulation has thwarted architectural innovation and is antiquated given new safety systems and protocols.

The old code, which required every high-rise building to have an emergency helicopter landing facility in case of fire, was well intentioned but outdated, Garcetti said, calling it “one more stupid rule in Los Angeles.”

Garcetti was joined at the announcement by Los Angeles City Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, Mack Urban CEO Paul Keller and Chris Martin, CEO of AC Martin.

Under what is termed a revision of Regulation 10, builders have two options: they can either build a new, smaller helipad or eliminate the helipad altogether. Full elimination, said Terrazas, requires the creation of a dedicated fire service elevator, quick-response sprinkler heads, video camera surveillance systems in the elevator as well as a fire control room, and wider stairways for evacuating the building.

The elevator, Terrazas said, would get rescue workers to the roof in less than two minutes.

Huizar said the change will allow Downtown buildings to be more distinctive and will reflect the city’s vision, progress and creativity. The skyline, he said, should offer more than “rectangular boxes built to soaring heights.”

Although updating the code has been discussed for years, it took the $1.1 billion Wilshire Grand project to make a change feasible. Approvals have been secured allowing the 73-story tower, designed by AC Martin and developed by Korean Air, to have a sloping roof.

Martin said creating enhanced fire safety systems in the building is a better use of development dollars than creating helipads, which he noted are seldom used.

Garcetti said the revised 1974 code will lead to a major change for Los Angeles architecture.

“I want to see innovative design,” he said. Referring to the architects and developers, he added, “We are going to take the handcuffs off you.”