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Michele Willer-Allred, Freelance Reporter
8:29 am PST November 26, 2019

Malibu’s lead building official is warning those wanting to rebuild their homes after the Woolsey Fire to submit their project plans to the City’s Building Safety Department for plan check by Dec. 31, 2019, or else be forced to comply with new state codes that could cause delays and potentially be more costly.  

Every three years, the State of California adopts new codes that regulate the construction of all buildings and structures in the State of California, and the new 2019 California Building Standards Code will become effective Jan. 1, 2020. 

The City of Malibu is required by state law to enforce the new code.

“Under new construction, the changes that the state of California will be mandating need to be reflected on the plans,” said Yolanda Bundy, the City’s new environmental sustainability director and building official. “So, we will no longer will be under the 2016 code, which is the current code. We will be under the 2019 code and new regulations.”

The new Building Code was just one of the items discussed during a Woolsey Fire Rebuilding Town Hall Meeting held Nov. 23 at City Hall.

The meeting was held to offer resources and assistance to help residents advance their post Woolsey Fire home rebuilding projects, answer questions and share information about important upcoming changes to the Building Code.

“I’m just so sorry for what we’re all going through,” City Manager Reva Feldman told the audience who packed City Hall for the meeting. “It has been a very long and painful and sad year for all of us.”

“I’m just so proud that we were able to get Yolanda onto our team,” said Feldman, noting Bundy’s extensive knowledge. “She also has the biggest heart of pretty much anyone I’ve ever met in my professional career.”

Bundy, who comes to Malibu after a 17-year career in structural and civil engineering, was most recently the chief building official for the City of Ventura, where she led rebuilding efforts after the 2017 Thomas Fire.

As of Nov. 23, Bundy said the City of Malibu had approved 186 projects through the Planning Department and 42 through the Building and Safety Department. About 42 homes are under construction right now, and the first home is expected to be completed in the next month or two.

“But there are still 432 of you that haven’t gotten an approval,” Bundy said. “There are 236 families that we haven’t heard from them, so I’m asking you [to] allow us to help you out.”

Bundy said the state’s new Building Code affects certain features on homes and requires fire-resistant materials and features, such as ember-proofed vents, thicker windows, garage doors with tighter seals, and mesh-covered skylights. Additional energy efficient and green-building standards also are included in the new code.  

Bundy said structural reference standards are under the new code, and engineers will have to incorporate them in all their calculations and plans, which can be costly for homeowners and add time to the process.

That is why she said it is imperative for those wanting to be under the current state code to have their plans submitted by Dec. 31. City staff is working additional hours and has worked to streamline and expedite approval processes to help out, she said.

Bundy said one of the most stressful and frustrating parts of the rebuild process for homeowners has been working with the Los Angeles County Fire Department on plan check verifications for fire rebuilds.

Bundy said she met last week with Nick Duvally, division chief at Los Angeles County Fire Department, about fire rebuilds needing an upgrade on their fire access.

State fire code currently requires access to be at least 20-feet wide, but some parcels don’t have the space to make it that wide, she said.

“The chief is telling me that they’re coming out with more flexible parameters, meaning he’s willing to allow 15-feet wide. This is another important item that you cannot forget,” said Bundy, who urged residents to talk to the fire department about this, and noted that a representative is available at City Hall to help.

Bundy also said she is in talks with Duvally about having the fire department do their plan check reviews on site at City Hall, and that there is a possibility to electronically submit those reviews to the fire department beginning sometime early next year.

Bundy reassured the audience that herself and the rest of the City staff were committed to continuing to meet with homeowners, design professionals and engineers to make the process easier and more efficient.

She cautioned, however, that everyone will need to work together and be flexible.

“I’m not here to make you any promises, but I’m here to let you know that we’re working with you on this process,” Bundy said. “I’m sorry I’m joining you a year later, but I have the compassion and the knowledge to help you, and we will make it happen together.”

To view the presentation, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Ugk9ZTqQ0.