Disaster & Fire Safety Commission

Regular Meeting

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

997 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Present: Lynn Zummo, Roger Sharpe, Matt Mitchell, Jesse Townley, Bruce Carleton

Absent: John Caner, Richard White, Trudy Washburn

Staff: Khin Chin, Debra Pryor, Sabina Imrie, Gil Dong

Public: Norine Smith,

  1. Call to Order

M. Mitchell called meeting to order at 7:01 pm.

  1. Public Comment on Items Not on Agenda

Norine Smith said that 50 people and 12 new groups were represented at the BDPNN November meeting. January 28 is the next meeting. The mentoring committee has a rough draft that will be posted in January. An email will be sent out to invite people to say what they have in their caches beyond or in lieu of what the city caches have provided. This will be compiled into a list. A mapping committee has been working on a map for organized groups. Norine is continuing with the revision of site instructions for the Virginia Gardens group. All of these things should be up on the Yahoo site in January. Norine has been referring newly started groups to Pam Grossman for presentations.

Matt Mitchell asked how BDPNN is coordinating with the city. Norine indicated that the BDPNN is doing some things the city is unable to do and coordination is done through Khin Chin in the Office of Emergency Services. Pam Grossman has been a referral for neighborhood meeting presentations. There is not an official affiliation with the city but with parallel missions, coordination and collaboration is desirable.

Bruce Carleton said that as a CERT member participating in the October 17th communications drill, he wanted to recognize Khin Chin for producing the instructions for the drill and OES for coordinating the event.

  1. Approval of Draft Minutes of Meeting of October 28, 2009*

Matt Mitchell

Motion: To approve the minutes as submitted: R. Sharpe

Second: L. Zummo

Vote: (5 Ayes, 0 Noes, Absent: R. White, T. Washburn, J. Caner )

  1. Fire Department and Office of Emergency Services Staff Report
  2. Report on recent emergency incidents

Gil Dong said. 2nd alarm fire on the 900 blk of Mendocino at 930am. Started with a painter using a heat gun that set an attic on fire. 200,000 in structural damage, 50,000 in prop damage. Nov 4 was the end of Fire Season.

  1. Report on community preparedness programs including CERT

G. Dong said that classes are full and continue to be in high demand. Staff is working on adding classes for January and February.

  1. Report on status of commission actions from previous meeting

K. Chin said that the City Manager’s companion report was submitted for the December 15 meeting. He passed out a draft copy for informational purposes to the commissioners.

J. Townley said he was concerned about the delay in submission from the Planning Department especially considering extensive past collaboration with the various city departments. In addition, he said he was concerned that the draft report said that there would be a 2 month delay for response.

Khin Chin reminded the commission that the delay in receipt of this draft companion report to the commission was due to process and coordination with the Council Calendar but that all timelines were appropriately met. Council would be seeing both the Commission’s original recommendation report and the finalized City Manager’s report at the same time.

M. Mitchell said that he was concerned about the apparent reluctance from the city manager to spend staff time on the issue of notification prior to signing a lease. This is an important aspect.

J. Townley said that the importance of the Rent Board’s role should not be diminished and was not acknowledged in the City Manager’s report.

  1. Commission administrative items- Commission Agenda Format*

Khin Chin said that the Transportation Commission agenda was provided in the agenda packet to show an example of level of detail in commission agendas. He had an extensive discussion with the City Clerk regarding the past format of the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission’s agenda where the Clerk’s Office expressed concern in appropriately noticing the public with specific agenda titles. The new format used for the current meeting was developed in collaboration with the commission chair and it is important that for all future meetings commissioners work with Khin or the chair in order to provide a specific topic description for the agenda. Khin reminded the commissioners that it is important to keep in mind that the agenda is not essentially a tool for the commission but rather serves primarily as the noticing method for the public.

M. Mitchell said that the Transportation Commission Agenda is particularly effective in its breakdown of discrete sections and encouraged adopting the best aspects of their example for our commission.

  1. Building and Safety Division Presentation on Automatic Gas Shut-off Valves*

Joan MacQuarrie said that a recommendation from a councilmember in February initiated the creation of this report. The various shortfalls of the valves were re-examined such as valves not documented as officially tested. PGE was officially neutral but were concerned about having to turn gas back on after a sizeable event. 9 years later, some of the concerns have been mitigated. Testing is now listed with the State.

Joan said that she wanted to point out administrative issues concerning the three triggers. New construction, point of sale, remodeling projects over $20,000 are the triggers. These triggers could cause an administrative challenge. Currently, $50,000 is the threshold for many other administrative functions including sewer lateral repair. Adding additional permit review at the $20,000 threshold would create additional administrative challenges. The point of sale trigger is contentious in the real estate community. Staff for enforcement is not currently funded. The City of Los Angeles said that enforcement is an issue for their city as well.

Cost on the valves was provided from a study in the town of Danville. Approximately $5-600 was the total including cost of the valve, installation and permit fee. The permit fee is no longer waived in Berkeley. An ABAG study on the seismic upgrade incentives showed that it was the transfer tax that was effective.

The two type of valves are shaking and an excess flow valve. She does not have a professional recommendation on which is better.

J. Townley said that his neighborhood got a bulk deal on 8-10 valves. He asked about the financial thresholds for the remodel requirement on the chart on the attachment. Joan said that she did not have that data. J. Townley said that he would support a $20,000 threshold.

Joan said that a third party inspection is done at point of sale for Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO). A sewer lateral inspection is done mostly by Public Works. The gas valves would require permit and inspection.

R. Sharpe complimented Joan’s report and said he would support a $50,000 threshold due to the administrative challenges Joan described. In addition, at current prices, $50,000 does not represent a low threshold considering the costs of remodeling. R. Sharpe asked about whether the threshold represented a cumulative threshold (ie. A 12 month period). Joan MacQuarrie said that the $50,000 threshold was for any one permit and that she would not anticipate a large incidence of avoidance since the cost is not relatively high.

M. Mitchell said that most new appliances do not have a pilot light.

G. Dong said that in the basic preparedness CERT class, the question of whether or not a break in the gas line is present during relight. Plumbers have called the fire department on how to reset automatic shut offs. False activations were prevalent after the 2000 Napa earthquake due to passing trucks.

M. Mitchell said that his understanding is that previously the city’s stance on the valves was neutral but with the current recommendation, it is now recommended by the city.

M. Mitchell asked how much the permit fee was. Joan said that it is $119.

M. Mitchell said that if in CERT classes and generally the city advised residents to install valves, this might result in a significant number participating without an ordinance. Joan said that the 10% that participated in Soft Story retrofits could be looked at for past data points. M. Mitchell said that this may be different in that it is a lower cost fix and if the permit fee were waived, there would be even more incentive.

B. Carleton asked what the permit fee is meant to cover. Joan said that it is to cover administrative costs but realistically $119 does not cover the cost.

J. Townley said that an incentive of half the permit fee for 6 months combined with outreached might produce increased participation. Financially, the city as a whole may save more money with less houses burned in a disaster. Joan said that a fee waiver might be less administrative burden than a half fee.

R. Sharpe said that he would support the fee waiver and that this would not likely impact revenues of the building department with the anticipated number of installations.

M. Mitchell asked if Joan had a copy of any recommendation for types or brands of valves. Joan indicated that she did not. M. Mitchell said that a consumer oriented report on the valves might help. Joan said that the State maintains a list and consumers are likely to ask their contractor.

G. Dong said that the ABAG website might also have some information on these valves.

L. Zummo said that this could be discussed in the neighborhood groups and that group purchases could be effective at that level.

Motion: For the commission to send a recommendation to Council in agreement with the Building Official’s recommendation and with an additional recommendation of a waiver of permit fees to encourage installation. R. Sharpe

Second: L. Zummo

Vote: (5 Ayes, 0 Noes, Absent: R. White, T. Washburn, J. Caner )

  1. Consideration of a Work Plan for the Commission for the year 2010

M. Mitchell said that B.Carleton originally brought up the concept of the work plan.

B. Carleton said that those items that have not been already completed should be carried over including the soft story ordinance, utility undergrounding. Going over the minutes from previous years, there did not appear to be a comprehensive review of disaster plans, emergency operations plans. There have been reviews periodically but not a comprehensive review. An overview of existing plans might be helpful for commissioners to have. This would be a suggestion for the 2010 work plans. CERT training is also another area of interest. Neighborhoods have managed to gather a lot of supplies and access to training would be desirable. The public seems to realize that the training is important. Training the neighborhoods to take care of themselves will enhance public safety.

M. Mitchell said that it is true that the commission has tended to address issues as they have come up. H5N1 and the Above Ground Water System are examples. The H1N1 has been more of a recent issue than H5N1. The Above Ground Water System is now well underway. M. Mitchell said that fire safety might be again a priority area but acknowledges that this might be more of a focus for the hills.

M. Mitchell said that the Annual Report to Council has been largely the commission’s work plan as a prioritization of issues.

R. Sharpe said that parking on narrow streets has been an issue that is ongoing and significant progress has not been made.

J. Townley said that the work plan should consist of what is in the annual report plus, for instance, an overview of the existing plans, increased review of fire safety in the hills, etc.

G. Dong suggested that the work plan or report to council be targeted for May because of the Council’s calendar for budget review. March or April might even be a more effective target.

M. Mitchell said meetings 1-3 could be for working on the annual report. J. Townley said that writing as much outside of the meetings as possible and having work products for review at meetings could be more effective use of meeting time.

B. Carleton said that a work plan could be broadly written with milestones rather than exact work. A review milestone is important for existing plans.

G. Dong said that the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan was review by the commission last year and there was a process that involves the public that needs to occur. A lot the work has already been done.

B. Carleton will bring a work plan draft to the next meeting.

  1. Annual Report to Council
  2. Identification of topics to be included in the Commission’s next Annual Report to Council

J. Townley recommended residential soft story programs, disaster drills and exercises, and Unreinforced Masonry as topics.

M. Mitchell recommended Bus Rapid Transit Proposal for Telegraph Ave be added to the topics on the report. Also, vegetation management in the hills is a topic that Oakland has been working on and there is a special assessment district near his home. Fire danger continues to grow. Fire safety as a focus of the commission might be increased. G. Dong said that there was a special assessment district in Berkeley in the past. Currently, only 1000 homes are inspected outside of complaint driven inspections. Oakland has been able to continue their work with their assessment funding. M. Mitchell said Berkeley is also a participant in the Hills Emergency Forum. B. Carleton said that fire patrols are also preventative measure. G. Dong said that Red Flag days are fire patrols by hired firefighters. NALCO Amateur Radio operators patrol on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day and coordinate with the Fire Department.

J. Townley said that a lot of work on narrow streets and parking has occurred over the years. Harry Clark, in 1993-1994, identified red curb needs to improve emergency access by fire apparatus. A lot of red curb work has been done with former councilmember Betty Olds. There is a city wide ordinance requiring a 20ft passage way. Existing non-conforming streets are a barrier for universal application. Politically, it is not palatable for those with limited parking options in the hills. Commissioner Washburn who is absent might be able to provide even more background. G. Dong said that a street where red curb painting was reversed had a recent call.

M. Mitchell said that 4 different categories might be:

1. Dangerous Buildings – soft stories and URMs

2. Fire Safety – fuel control

3. Community Preparedness- CERT

L. Zummo left the meeting at 845pm.

4. Emergency Vehicle Access- vertical deflection devices, red curbs, bus rapid transit

L. Zummo returned to the meeting at 846pm.

J. Townley suggested adding dedicated funding for OES. G. Dong said that 2.5 FTEs are dedicated to OES. J. Townley said that there was 4 FTEs in 2003-2004.

5. OES Funding – Pandemic planning, hazmat, terrorism, commissions could be in this category.

  1. Assignment of Commissioners to prepare drafts of reports on those topics.

R. Sharpe said that it would be difficult this year obtaining data on building safety issues since there is no city employee assigned to provide updated data. A recommendation for continued work and critical need for staffing and program implantation might be appropriate.

J. Townley volunteered to take lead on Dangerous Buildings report topic.

M. Mitchell said that Fire Safety might be assigned to Trudy and Dick.

B. Carleton and L. Zummo volunteered to take Community Preparedness topic.

M. Mitchell will take the lead on Emergency Vehicle Access.

L. Zummo volunteered to take the lead on OES Funding.

M. Mitchell said that Mutual Aid arrangements should be examined.

G. Dong said that staff would be able to provide a presentation on Mutual Aid plans.

  1. Establishment of Calendar of Regular Commission Meetings for 2010*

Motion: L. Zummo to set meeting dates for 2010 for January 27, February 24, March 24, April 28, May 26, June 23, August 4, September 22, October 27, December 1

Second: R. Sharpe

Vote: (5 Ayes, 0 Noes, Absent: R. White, T. Washburn, J. Caner )

  1. Request to Transportation Commission

Motion: To request from the Transportation Commission analysis of impact on emergency vehicle operation on Telegraph Avenue that would result from approval of AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit Proposal to remove two lanes from public use. L. Zummo

Second: J. Townley

Vote: (5 Ayes, 0 Noes, Absent: R. White, T. Washburn, J. Caner )

  1. Soft Story Retrofit Phase Two Report

J. Townley said that he has a meeting with Councilmember Arreguin regarding this issue. He said that by the next meeting he hopes to have a written report.

  1. Alameda County Disaster Planning for Pets Report
  2. Report on latest meeting of the Alameda County Disaster Planning for Pets meeting
  3. Announcement of future meetings of the Alameda County Disaster Planning for Pets meetings

There was no update on this item. Commissioner Washburn might have an update but she is absent.

  1. Adjourn

Move to Adjourn: R. Sharpe

Second: B. Carleton

Vote: (5 Ayes, 0 Noes, Absent: R. White, T. Washburn, J. Caner)

Meeting Adjourned at 9:10pm