Enforcing New Temporary Sleeping Cabin Legislation
AB 42: Tiny Homes: temporary sleeping cabins: fire sprinkler requirements
As California continues to struggle with its homeless crisis, the state is looking at ways to expand transitional and temporary housing to address the estimated 172,000 individuals who sleep on the streets daily. One approach to handle this crisis has been a push from Sacramento to build temporary housing such as tiny home villages across the state. Unfortunately, this approach has led to the passage of legislation that reduces safety requirements for some of these temporary sleeping cabins through AB 42. This bill was CALBO’s top bill fight this year and unfortunately, the bill was passed and signed by the Governor. With that said, CALBO understands why the state is moving this way and was able to provide some improvements to the initial language of the bill. Below are the specifics of the new measure that will become law in 2024.
AB 42 prohibits local enforcement agencies from imposing or enforcing any requirements for fire sprinklers for a temporary sleeping cabin until January 1, 2027, and instead requires compliance with the alternative fire-life safety measures in the bill. A temporary sleeping cabin is defined as “a nonpermanent structure that is intended to provide temporary housing to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, is less than 250 sq feet, and is located on a site with 50 or fewer temporary sleeping cabins.” For these temporary sleeping cabins, local agencies will be tasked with enforcing alternative fire life safety measures instead of fire sprinkler requirements beginning January 1, 2024, and ending in 2027.
The alternative fire life safety measures are extensive and include the following requirements for these kinds of transitional housing instead.
- One smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in each unit shall follow the requirements in the California Residential Code (Part 2.5 of Title 24 for the California Code of Regulations)
- One fire extinguisher shall be provided in each unit.
- Ingress and egress shall facilitate the rapid exit of the temporary sleeping cabin.
- Emergency evacuation signage and emergency egress lighting shall be provided.
- All egress routes shall be free from storage or any other obstructions.
- The use of open flames, combustibles, and smoking are prohibited on site.
- 24-Hour fire active fire watch is required.
- The cabins should be separated to the side and rear by at least 6 feet and made of non-combustible material.
- All design and construction requirements must comply with California Building Code Appendix P or California Residential Code Appendix AZ except for the requirements for fire sprinklers.
- The local agency shall set up regular fire code inspections as determined by the jurisdiction.
Local governments are going to be tasked with enforcing the requirements listed above. To help ensure public health and safety, the local agency should set up stringent fire code inspections and other inspection services to make sure that these alternative fire life safety measures are complied with continuously. Local governments can do this by working with their local fire prevention officers and fire marshals to figure out who will be accepted as 24-hour fire watch, who will be tasked with returning to sites for continuing inspections, and local building departments should collaborate with code enforcement to establish common checkups or follow-up inspections on site to ensure compliance with these safety measures. The law allows local governments to charge whatever fees are necessary to provide the service to these types of housing projects as is the case with any kind of development project.
Given that these prohibitions for fire sprinklers are temporary at this time and the law is set to sunset in 2027, CALBO would love it if our members could inform us about how the implementation of this new law is going and if any major safety concerns are arising as these projects become more common. We hope that we can have an idea of what the impact of this legislation has on public health and safety since it will most likely be revisited in the next couple of years. Please contact CALBO’s Director of Public Affairs, Brady Guertin at firstname.lastname@example.org as your jurisdiction begins experiencing the impacts of these types of transitional housing projects and if any major concerns or events happen so we can prepare to discuss with the legislature any fallout or positive experience of the new law before the bill sunsets in 2027. We thank you in advance for any input and data you can provide.