Cerritos Lets Reins Go a Bit on Stringent Roofing Policy

Times Staff Writer

Hours of discussions, sales presentations and aesthetic evaluations of out-of-town horizons have prompted the City Council to approve a major shift in policy. Asphalt roofs are now OK.

In a move that greatly liberalizes the city’s stringent roofing regulations, the council last week unanimously voted to allow the replacement of wooden roofs with a range of materials previously forbidden as unbecoming. Heavy butted asphalt is now allowed, as is synthetic tile, a cement composition covering and coated metal.

The issue of house toppings has occupied the Planning Commission and City Council for months, as officials have pondered whether a loosening of design standards for economic and safety reasons would unduly compromise the appearance of local neighborhoods.


In the end, the council succumbed to arguments that the city could not outlaw the Volkswagens of the roofing world--even in a community that likes to think of itself as a Cadillac.

Stress on Fire Resistance

“There just wasn’t the support for the idea that aesthetics is that important,” said Councilwoman Ann Joynt, who had earlier expressed reservations about the spread of asphalt roofs. “On the other hand, there was more and more support for the idea that we should be able to use synthetic, lightweight, fire-resistant materials for our roofing.”

The council considered the issue on three different occasions, hearing from residents who complained that tile and wooden roofs are expensive and even dangerous. Wood shingles burn too easily, they said, and tile can topple in an earthquake. Roofing salesmen enumerated in great length the wonders of their products, lugging samples into the council chambers and propping them up on the floor.

Council members even drove through area communities, inspecting different roofing types to see for themselves whether the coverings were good enough for Cerritos. Councilman Donald Knabe, who for years has advocated a relaxation of the roofing code, said he thinks the tours clinched his colleagues’ decision.

The age of Cerritos’ housing has thrust attention on the matter, since the majority of the city’s 14,000 houses have wooden roofs that will need to be replaced over the course of the next several years. The municipal code had, until last week, basically restricted the replacement of wood to wood shake, clay and concrete tile or synthetic shake. The much cheaper alternative of asphalt was only permitted in tracts where at least 40% of the houses already had asphalt roofs--installed before composition roofs were outlawed on new residences in 1972.

Heavy-butted asphalt costs about $1 per square foot, treated wood shake about $2 a square foot, and clay tile about $3 a square foot, according to figures prepared by the city staff.


Along with revising re-roofing regulations, the council also voted to change the rules for new roofs. They ordered the city staff to prepare an ordinance requiring that all new residences have concreteor clay tile roofs, dropping a provision that allowed wooden roofs. While conceding that tile adds to the cost of a house, council members reasoned that there is not very much residential construction left to be done in the city. Moreover, they noted that tile is extremely fire-resistant and long-lived.

To aid homeowners wanting to re-roof before winter, the council adopted the re-roofing revisions on an urgency basis, putting them into effect immediately.