Please provide feedback on Goal #2 recommendations.

by rachel.crist, almost 2 years ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Goal #2:  Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place prior to demolition activities.

Staff recommendations include:

1.  On-site pre-construction meeting. Require an on-site pre-construction meeting before activating a demolition permit and the start of demolition activities. This mandatory meeting will be a requirement to verify environmental and tree protections are in place and that all utilities have been capped or appropriately modified for use during construction.

2.  Enforce the state requirements for asbestos and lead. Require acknowledgement of compliance. Require evidence that an asbestos survey has been completed or that a certification letter from a licensed engineer or architect has been provided in compliance with state regulations. Require notarized acknowledgement from the contractor that they will comply with applicable state and federal regulations for asbestos and lead removal and disposal.

3.  Require permits to pass final inspection. Require all demolition permits to pass final inspection prior to releasing a permit for new construction intended to replace the demolished structure. 

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Relates to Relates to document: Proposed Recommendations

Consultation has concluded

  • SpeakerJeremy almost 2 years ago
    The City of Austin should require appropriate DOL-certified safety training certifications for workers prior to demolition work being done. It is critical that we ensure appropriate training to ensure careers and the safety of workers and all Austinites, while also protecting the environment.
  • AustinCitizen almost 2 years ago
    Goal#2 Point#3 What level of site preparation is required to close out a demo permit and pass inspection? Does the city take into account if the lot will sit vacant for a period of time or be immediately built on? DSD should require that the demolition process take a set period of time and that the site be at least fully cleared of debris to pass inspection (backed up by a performance bond). If there is not a pending permit to build, there needs be an active attempt to grow vegetation to help mitigate “fugitive dust” issues. This is especially important if DSD will not verify the proper handling of lead and asbestos hazards or require tests for soil contamination. I have seen vacant lots where demolitions have occurred where all major debris are gone, but the yard was littered with shards of asbestos-cement siding. Debris such as this, or even less visible threats such as lead dust in soil, represent an ongoing risk to neighbors.
  • AustinCitizen almost 2 years ago
    Goal #2 Point #1.
    It would certainly be an improvement for DSD to now check that utilities are properly capped and that tree protections are in place prior to demolition, but it is unfortunate that DSD has chosen to consider health and safety issues raised in the audit so narrowly. Will DSD now check that IBC required barriers are in place? Demolition sites are hazardous by nature and need access controls (fencing, etc.) in place. Will the contractor’s required demolition plan (OSHA 29 CFR 1926.850(a)) be reviewed by the city so it is clear that the structure can be taken down in a predictable and manageable way that does not affect surrounding buildings? Since DSD will now require a pledge that contractors follow all federal regulation they should now have this easily available. How, if at all, will lead and asbestos hazards be addressed by city inspectors during the meeting and how will the contractor be required to show they are able to keep dust and debris from traveling off site? These are just some of the many questions that are not addressed in DSD’s single page proposal. The same questions many other cities facing increasing demolitions have taken the time to think about critically and have come up with far more robust safeguards for the public, ones that would be more in line with DSD’s stated mission of “Building a Better and Safer Austin.” If I understand this current proposal correctly, it would be entirely conceivable that a city inspector could walk completely around a house obviously clad in asbestos-cement siding and lead painted trim work (which must be assumed in pre ’78 housing) and not say a word about it to the contractor while at the same time making sure that the on-site trees were adequately protected; more protection than afforded their human neighbors. I think this proposal needs a lot more work before it can claim to address the inadequacies found in the city’s demolition audit.
  • donlb55 almost 2 years ago
    On-site review by City Staff is important to assure that the application is accurate (which many are not). As noted earlier, asbestos and lead abatement are necessary to protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of citizens and workers.
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    • AustinCitizen almost 2 years ago
      I agree with you that the proper handling of asbestos and lead hazards is very important. Please note however that DSD’s current proposal is essentially silent on this matter when it comes to demolition of single family homes. Thank you for including workers as a specific concern as people working in residential construction often have very little leverage to improve their own working conditions without risking their employment. It’s clear to me that worker safety and public health in this instance go hand in hand.
  • AustinCitizen almost 2 years ago
    Goal #2 Point#2 The statement about enforcing compliance with state law has the potential to be very misleading as state law specifically exempts SFHs from the state’s asbestos program and I can find no state level abatement or hazard reduction requirements relating to lead that would apply to total demolition of SFHs. Concerns about these hazards were the driving force behind this permit redesign, and were spoke of at length at council meetings as well as being a noted safety concern in the audit. This proposal however does nothing to address these issues even though SFH’s represent the majority of demolitions here.

    If DSD is not perfectly clear with the council and the public about the limitations of state law in this matter (on hang-tags, press releases etc.) than I worry that the public may assume that DSD is correcting a problem of enforcement, rather than what is actually a lack of regulation, and as a result will believe they are now being protected, when in most cases they will not be.

    Requiring a contractor to merely sign an unenforced pledge that they intend to follow all federal regulation is not meaningful without verification that the contractor has provided its crews with the training OSHA requires to handle the lead, asbestos (as well as demolition specific) hazards they will inevitably encounter. (80% of demolitions looked at in the audit were built pre ’78.) Doing this would begin to address the audit’s concern that contractors be “appropriately qualified.” and I believe would go a long way to addressing public health issues as well. This proposal does nothing to ensure this.
  • Preservation Austin almost 2 years ago
    As goal 3 has been closed, I'll put my comment here but I think it is relevant: many cities have bigger fines and don't allow redevelopment of a site if there are violations. San Antonio makes the developer wait 2 years before they can redevelop. These types of rules may help to cut down on "bad" demo contractors. We also need a list of the serial violators with consequences for their bad behavior.
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  • EMathews almost 2 years ago
    The city could ease the burden of enforcement by tracking the demolition contractors who do not comply with state and local law. We were told at the meeting that violations are documented by the site where they occur, not by the contractor who commits the violation. This is like giving a ticket to a car that is speeding, not the driver. This allows the bad actors to continue and suffer no financial disincentive to do better.
  • EMathews almost 2 years ago
    On item #1 under Goal #2 what the City calls the onsite pre-construction meeting should be called the onsite pre-demolition meeting. This reinforces that the process includes two phases governed by two separate permits: Demolition and Construction.
    The permit for Construction should be released only on the condition that the permit for Demolition has been closed according to all regulatory criteria.

    Also, the City should not release the Demolition Permit unless the proposed construction complies with the existing zoning regulations and other current law.