Herrera Cracks Down on Hotel Sprinkler Scofflaws

2001 Ordinance Helps ‘Save Lives and Protect San Francisco’s Most Vulnerable Tenants From Being Forced Into Sudden Homelessness,’ City Attorney Says

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 22, 2005) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today served civil suits on three residential hotels in San Francisco that have refused to install sprinkler systems as required by the City’s Residential Hotel Sprinkler Ordinance, a law enacted in 2001 following a rash of hotel fires that claimed three lives and destroyed some 840 rooms over a four-year period. The lawsuits filed in San Francisco Superior Court late Friday allege multiple violations of city housing and fire codes, state housing law, and the state Unfair Competition Law by the Broadway Deluxe Hotel at 461 Broadway; the Desmond Hotel at 42 Sixth Street; and the Henry Hotel at 106-112 Sixth Street.

Outlining a lengthy series of enforcement actions undertaken by the Department of Building Inspection, the San Francisco Fire Department and the City Attorney’s Office since 2002, Herrera’s civil actions seek immediate steps to abate the sprinkler violations; attorneys’ fees and costs; and civil penalties that could total into the millions for the three defendants.

“The Residential Hotel Sprinkler Ordinance was enacted to save lives and protect San Francisco’s most vulnerable tenants from being forced into sudden homelessness when a fire strikes a residential hotel, and by any measure, it’s been a success” said Herrera. “In marked contrast to the vast majority of responsible residential hotels that installed life-saving sprinkler systems, the scofflaws we’ve sued today have persistently ignored the law, thumbed their noses at our enforcement efforts, and put the safety and lives of their tenants at risk for too long.”

Authored by then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Residential Hotel Sprinkler Ordinance originally required more than 300 of the city’s residential hotels to install completely compliant sprinkler systems by June 30, 2002. Though the deadline was later extended until the end of 2002, residential hotel owners were notified at the time that June 30 would still apply for penalty purposes for those that missed the extended deadline.

The ordinance was passed in the wake of a rash of residential hotel fires in San Francisco, including devastating blazes at the St. Charles Hotel on Bush Street, the Hartland Hotel on Geary Street, and the Delta Hotel on Sixth Street. According to a news report by the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, residential hotel fires had killed three people and destroyed 840 rooms in 11 hotels during the preceding four years in San Francisco.