The rebuild of Fire Station 16 in Upper Happy Valley cleared a major hurdle in December when the Lafayette Planning Commission granted a land use permit to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, which seeks to put back into service the station that has been closed since 2012.
The commission also determined the project to be categorically exempt from an environmental impact review under the California Environmental Quality Act because the building will be used for the same purpose as it was before: a fire station. The project next heads to the design review committee for architectural approval.
"The new footprint is not vastly different from what we had," ConFire Deputy Chief Lewis Broschard explained to the commissioners. "This will be a facility the neighborhood can be proud of."
The original station was erected in the 1950s when the fire service worked under a different business model than it does today. Broschard speculated that Station 16 may have housed two firefighters back then, whereas ConFire now requires three personnel on an engine. In response to some of the changes in the industry, the rebuilt station will feature modern amenities, with the total square footage approximating 3,800 square feet.
ConFire increased the number of bedrooms from one to three to help maintain mixed-gender privacy. Bathrooms require more room in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and as it has done in each of its fire stations, the district added a small workout area. To accommodate modern vehicles, the new apparatus bay measures nearly 7 feet longer. An oversized extractor machine that removes carcinogens from firefighters' gear will be placed inside the station.
Residents questioned the noise that a working fire station will add to the neighborhood. "This station has averaged less than one call per day," Broschard said. "Yes, care and testing of our equipment must be done but we are always respectful of our neighbors."
After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the district closed the Los Arabis Drive station and assigned firefighters to a modular home on the station site, which it closed due to financial constraints after the Great Recession. Peter Clark of the Happy Valley Improvement Association and a member of the Lafayette Emergency Services Task Force implored the city to put the fire station project on the fast track.
"We're happy to see it moving forward," Clark said. "To everyone at city hall: Please expedite this and move as fast as you can. It's been 1,650 days since Station 16 closed. It's been too long."
Broschard said that ConFire has optimistically budgeted the opening of Station 16 for January 2018.