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Fire sprinkler mandate
New homes in Lathrop must comply with state law
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LATHROP – Buying a brand new home in Lathrop is now going to carry with it a special added price tag – a fire sprinkler system.

In order to comply with a new California state mandate that went into effect on January 1, the Lathrop City Council voted unanimously – with Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos absent – to adopt the amendment to the municipal code making it a reality for all new construction under the city’s pervue.

But the concept wasn’t exactly met with fanfare with some of the elected officials on the dais.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal, who begrudgingly asked Fire Chief Gene Neely if the State of California was pushing this idea to “discourage further development,” didn’t pull any punches in showing that he wasn’t a fan of the new requirement – one that offered virtually no loopholes or ability to maneuver around.

“So the fire department would get to your house just in time to make sure that all of your clothes and your furniture and your carpets are all ruined,” Dhaliwal quipped. “California is 28th on the list of business-friendly states. Utah is No. 1. This will definitely drop California a few more places.”

While Dhaliwal interestingly enough was the one who made the motion to approve the measure, he did so after acknowledging that by not doing so it would open the city up to a massive liability if someone in a new home were to perish in a fire – especially one that could have been prevented by one of the sprinkler systems.

Even Neely said that he realized that the requirement – which is only for new construction and won’t include any existing residences or dwelling units – would hamstring developers and ultimately be paid for by the residents, but noted that the systems, which are already required on homes larger than 4,000 square feet, save lives.

“I agree – I don’t think this is going to help the building in any city, let alone here in Lathrop, and there’s going to be some heartache over this I’m sure,” Neely said. “But this is only going to affect the houses that are going to be built, and it’s being proposed to try to improve the survivability for the people trapped inside structure fires.”

Not everyone bought the “new home only” clause that is currently included in the code adjustment.

Resident Tyler Silva suggested that the council send a letter to the State of California voicing their displeasure over being forced to do something they don’t agree with – knowing full well that the state will eventually force all homeowners to install systems like this once they see the success rate on new units.

The council didn’t acknowledge Silva’s suggestion.