$3 million price tag on sprinkler systems to be installed in SAHA high-rise buildings

Owners of high-rise San Antonio buildings following Jan. 2016 mandate

SAN ANTONIO – $3 million is the estimated cost to install sprinklers and update the fire alarms for three older San Antonio Housing Authority high rises -- $1 million for each.

Daniel Gonzales lives on the 9th floor of the SAHA-run Villa Tranchese apartments north of downtown. The 50 year old building has no sprinklers. 

"It's about time they brought some awareness to it," Gonzales, who is wheelchair bound, said.

It wasn't required until January of 2016 after the deadly Wedgwood fire.

The city has identified 150 high rise buildings in San Antonio that undergo annual safety inspections. 35 of those do not currently have sprinkler systems and owners will have to install them.

The San Antonio fire department has not released a full list of those 35 building locations, but SAHA runs three of them.

Work has not started yet at the Fair Avenue Apartments, where a fire evacuated hundreds of people almost two weeks ago. The engineer design phase was completed at the building on Nov. 28, and the engineering firm will submit the plans to the city within the next two weeks.

Work won't start at Villa Tranchese until spring of 2018. Right now, the engineer design phase is approximately 75 percent complete. It will make Gonzales feel safer in case of a fire.

"I feel nervous for the other people, for the elderly. I'm pretty active and pretty strong and I can navigate myself but I wouldn't be able to help anybody," he said.

The projects will cost $1 million for each building. People living in both buildings can stay during the projects.

Residents had to be moved from SAHA's third high rise, Victoria Plaza, for $10 million of renovation work. Approximately $1 million of that is estimated to be for sprinklers and fire alarms. 

Those high costs are one reason for why the city is giving building owners a lot of time.

All building owners should already have sent in a letter of intent.  Within three years they need a plan approved by the fire department. In six years they need an established water supply. In nine years,  50 percent of sprinklers must be installed, and in 12 years all sprinklers have to be installed.

SAHA said it is "on track to meet that requirement in approximately a quarter of the time provided."

Funding sources for these SAHA projects comes from tax payer dollars in the city of San Antonio's budget. Those specific funding sources are Capital Funds, Moving-To-Work Funds and Energy Performance Contract Funds associated with the Victoria Plaza Modernization Project. 

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