Council Tables Gas-Valve Proposal : Safety: Panel urges more study on plan that would affect all homes and businesses in L.A.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saying further study was needed, a Los Angeles City Council panel tabled a decision Monday on a proposal requiring all homes and businesses in Los Angeles to be equipped with valves that automatically shut off natural gas flow during an earthquake.

At the behest of realtors, downtown business owners and the Southern California Gas Co., the council's Public Safety Committee voted to postpone any action on the proposed law, saying it would be premature to enact it without further study.

The gas-valve proposal was drafted by San Fernando Valley Councilman Hal Bernson in the wake of the devastating gas fires that followed the January quake in Kobe, Japan.

The proposal would expand on a previous Bernson ordinance that requires property owners to install the valves on all new and renovated homes and businesses. That law, which was approved by the council, takes effect July 1.

Members of the Public Safety Committee said Bernson's latest proposal was premature because the city has yet to implement the previous Bernson proposal. They added that Japanese officials have yet to study the Kobe quake to determine if widespread use of gas valves in that city could have reduced some of the devastation.

In an interview after the meeting, Bernson criticized the panel's decision, calling it shortsighted. He added that the proposal also asks city officials to study funding options to help building owners pay for the gas valve.

"This is a shortsighted stand for the members of this committee," he said. "What are they waiting for? Another Kobe to happen?"

Bernson, a member of the state Seismic Safety Commission, has portrayed the valves as an essential safety measure that would reduce the number of fires fueled by gas leaks in the next major quake. Critics have warned that many families would not be able to afford the valve, which costs about $250 each plus installation.

But Councilman Laura Chick, a member of the committee, said she asked that the proposal be delayed at least long enough to allow city officials to implement Bernson's previous valve ordinance and study the results.

Representatives for the Los Angeles Assn. of Realtors, the Gas Co. and the Central City Assn., urged the panel to delay any action on the proposal to allow for more study of the previous gas-valve ordinance and the Kobe disaster.

"We feel there needs to be a concentrated effort to collect that data," said Jack Brumfield, a spokesman for the Gas Co.

The proposal awaits final consideration by the City Council within the next two weeks.

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