SM Lead Certification Ordinance Tabled for Fine Tuning

The first draft of an ordinance to create a procedure for ensuring contractors doing work in San Marino are qualified to detect and abate lead-based paint was tabled last week, but the City Council expects it to return with more ammo in the chamber.
The City Council hopes, as Councilman Steve Talt phrased it, to add “more teeth” to allow the city to penalize contractors who fail to take the necessary steps to detect whether a home or commercial structure contains lead-based paint and/or properly remove it.
“Let’s make sure we have a belt and hammer to hit over someone’s head if they don’t follow the rules,” Talt said at the May 10 meeting.
The ordinance, as presented, would add onto the process by which contractors and others doing renovation or paint-related work acquire business licenses or building permits in San Marino. Those involved would have to show certification that they are trained to follow Environmental Protection Agency protocol on lead detection and abatement before receiving a license or permit.
The same procedure also would apply for those returning for their annual business license renewal.
What Talt and his colleagues want to add, however, is a way to actually monitor the work to ensure contractors are adhering to the process. Failure to comply with EPA regulations is a federal crime, and those discovered breaking the rules already face consequences.
“If they fail to provide [the certification] or continue to go out and do work without a permit, we can enforce that,” said Steve Flower, the new city attorney. “That’s a misdemeanor.”
Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes added that contractors who have the correct certification but fail to follow protocol while doing work also may be punished — as long as it’s reported.
“In those cases, we would use the administrative code and issue a violation, which includes fines,” he said.
Lead hazards have been a topic in City Hall for weeks, after a news report published Los Angeles County’s data on lead screens on children younger than 6 as part of an ongoing series about lead exposure in the U.S. A look at the raw numbers indicated that an abnormally high number of San Marino kids who were tested showed elevated levels, but officials with the L.A. County Department of Public Health have tempered the interpretation of those results.
Health officials explained that the state’s recording of test results deliberately skews levels less than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood as higher out of an abundance of caution (more than 5 micrograms is supposed to draw a follow-up test with a pediatrician) and the majority of San Marino’s kids who were tested were actually below 5 micrograms. Furthermore, the number of kids tested in San Marino was, by the officials’ estimation, too few to indicate whether there was a contamination issue.
Regardless, city officials still seek to ensure those performing any kind of teardowns or paint-stripping in town are doing so responsibly — lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but the majority of homes in San Marino were constructed much earlier than that.
“That’s a health issue,” Mayor Dr. Richard Sun said. “That’s pretty severe.”
Given more time to add onto the proposed ordinance, Flower said he already planned on reviewing policies in cities like San Diego and Pasadena, which task an inspector with more closely monitoring lead abatement activity.
“These are the kinds of things we need to look at and see if they can be applied here,” Flower said.
New Two-City Fire Agreement Being Planned
After formally approving the decision for the San Marino Fire Department to end its tri-city agreement with the fire departments in San Gabriel and South Pasadena, the city plans to establish a new partnership with the latter.
In the previous agreement, the three departments shared one fire chief — Mario Rueda — and in theory rotated the on-duty deputy chief and battalion chief. The aim of the arrangement was to reduce personnel costs by sharing administrative assignments among the three departments.
As interim City Manager Cindy Collins explained, however, the agreement didn’t pan out due to continuing vacancies among the agreed-upon administrative positions in each department, resulting in the additional cost of overtime.
Collins detailed a variety of other issues with the agreement, including an unclear organizational structure, inequities in post-employment costs and low morale, which she gathered from meetings with city managers and fire department command staffs from each of the cities.
“This one got too convoluted,” Collins said.
A new agreement with South Pasadena will, tentatively, eliminate the deputy chief position and call for the two departments to employ their own battalion chiefs and share the cost of a third battalion chief. Collins said this agreement would cost the city $636,594 annually, a reduction of $28,389 from the tri-city agreement.
There will be a six-month window in which the three cities work out where Rueda will work and which will take responsibility for his salary and pension.

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