Here's a neat idea from a local neighborhood association: let's incentivize the elimination of emergency escape windows in duplexes.
The Original University Neighborhood Association is challenging the city's approval of a duplex on David Street. The neighborhood contends the duplex is an illegal "superduplex" because it contains too many bedrooms. The plans show just three bedrooms per unit, the legal maximum, but each duplex contains two other rooms the neighborhood says could be used as bedrooms.
The problem is, how do you decide whether a room is a bedroom? The neighborhood complains the city just reads what's on the plans.
According to In Fact Daily (gated), the neighborhood association president is proposing a firmer definition:
She argues that such a space "could be reasonably defined" as "any room that meets the definition for habitable space . . . and meets the minimum area requirements . . . and is a private space or can be made private by the addition of a door . . . and has an outside door or window which meets the minimum requirements for emergency escape."
Zaragoza further explained the idea to In Fact Daily. She turned to the example of a study. She suggested that "it makes sense" to have a door that closes in a study, and that a potential remedy, under her proposed rules, would be to have a window that "would bring in light but that would not necessarily meet the egress requirements for a bedroom."
Any room big enough to be used as a game room or living room would be big enough for a bedroom, so a minimum area requirement is useless for discriminating between bedrooms and other rooms. And, as Zaragoza notes, doors are useful things to have in all kinds of rooms. So the crux of the neighborhood's proposed definition really is, "Eliminate the emergency access."
Because we know that no college student will use a room as a bedroom unless it has an emergency escape window meeting city code.
So suppose, God forbid, someone dies in a duplex fire because he couldn't get out a window. When the newspaper reports that city code limited the number of emergency escape windows in the duplex, would the city's response really be, "He must have been using the room as an illegal bedroom. Serves him right."?