The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors updated its fire codes and introduced a utilities amendment during a public hearing on Jan. 31, which addressed energy storage systems, increased permit fees and raised the recycling rate for projects in the unincorporated areas, respectively.
According to the agenda, the county updated its fire code to reflect new references in the 2022 edition of the California Fire Code. Fire officials said this introduced a new provision addressing energy storage systems, such as solar power, and it also increased permit fees, which would affect the film industry.
“On average, today, it takes a homeowner in the county over 50 days to have an energy storage system permitted in L.A. County, and these are residential systems,” said Lauren Nevitt, director of public policy with Sunrun. “These timelines are some of the longest in the state.”
“We are concerned about proposed amendment to Title 32 will only complicate the difficulty of providing energy storage services to county residents,” said Nevitt.
According to Nevitt, Sunrun is the nation’s leading provider of residential solar battery storage and home energy services. The company serves more than 750,000 consumers nationwide and installed more than 47,000 residential energy storage systems.
Interim Fire Chief Anthony Marrone, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, told supervisors he did not believe that the institution of fees and changes to the fire code would lengthen the time for review and approval of those types of plans.
“But we certainly have to do better in that arena,” Marrone said. “I’ve not only heard it from people that are involved in ESS [energy storage system], but also with construction companies. They want us to have a more streamlined approach on how we review and approve plans.”
As part of an update to the county’s fire code, fire officials proposed increases in permit rates related to filming on county property. Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, 3rd District, acknowledged that some of the fee increases would be an approximate 25% increase.
“I wanted to see if there was a willingness to try and make them incremental,” Horvath said. “Sometimes these fee increases hurt small businesses and our beloved entertainment industry.”
According to Horvath, when smaller cities tried to support entertainment industry efforts, film permitting fees, at times, were a significant impact. Horvath asked if there would be a way to lessen the burden on smaller film businesses or cities when it came to issuing permits.
“It’s a 25% increase,” Marrone said. “That fee hasn’t been raised in 10 years. Prior administrations of the Fire Department were reluctant to raise fees.”
In addition, fire officials said the permit fee increase would reflect the proper “work time assessment” for employees whose responsibility includes reviewing and issuing permits.
Marrone said the county could introduce a more incremental increase to its permits, if they choose to do that. The supervisors mulled over the idea of holding this item until more information was provided to ensure small businesses wouldn’t be as affected.
“I would agree, there’s probably a path forward for that,” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell, 4th District. “We don’t want to affect local and small businesses/enterprises. The film industry is large in Southern California, especially here in Los Angeles County, and they have not had a raise in 10 years.”
“We know that they’ve snapped back after the pandemic, and this is just trying to right-size our fees for those large industries with a 10% increase,” Mitchell said.
Fire officials reassured supervisors they did hold meetings with individuals and organizations in the film industry, such as FilmLA. Horvath said that, in her experience as a West Hollywood City Council member, smaller film production sets would come to the city and the city would waive the special permit fees from a municipal side.
However, these small businesses would still get hit with other fees for approximately $400. First District Supervisor Janice Hahn moved to pass the item with an assertion that the county would explore ways to assist smaller film production companies.
The Board of Supervisors ultimately approved the amendment to its fire code. The amendments will take effect 30 days after the board approved them.