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City to Enhance Guardrails in Parking Structures Where Suicides Have Taken Place

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

February 22, 2020 -- Four Downtown Santa Monica parking structures are slated to get new guardrails that were first budgeted in Fiscal Year 2016-17 -- a year before the first suicide victim leaped to his death from a rooftop in 2018.

Under the proposed $4,432,087 contract the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday, Metro Builders & Engineers Group, Ltd. would replace the guardrail systems at Structures 1, 2, 4 and 5, which no longer comply with the building code.

The project would increase the number of barrier cables above the railing, narrowing the spaces between them, in order to abide by the current standards, staff said.

But the upgrades to the more than fifty-year-old structures won't prevent a person from crossing the barrier, City officials said.

"The guardrails will be somewhat more difficult to get across but will not thwart someone from crossing them outright," said City spokesperson Constance Farrell.

The upgrades come after $3,680,717 was earmarked for the project in the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, which was approved in May 2016, more than two years before the first suicide took place from the top of Structure 4 in September 2018.

In October 24, 2017, the City Council authorized a $243,100 contract with Walter P. Moore Corporation to design the guardrails.

Staff is asking the Council Tuesday to modify that contract to include an additional $335,000 for special inspection services during construction.

"Parking structures are unique and have large spans with relatively thin slabs that support a variety of heavy vehicles," staff wrote in their report.

"This means that special consideration is required when making repairs."

In its original report in 2017, staff cited public safety as a reason the upgrades were needed.

In addition to meeting current code requirements, the guardrail upgrades would "provide enhanced life safety for the public," staff wrote.

The Consent Calendar item was approved with no discussion.

The report to the Council noted that "Staff recommended that the design and installation of new code compliant guardrails be completed" in the 2016-18 biennial budget's Capital Improvement Project cycle.

In December 2018, a second person leaped to her death from the top of Parking Structure 4 on 2nd Street just north of Arizona Avenue.

Eight months later, in August 2019, a suicide would take place from the top of parking structure 2, on 2nd Street just north of Arizona Avenue.

Five months later, in January 2020, a man leaped to his death from the same rooftop ("Man Commits Fifth Suicide By Leaping from Downtown Parking Structure," February 3, 2020).

The proposed contract on Tuesday's agenda removes Parking Structure 2 -- which was the planned site for a Rooftop Cinema Club venue -- from the guard rail contract, reducing the total cost to $3,832,617.

"Construction of the rooftop cinema would have conflicted with the guardrail upgrades, meaning a substantial portion of the original scope would have been removed from the project," staff wrote in their report.

Staff noted that the design of upgrades to the Parking Structure 2 guardrail systems have been completed and construction could be funded in the biennial budget for fiscal year 2020-22.

City officials said it took time to complete the process that led to Tuesday night's scheduled vote.

"It took a year in design and then through building and safety permitting to get to this point," Farrell said.

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