Mayor's Corner: Improvements Made To City Building Code
The City of Lakewood takes its building code very seriously. We see these laws as a foundational pillar of how we keep people safe in our city – not just a hoop to be jumped through or a nuisance to be avoided. The Division of Building and Housing is proactive in its inspection efforts; it regularly considers if updates to the code would be beneficial; and – when necessary – the division is aggressive with enforcement for those who fail to follow the rules, and especially for those who take dangerous risks.
In December, we all saw a shocking example of what can happen when people fail to follow our building codes when high-risk construction work was done on the Marine Towers West parking garage without a permit, without the involvement of professional engineers, and in a criminally reckless manner. As you may have heard, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s officer recently charged Atlas Construction, its owner, and its foreman with felony charges for their direct roles in causing the garage to crumble.
On the day of the collapse, the City of Lakewood committed to getting to the bottom of why this disaster took place, and our exhaustive investigation uncovered outrageous criminal conduct by those who have now been charged. We are thankful for the work done by Prosecutor O’Malley’s team to seek justice in this matter, and we look forward to the resolution of the case in county court. We will keep informed on the progress of the case.
The City Administration also took that day of crisis in late December as an opportunity to perform another deep dive on our building code and think about how we could be innovative to make Lakewood safer. In March, we proposed two separate pieces of legislation to Lakewood City Council to achieve that goal.
Ordinance 04-2022 established more appropriate penalties for violations of Lakewood’s Property Maintenance and Safety Code. After the collapse, it became clear that the penalties that had been in place for many years were not commensurate with the potential harm that can be caused as a result of violations. So we set about revising those penalties.
The other building code related update, Ordinance 05-2022, requires owners of buildings more than four stories tall and 30 years old as well as any owners of parking structures to obtain a report on building conditions from a structural engineer on a regular basis. This legislation will ensure proactive maintenance by commercial building owners on structures that – if not maintained – can present a significant threat to occupants, visitors, and the general public. This is especially important in a historic community like Lakewood, where we benefit from the charming character of our history, but must also stay on top of maintaining the safety of older structures that may be showing signs of age.
A big thank you goes out to the multiple departments within the Administration that worked together on developing these ordinances, as well as to Lakewood City Council for its thoughtful review and unanimous passage of the legislation. The City of Lakewood will continue to be vigilant in keeping our community safe and healthy through our efforts at the Division of Building and Housing.