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Burbank residents get breathing room on wood roofs

Residents who have yet to comply with an ordinance passed 20 years ago requiring them to remove their wood roofs get a two-year reprieve. Those with a 'roof-over' receive an eight-year extension.

February 26, 2012|By Maria Hsin, Los Angeles Times
  • A wood roof is revamped in Burbank. Residents with such roofs have been given a two-year extension to replace them, 20 years after an ordinance phasing them out was enacted.
A wood roof is revamped in Burbank. Residents with such roofs have been given… (Ross A. Benson, Burbank…)

Hundreds of Burbank residents who have yet to comply with a city ordinance that requires them to remove their wood roofs were given some breathing room last week, 20 years after the law was enacted.

Homeowners with exposed wood roofs will probably now have two more years to change them. A "roof-over" — a wood shingle or shake roof covered by another type of roofing material — will get an eight-year reprieve.

The extensions, coming just months before a 20-year-old August deadline for the replacements, are expected to be finalized by the City Council in the coming weeks.

Burbank passed the law to make homes more fire-resistant; at the time, officials said the turnover rate should coincide with the roughly 20-year life span of wood shake roofs. But as the deadline approached, homeowners and real estate agents protested what they said was an unfair financial burden at a time when many households were struggling to pay their bills, let alone finance new roofs that could cost $10,000 or more.

Realtors and fire officials agree that there are still about 120 exposed wood roofs in the city, but they disagree on the number of roof-overs. Fire officials say there about 300, but real estate agents say that number could be as high as 5,000.

"We're very concerned about seniors on a fixed income, those who lost their jobs or are greatly under-employed," said Linda Barnes, a board member with the Burbank Assn. of Realtors and one of many representatives who made their cases at a City Council meeting Tuesday. "It's even difficult for those who are gainfully employed."

Realtors also contended that some homeowners had been given permits for roof-overs until 2000, long after the original law was passed.

An employee from the city's Building Department said that beginning in 2000, those seeking permits for a roof-over had to sign a document saying they understood that a new roof was required by August 2012. It was not clear if the same disclosures had been made to those seeking roof-overs before then.

Barbara Sanchez, a 14-year resident, said she and her family have been "tightening their belts in the last two years" and cannot afford a new roof, adding that she had been given estimates of $10,000 to $14,000 for the work.

The extensions were longer than what fire officials had suggested, citing concerns about wood roofs' ability to withstand flying embers or other fire-starters.

Fire Chief Ray Krakowski supported a five-year extension on roof-overs but said exposed wood roofs should adhere to the August deadline.

"It's never a good time to spend $15,000 on a roof," Mayor Jess Talamantes said at the meeting.

maria.hsin@latimes.com

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