Rather than choose sides in Menlo Park's long-fought fire sprinkler debate, the City Council on Tuesday opted to schedule a study session later this year when both sides can hash it out.
The decision came after Menlo Park Fire Protection District officials asked the council to adopt an ordinance that would require fire sprinklers in the following cases:
All planned buildings with a basement of more than 250 square feet.
The ordinance would not apply to existing homes, unless they underwent a major remodel.
"Residential fire deaths are not going down," said Fire Marshal Geoff Aus. "It's our job to reduce these with smoke detectors and fire sprinklers."
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman noted that Atherton and East Palo Alto have adopted similar ordinances, and said requiring sprinklers is "something that needs to be done."
But the sprinkler issue, as it has over the past several years, proved a prickly issue at the council's May 1 meeting.
Three people spoke against the proposed ordinance, arguing that installation costs may exceed safety benefits.
Michael Lambert, one of the most outspoken critics when a sprinkler ordinance was proposed in 2004, said he has "huge reservations" about requiring them in local homes, and there are other steps the city can take to encourage fire safety at "a reasonable cost to the people of Menlo Park."
Resident Richard Li said fire officials' calls for sprinklers are based on "a lot of unexamined hearsay."
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