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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sprinkler Bill Passes Senate

posted by on April 12 at 15:00 PM

Senate Bill 1811—the legislation that pushes back for two years a requirement that all bars over a certain occupancy and size install costly sprinkler systems—passed the Senate last night and is moving on to the House, where it already passed in a different form. (A business and occupation tax credit for businesses that install the systems was cut from the Senate version.) Gov. Gregoire is expected to sign the bill.

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i think it's hilarious that we want to push back the issue of safety in bars. can you imagine a fire in some of those places? it would be devastating. instead, let's delay the process so it can be unsafe for 2 more years. these places will never have the money to update. why delay?

Posted by BR | April 12, 2007 3:07 PM

I for one am happy that we value the existing clubs we have enough to give them time to comply with the sprinkler system requirement and figure out how to share the cost with building owners and business owners. this is good news.

nobody wants to push back public safety, that is an unfair way of characterizing people who own and work at clubs, i have found the exact opposite in my experience and i know many of them in seattle.

of course some people think we should shut clubs down entirely, too noisy, dangerous, blah blah blah. i suppose thats an opinion to be entitled to, but not one i share.

good decision

Posted by Kwab | April 12, 2007 3:54 PM

my understanding was that part of the reason for the postponement is because the local sprinkler companies are so swamped with new jobs (because of the bill), they would have never been able to fulfill all their orders by the bill's original deadline.

Posted by josh bomb | April 12, 2007 4:07 PM

It seems like maybe you misunderstand the practical realities of doing something like this. It's true that some places probably never will have the funds to do this job. But many others will do it, if they are given sufficient time to amortize the cost.

In the rush to address this issue after the Great White fire, perhaps the legislature didn't take sufficient time to consider the inequities of the legislation. It just wanted to make a statement that it was concerned about this issue and taking immediate action. But it did not actually want to fund a mandate around it. Indeed, if the legislature had truly been concerned with getting this done as fast as possible, then perhaps it would have provided some meaningful subsidy to the various stakeholders.

Financial assistance, of course, has not come to pass. So instead, after further study, the legislature now seems to be deciding that if it is going to require private citizens to spend a bunch of money, perhaps it ought to give them a more reasonable time frame within which to comply with this new regulation.

What if you rented a house under a 5 year lease arrangement with an option for 5 more years. What if the rent wasn't bad, but you couldn't really afford to spend that much more a month on housing?

What if the legislature passed a law that said you could no longer live in that rental house unless you did $50k-$100k in safety improvements, and by the way, you need to get those done in the next 18-24 months or you can't live there anymore.

That would change your monthly budget quite a bit, wouldn't it? Indeed, it might create a situation where you could no longer afford to rent that house. Moreover, when you move out of the house, all the safety improvements stay with the landlord, who paid nothing for them, and can probably charge extra rent because of them. Plus there's always the chance that at the end of the lease terms, LL will jack your rent on the house to the point where even with the improvements, you won't be able to live there any more.

With all due respect to the safety concerns, does that really seem fair? Nobody questions that safety is important. But all considerations of safety have an actuarial component that must be considered: What is the likelihood of harm? Once that is determined, it needs to be balanced against other factors, like how will reducing the likelihood of harm effect the people who must comply with new regulations?

In this case, as far as I can tell, when something goes wrong it is very high profile. But from an actuarial standpoint, the likelihood of something going wrong is not that likely, especially when compared to lots of other activities we pretty much take for granted. Indeed, I suspect far more people on average have died in house fires and auto accidents over the last 50 years than have died in bar and club fires, even if we adjust for the fact that there are a lot more houses and cars than there are bars and clubs.

Against this backdrop, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that we might give bar and club owners a couple of extra years to amortize the cost of sprinklers. It's not like everyone doesn't think they are a good idea. But $75,000 divided by 48 months (or whatever) is a much easier/reasonable pill to swallow than $75,000 divided by 18 months.

At least that's how I see it.

Posted by j-lon | April 12, 2007 4:18 PM

Btw my comment in #4 was directed at #1

Posted by jlon | April 12, 2007 4:20 PM

Seems that I hear more "news" stories from the local channels about house/apartment/office fires than fires happening at the music clubs.

Posted by Simon | April 12, 2007 9:53 PM

Seems that I hear more "news" stories from the local channels about house/apartment/office fires than fires happening at the music clubs.

Posted by Simon | April 12, 2007 9:53 PM

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