On May 8, 2019, the Dallas City Council approved an amendment to the Fire Watch policy. The amendment includes a provision allowing for alternative standby personnel to conduct fire watch at multifamily properties. The amendment comes after months of advocacy from AAGD to revise the policy that required Dallas Fire-Rescue (DFR) personnel conduct fire watch for an hourly fee of $120 per DFR personnel.
AAGD staff worked closely with City Councilmember Adam McGough, DFR, including Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Chris Martinez and Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune on an amendment to lessen the hourly fee or remove DFR personnel requirement altogether. Ultimately, a consensus was reached, and the hourly fire watch fee was decreased and DFR personnel requirement was removed from the policy. The amendment was presented to the Public Safety Committee on March 25, 2019 and it was passed favorably.
The revised policy conditionally allows for multifamily properties to choose to utilize onsite standby personnel to conduct fire watch if the personnel meet minimum qualifications. Standby personnel must be at least 21 years old, familiar with the property layout, be physically cable of performing fire watch duties and functionality of the life safety systems onside, be trained in the use of portable fire extinguishers and have at least two means of contacting 911.
Cost savings to industry
The revised amendment will save multifamily properties tens of thousands of dollars in fire watch expenses. Where property owners were required to utilize DFR personnel and pay an hourly fee of $120 per personnel, properties can now utilize trained onsite personnel to conduct fire watch at no additional cost to the property.
- Examples of previous financial impact to AAGD member properties:
- Vistas at Pinnacle Park paid more than $150,000 for fire watch.
4343 at the Parkway, a small property in Dallas, paid nearly $6,000 in fire watch fees for one incident.
AAGD staff continues to work with city staff and city councilmembers to advocate for favorable changes to the Chapter 27 ordinance, mandatory recycling ordinance, and code compliance and inspection process in Dallas. AAGD staff and members of the Legislative Committee met with numerous city councilmembers and city council candidates and discussed our concerns with these ordinances and programs. Also, a meeting was organized with AAGD leadership and key members of the city departments that oversee apartment recycling and code compliance to allow our members to voice their concerns and advocate for positive changes to these programs.
Garland city council passed a proposal in the latter half 2019 with the goal to change the methodology by which water and wastewater rates were calculated and charged to multifamily properties. The proposal would have resulted in a dramatic cost increase for AAGD members and their residents. AAGD staff mobilized apartment residents and apartment communities in Garland in a grassroots initiative to contact city council members and inform them of the negative impact of the policy. AAGD staff worked with city staff and the Garland Mayor and testified in council meetings to advocate against the policy. Thanks in part to AAGD’s efforts, local media coverage, and pressure from residents, the city council eventually agreed to implement half of the fee and phase in the second half in 2020, after a cost of service study is conducted which could reduce the rates for apartments.
Government affairs staff engaged early on in the process with Irving city council and city staff regarding a proposed single family rental registration/inspection program. AAGD staff, members, and other real estate stakeholders met with city staff and selected councilmembers to make the case against an overreaching, expensive rental inspection/registration program. After discussion at work session, the council decided to move the discussion back to the committee level, effectively tabling any further discussion of a program until further notice. AAGD staff continues to have discussions with city councilmembers and city staff to ensure that any potential program is acceptable to AAGD single family members in Irving.
AAGD worked with city staff to defeat council efforts to mandate recycling at all multifamily properties in Irving. AAGD staff was successful in lobbying staff, key city council members, and the mayor to stall the proposal for the time being. City staff also used AAGD arguments against the ordinance in their presentation to council, which led to tabling of any potential ordinance.
AAGD staff worked closely with Mesquite Fire Department leadership, and an AAGD product service partner gate company, to amend the city’s current apartment gate ordinance. The amendments now include less onerous and less expensive requirements for apartment gates in Mesquite. The ordinance will be approved by city council later this year, and the implementation will be phased in to allow existing communities to come into compliance.
AAGD staff worked with the Irving Fire Marshal on potential changes to the apartment gate ordinance. The ordinance must be approved by city council, so staff will continue to work with fire and engage city council to advocate for a flexible ordinance that allows existing properties to come into compliance over time and keeps the cost of compliance low for our members in Irving.