Wood roof Burbank

A wood roof is replaced in Burbank. The city is slated to give homeowners years to comply with an ordinance to remove wood roofs. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

The hundreds of Burbank residents who have yet to comply with a city ordinance that requires them to remove their wood roofs were given some breathing room this week, 20 years after the law was put on the books.

Homeowners with exposed wood roofs likely now will have two more years to change the roof. A “roof-over” — or wood shingle or shake roof covered by another type of roofing material — is slated to get an eight-year reprieve.

The extensions came just months before a 20-year-old August deadline for the replacements, and are expected to be finalized by the City Council in the coming weeks.

Burbank passed the law to make homes more fire-resistant, and at the time, officials said the turnover rate should coincide with the roughly 20-year life-span of wood shake roofs. But as the deadline approached, homeowners and real estate agents united to protest what they said was an unfair financial burden at a time when many households are struggling to just pay their bills, let alone finance new roofs that could cost $10,000 or more each.

Realtors and fire officials agree that there are still about 120 exposed wood roofs in the city, but disagree on the number of roof-overs left in the city. Fire officials say there about 300 roof-overs in Burbank, but real estate agents say that number could be as high as 5,000.

“We're very concerned about seniors on a fixed income, those who lost their jobs or are greatly under-employed,” said Linda Barnes, a board member with the Burbank Assn. of Realtors, one of many representatives who made their cases to the City Council on Tuesday.

With a lack of income and equity for a home loan, complying with the ordinance was difficult, Barnes added.

“It's even difficult for those who are gainfully employed,” she said.

Realtors also contended that some homeowners had been given permits for roof-overs until 2000, long after the original law had passed.

A city employee from the building and permits department said that beginning in 2000, those seeking permits for a roof-over had to sign a document saying they understood a new roof was required by August 2012. It was not clear if the same disclosures had been made to those seeking roof-overs prior to that.

Barbara Sanchez, a 14-year resident, said she and her family have been “tightening their belts in the last two years” and can not afford a new roof, adding that she had been given estimates of $10,000 to $14,000 for the update.

The extensions were longer than what fire officials had suggested, citing concerns about the ability of wood roofs to withstand flying embers or other fire-starters.

While acknowledging the unique impact of the economy, Fire Chief Ray Krakowski supported a five-year extension on roof-overs, but said exposed wood roofs should adhere to the August deadline.

Owners of homes in the hillsides were required to comply with the ordinance by 2005.

“It's never a good time to spend $15,000 on a roof,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said at the meeting.