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Fire sprinkler debate is back

Original post made by Rory Brown on May 2, 2007

Menlo Park City Council members have agreed to hold a study session so the public can weigh in on whether the council should enact an ordinance that would require sprinklers in most new (not existing) Menlo Park homes.
Interim City Manager Kent Steffens said the study session could take place as early as August.
The sprinkler issue has been divisive since it surfaced in 2004. Fire district officials and other proponents say sprinklers are crucial to improving fire safety and saving lives, but opponents have argued the installation costs don't outweigh the safety benefits.
Where do you stand on the fire sprinkler debate?

Here's a link to the Almanac's most recent story: Web Link

And here's a link to a 2004 story, after the council voted to turn down the ordinance: Web Link

Comments (13)

Posted by Kingsley Roberts, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm

As a civil engineer, 25 year homeowner and have remodeled my house, I can state that requiring fire sprinklers would be quite expensive and further make home ownership unaffordable. This is especially true for remodel work.

Imagine, if you will, having to install sprinklers into an existing ceiling. Not only will the ceiling wall board have to be opened up, but each joist (if there is a second story above) will have to have a hole drilled for the water pipe. Walls will have to be opened up to run water pipes up to the ceiling. All this must be done by plumbers along with City inspection.

What will happen when you light a fire in the fireplace? Sometimes a puff of smoke billows out until a draft is established. Will such a puff of smoke cause your sprinklers to dump. Consider the water damage to a home. Carpet, wood floors, furniture, books & papers, computers ... I would be afraid of opening my oven or microwave for fear of flooding my house with water that would be hard to turn off.

The probability of having a house fire of the magnitude to make sprinklers cost effective is probably less that the probability of being seriously injured or killed in an automobile accident. We townspeople accept such a level of risk in our daily lives and lives of our children so imposing a significant additional cost upon us which will only barely improve our existing risk of living is not worth it.


Posted by watchfuleye, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 6, 2007 at 7:32 am

Our Council is bowing to pressure from the plumber's union, which dearly wants to have such an ordinance passed, resulting in much more new work for them.

Some firemen sometimes work off duty as plumbers and that is the tie-in. That is why they want to bring back discussion of this obviously un-wanted and un-needed cost raising code.

I wonder why we don't simply absorb the fire district into the city's structure. They have way too many chiefs and seem to be able to spend enormous amounts of time and taxpayer money doing projects outside our city. What the council should really do is conduct an audit of the fire district and consider this kind of action.


Posted by watchingToo, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 6, 2007 at 11:52 pm



Hmm, very interesting theory.

Maybe we should be watching these council votes.

Heyward Robinson received for the 2006 election
$1,000 from Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 467 in Menlo Park

Richard Cline received for the 2006 election
$1,000 from Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 467 in Burlingame

Kelly Fergusson received for the 2004 election
$1,000 from Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 467 in Burlingame
$500 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #617
in San Mateo

Did they think that by listing different cities, we wouldn't notice?
What's a steamfitter anyway?


Posted by wanna_remodel, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 7, 2007 at 12:28 am

Got a friend that lives in the county unincorporated. He went thru this sprinkler mess with the county for his new house. It cost him north of $10,000 for a twenty five hundred square foot house. He said it worked out to four bucks a square foot.

He said that the 10K was only for the sprinkler subcontractor. he had huge upcharges that the plumber had thrown in for the massive water service line that he had to bring in from the street to power his sprinklers. Now he also has to pay big bucks to Cal Water every month forever for a water line three times bigger than what he needed or wanted.

If the city passes this idiotic thing, I'm gonna split my remodel project into two smaller projects to get under the radar. That way
I won't have to give up my marble baths to pay for this crap.

I don't get it. This sprinkler thing seems to come up every year. If the city said no and no and no, leave it alone.

Maybe watchfuleye is right, someone must making money off this. The county is totally absorbed by the BORG, a.k.a. the unions. Don't forget, the unions back each other up.


Posted by willows123, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 8, 2007 at 5:46 am

That's going to make remodeling even more unaffordable than it already is. Why can't I just use smoke alarms and portable fire extinguishers? They cost about twenty bucks at Costco.

Here's what's going to happen, the city council will make remodeling houses so expensive, that only spec builders can afford to build. They will buy everything up and build monster homes.


Posted by Follow the Money, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 8, 2007 at 12:00 pm

So you are using the "follow the money" rule? I agree.

But while you all follow the $1,000 steamfitter gift, I will follow the some $30,000 developers threw behind a certain councilmember who barely won.

Follow that money. That is real money for real policy. By the sound of it, you all supported him. So maybe we should ask you what business you are in?

$1,000? Please.


Posted by watchingToo, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 8, 2007 at 1:49 pm


what business? what's it to you? if you think this is a developer versus residents fight, you got it all wrong. this is politicians versus residents and it will cost the residents.

you think the $1000 was all the unions gave? those guys "volunteered" and walked districts, distributed literature and paid for flyers valued in the tens for thousands. read the almanac, dude. for that they just got a thirty five percent increase in pensions. next year, they get their pay raises. what the hell to you think the UUT was for? it's payback time and the council is in on it.

you think developers care about sprinklers? they do, they love them, it gets them more density! you think derry lane can happen without sprinklers?

politicians spend YOUR money to stay in power, they ALL do, the difference is who gets it.




Posted by willows123, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm


Okay, I get it. Following this thread, the politicians get the campaign money, the unions get the work (or at least bank a favor to be cashed in later) and the developers get the density, the residents get SCREWED. Yep, that's about right!

From the plumbers (and others, SEIU?), $3500 (and a LOT of freebies)
From the developers, $30000
Having the politicians in your pocket - PRICELESS !


Posted by Follow the Money, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm

WatchingToo called out three council member names -- not five.

Stay balanced the finger is pointed in the correct direction. From your response we are both following the same logic.

But just to be clear -- the conspiracy theory is ridiculous. You guys watch too many movies. The facts on the table are these:

1 - Sprinklers cost homeowners money -- lots of it.
2 - New homes that are one floor should not be the same as two or three storied homes.
3 - Rebuilds will get creamed with this proposal by the district.
4 - Basements kill firefighters. Period.
5 - Wired smoke alarms are as effective as sprinklers in saving lives.
6 - Water mains need upgrading and this will not drive that fix.
7 - Businesses in downtown will be negatively impacted.
8 - The insurance companies are not clamoring for sprinklers.
9 - Us Belle Haven folks cannot afford sprinklers. Believe me.

Firefighters as part-time plumbers? Ugh.

Steamfitters driving the agenda. Ugh.

Another Union conspiracy? Ugh.

Are the Unions to blame for the steroid problem in baseball too?

Follow the facts. There is plenty to support your point without yet another stigma-laced conspiracy theory.



Posted by ShowMeTheMoney, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 8, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Regarding campaign contributions....

We have asked for an article detaling the contributions AFTER the last pre-election campaign financing dsclosure. We still have not received any follow-up.


FYI - Please note that there is currently a two-tier fire fee structure. The difference between the fire fee with srinklers vs. fire fee without sprinklers will pay a substantial portion of the initial installation costs on NEW construction (vs. remodels).


Posted by Rory Brown, Almanac staff writer
on May 9, 2007 at 9:59 am

Rory Brown is a registered user.

ShowMeTheMoney:

The Almanac did report Menlo Park campaign contributions recorded after the November election.

Here are links to two stories on the topic:

Web Link
Web Link


Posted by All Wet, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 10, 2007 at 2:49 pm

New homes and major remodels in Woodside are required to install sprinklers, and have been for years. It's expensive, to be sure, but most homes around here aren't built on the cheap.

A marble bathtub won't save you life in a fire, but fire sprinklers will. And they might save your home (and your neighbor's home).


Posted by willows123, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 11, 2007 at 9:47 pm

How do you know the fire sprinkler will save my life? Read the papers, most people die of smoke inhalation. Get a small smoldering fire with your synthetic fabric furniture and toxic smoke comes out. Its not a big enough fire to melt the dohicky that turns on the sprinkler but it's plenty big to put out the smoke and carbon monoxide to put you out for good.

Thanks, but I prefer to spend my dollars on safety the way I want to spend it on safety, not what some bureaucrat thinks is good for me. Besides, you know it's coming, MANDATORY annual inspections for the sprinklers. Could be done by the fire department, could be done by outside companies, either way, it will be $$ paid by residents. It'll be like waiting for the cable guy, except every year and you have to pay, always!

For what these guys want to make me pay, I can get smoke detectors, extinguishers, and a Volvo. That's plenty of safety for me and it's
what I want!


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