Flat roofs no longer required on L.A. skyscrapers as city repeals rule

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2014 8:26 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles has scrapped a 1950s rule requiring its skyscrapers to have flat roofs and helipads, giving architects a freer hand to shape the skyline of America's second-largest city.

The city of Los Angeles has ordered that all high-rise buildings have a flat roof and helipads since 1958. It has been the only major U.S. city with such an ordinance, which was intended to accommodate fire-fighting and life-saving equipment.

In announcing the change on Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said advancements in building standards, technology, engineering and fire-fighting practices have made that regulation obsolete.

"Los Angeles is the creative capital of the world, but our skyline is full of buildings that are uniformly flat,” Garcetti said in a written statement. "We want better fire protection and better design from our buildings. We must always be innovating, and that’s what this policy does."

Garcetti said he convened a working group to revisit the five-decade-old decree during planning for the $1 billion Wilshire Grand Tower in downtown Los Angeles, which at 73 stories and 1,100 feet is projected to be the tallest U.S. building west of Chicago when it is completed in 2017.

The Wilshire Grand was granted an exception to the city's flat-roof policy to allow for a modified helipad and spire.

The tallest existing building in Los Angeles is the U.S. Bank Tower. It also has 73 stories but has a flat roof and tops out at just over 1,000 feet.

Under the revised ordinance, buildings between 420 and 1,000 feet can eliminate the helipad requirement by installing a special fire access elevator or exit stairs, along with automatic sprinkler systems and video surveillance cameras.

Approximately 745 of California's 1,700 high rises are located in Los Angeles, according to the mayor's office.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb)