Los Angeles won't require skyscraper helipads

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — New skyscrapers will no longer be required to have rooftop helicopter landing pads under a change in city rules allowing alternative safety measures that will enable architects to design buildings with something other than the flat tops mandated since the 1950s.

The reform of Fire Department "Regulation No. 10" was announced Monday by Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials during a news conference on the rooftop helipad of the downtown AT&T Center. "Every rule that we have is well-intentioned, well thought-out, but often outdated," the mayor said.

A building's alternative safety measures could include an elevator designated solely for the use of firefighters in the event of a fire, enabling them to more quickly access the burning floor instead of making a time-consuming climb up stairs.

"If we have theoretically a fire on the 50th floor, we're going to be fighting fire in 50 minutes from the time we get on scene. The dedicated firefighter elevator will get us there in under two minutes," fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

The city's modern high-rises have been built in a variety of shapes from rectangles to cylindrical. But the creativity stops at the top to allow helicopters to safely operate.

"In the town of design we have all these flat-top buildings ... we need something other than flat-tops," architect Chris Martin said. "Can you imagine going to the Academy Awards and every actor has a flat-top haircut?"

City Hall, one of the most recognizable symbols of Los Angeles, tops out with a tiered peak, but it was built in the 1920s before the helipad rule. Across the street, the City Hall East annex is typical of the modern era with a boxy flat roof. The new rules should encourage more investment into designs for buildings that may become the city's icons.

"You can either build a new, smaller helipad, or with the use of different designs and technologies you can eliminate the helipad altogether," the mayor said. "The outcome is buildings being built with both the latest safety technologies but also the best possible designs."

The rule change came about as a follow-up to discussions that led to permission for the new Wilshire Grand Hotel, now under construction, to have a helipad smaller than was previously required, said Rick Coca, spokesman for Councilman Jose Huizar.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel will be 73 stories and have nearly 900 rooms, office space and retail.