After Surfside, Boca Raton proposes a way to make sure older buildings aren’t at risk of collapse

BOCA RATON — In the wake of the Surfside condo disaster, Boca Raton is on track to be the first city in Palm Beach County to start a building recertification program.

Currently, when buildings in Miami-Dade and Broward counties reach a lifespan of 40 years, they’re required to undergo inspections to ensure they’re still structurally sound. No such requirements exist in Palm Beach County.

In Boca Raton, the timeframe being proposed before the mandatory recertification is 30 years — and every 10 years after that if the building is over a certain height.

“I want to be a model for other cities,” said Mayor Scott Singer.

And even though Palm Beach County officials said it will beef up its building inspections, Boca officials say they aren’t waiting.

Since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside on June 24, cities and counties across Florida have started reexamining their building inspection policies and practices.

Waterfront properties will likely be given priority for inspections, according to Brandon Schaad, director of development services for the city.

Building owners will be given notice one year before their inspection is required. Once an inspection is complete, they’ll be given a deadline to complete any needed work.

If building owners fail to do the required work by that deadline, code enforcement and a special magistrate can issue fines, Schaad said.

Some residents want the city to go even further than the proposed ordinance.

“There’s a lot of language in the ordinance that’s very hopeful,” said Rick Zimmer, a professional engineer and Boca resident.

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But Zimmer urged city officials to take additional steps to beef up the ordinance by:

  • Ensuring more detailed building oversight and inspection processes.
  • Avoiding loopholes that allow building owners to skirt required fixes by only addressing cosmetic issues instead of structural ones.
  • Mandating follow-ups before the 10-year reinspection dates to make sure fixes have been done properly.

“I urge you as you consider these things to really look closely and deal with professionals,” Zimmer said at Monday’s city council meeting.

Firefighters officially ended their search for bodies in the debris of the collapsed Surfside condo building on Friday. The collapse killed at least 98 people.

“Boca Raton is taking proactive steps to increase the recertification requirements used in other counties by shortening the time for initial recertification and adding more thorough requirements for submissions of certified engineering reports,” Singer said.

More thorough discussions, public comments and a city council vote will take place at the next council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

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