Mayor Brown advocates for a combination of inspection and education for fire prevention in residential hotels.
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S.F. mayor unveils plan to stamp out hotel fires
Combination of inspections and education
After a spate of recent fires at residential hotels, adding pressure to the already worsening homeless problem in San Francisco, Mayor Willie Brown announced a plan Saturday to help prevent future fires.
Put together by the Fire Department, the combination of inspections and education.
Buildings will be inspected quarterly instead of annually, and the fire department will go to hotels to give presentations to tenants, managers and owners on fire prevention.
According to research by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, 643 rooms at seven residential hotels have been lost since 1997 due to fire. Five fires have occurred in the past six months alone.
“Only one of those fires can be attributed to arson,” Brown said at a small press conference Saturday morning at the Leland Hotel on Polk Street, site of a fire last December. “Most are caused by some form of code violation… and could’ve been easily prevented.”
Tenants of residential hotels are often one step away from homelessness.
“These are people that can least afford to have a fire,” said Fires Chief Robert Demmons. “All their belongings are in the room with them.”
The Fire Department will target 50 hotels in the next three months and another 46 hotels in the following three months to inspect and provide fire prevention training.
All 96 targeted hotels are in the Mission, Tenderloin and South of Market areas. The Mission alone is home to 56 residential hotels. The City has about 260 single-room-occupancy hotels, according to Fire Marshall Kevin Taylor.
Most of the SRO’s were built before sprinkler systems became mandatory by city law. To require them retroactively would take an ordinance by the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s a life safety measure,”Brown said. “We would have to assist owners with financing, and I hope the board would consider that.”
Matt Brown of St. Peter’s Housing Committee, a nonprofit organization which helps people in the Mission with housing issues, applauded the mayor’s plan as a good first step to dealing with the problem.
However, he hoped The City would incorporate community-based organizations that work with residents on a regular basis into the education and training portion of the plan.
“The Fire Department doesn’t know anyone (in the hotels),” he said. “A lot of the problems in these hotels are about trust. If (residents) don’t have confidence, they’re not going to let them in the door.”
Matt Brown also said he hoped The City would adopt a more comprehensive plan, including a strategy for helping tenants once they’ve been displaced by fire.
“You can have all the (prevention) efforts in the world; fires are still going to happen,” he said. “A prevention campaign without a response plan is lacking.”
Matt Brown said a demonstration is planned for Tuesday morning at City Hall before the Board of Supervisors meeting to call for a comprehensive disaster response plan.
“Fires are still going to happen. A prevention campaign without a response plan is lacking.”
St. Peter’s Housing Committee