In the aftermath of last week’s tragic Marco Polo condominium, Councilmember Kobayashi and I have carefully reviewed the May 2005 Fire Safety Advisory Committee’s recommendations to explore options, requirements, time frames, costs, incentives and benefits regarding residential high-rise building safety applications. The Advisory Committee findings included:
- The installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system and other life safety systems in existing residential high-rise buildings, presently not required, would significantly reduce the life safety and property damage risk from the consequences of fire.
- Fire damage estimates in high-rise buildings with sprinklers were $175,401 or 1% of the total property damages. Fire damage estimates in high-rise buildings without sprinklers were $2,770,420 or 5% of the total property damages.
- Listings compiled by Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) identify approximately 300 non-sprinklered residential high-rise buildings, and Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (DBF) estimates that there are roughly 24,612 individual residential high-rise dwelling units within the City and County of Honolulu.
- The Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii State Legislature should consider enacting legislation to provide incentives to owners of residential structures who are willing to install fire sprinklers. Such installations will not only reduce property damage and save lives but also provide additional revenue from taxes paid by businesses involved in the installation of fire sprinklers.
We introduced Resolution 17-195 on July 20th, seeking an update on the 2005 Fire Safety Advisory Committee Report. The resolution was heard and adopted with amendments by the Council’s Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee today.
The amendments included designating the stakeholder groups that participated in the 2005 Advisory Committee, such as Honolulu Fire Department, fire safety equipment installers, City Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, Board of Water Supply, Hawaii Council of Associations of Apartment Owners (HCAAO) to be included in the reconstituted Fire Safety Advisory Task Force, requiring a progress report on recommendations from the reconstituted Task Force and including a representative of Hawaii Public Housing Authority. Res. 17-195, CD1 will be considered by the City Council on Wednesday, August 9, 2017; Bill 69, Mayor Caldwell’s mandatory sprinkler retrofit measure, will be reviewed on First Reading at the same meeting.
The following incentives were identified by the committee as a starting point to mitigate the costs of retrofitting residential high-rise buildings with automatic fire sprinklers and other life safety systems:
- Incentive: extend compliance period to 10-15 years for open-corridor buildings that present a lesser degree of hazard by allowing venting to the outside.
- Incentive: real property tax credit/exemption – time limit (credit to be deducted from the property tax, whereas an exemption would be an upfront dollar amount).
- Incentive: property lien to pay upon sale/transfer – a funding source like G.O. bonds would be used to fund the cost of the sprinkler installation from qualified persons, with a lien to be paid when the property is sold or transferred.
- Incentive: fire insurance savings – percentage of increase or decrease in fire insurance premium amounts.
- Incentive: water meter fee reduction – BWS indicated that a dedicated water meter is required for sprinkler systems. Of the approximately 300 non-sprinklered buildings reviewed by BWS, approximately 250 would need some type of new meters for fire service systems.
- Incentive: building permit fee reduction – permit fee reductions (to offset the costs of retrofitting for sprinklers) would require City Council approval.
- Incentive: state tax credit – a proposed $1,000-per year credit for up to 5 years for installation of sprinkler systems for condos built before 1975 passed the House in 2005 but died in the Senate.
- Incentive: federal tax accelerated depreciation – requires Congressional approval.
- Incentive: City-sponsored low-interest loans – requires City Council approval.
Most of the 300 buildings identified in the 2005 report are located in the Makiki-Punchbowl and McCully- Moiliili neighborhoods. However, several buildings in Ala Moana-Kakaako and Waikiki, as well as those in Salt Lake, Hawaii Kai and Mililani were also identified in the 2005 report. The following addresses in Ala Moana-Kakaako are identified as non-sprinklered buildings:
- 1300, 1600 and 1650 Ala Moana Boulevard
- 1560, 1561, 1578, 1610, 1624 and 1650 Kanunu Street • 910 Ahana Street
- 738 Kaheka Street
- 731, 747, 750 and 780 Amana Street
- 1655 and 1670 Makaloa Street
- 419 and 419A Atkinson Drive
- 1617 Kapiolani Boulevard
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 768-5006 if you have questions or concerns regarding this time-sensitive issue.