Council puts off mandate to install fire sprinklers in City Hall

The City Council on Tuesday waived for one year a law that mandates fire sprinklers throughout San Diego City Hall.

The $4.2 million project was shelved by Mayor Jerry Sanders last year as part of his plan to close a $179 million budget gap and buy time while the City Council considers whether to build a new City Hall complex.

The City Council voted 7-1 to extend the required compliance date for sprinkler retrofits to Jan. 31, 2011. Councilman Tony Young cast the lone dissenting vote.

City staff had asked the council for a three-year extension, but Councilwoman Marti Emerald said one year should be enough time for a decision to be made about a new City Hall.

“If we are going to be building a new City Hall, I think we will know by fall if that is going to happen,” Emerald said.

Meanwhile, Emerald said the fire sprinklers are a “public safety issue.”

“Anybody who walks into this building, I think is at risk because we don’t have a sprinkler system, we really don’t have an adequate evacuation system,” she said.

The city adopted a law in 1986 that requires the installation of fire sprinklers in all high-rise buildings. The 14-story City Hall, which is partially equipped with fire sprinklers, is the only building out of compliance. The city has waived its own law since 1986 to avoid having to fully install fire sprinklers at City Hall.