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Posted on Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:10 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council approves first reading of ban on porch couches

By Tom Perkins

By fall, students may be prohibited from placing upholstered furniture like couches on their porches and decks.

A proposed ordinance, debated for several years, was passed on first reading by the Ann Arbor City Council on Thursday night and will return for final approval in September.

The ordinance would prohibit furniture not intended for outdoor use to be on city porches, decks and patios. It will come back for a second reading following an informational presentation from city fire officials during the council's first September meeting when University of Michigan students - who strongly opposed the ordinance several years ago - are back in town.

The proposed ban surfaced six years ago, but was eventually shelved after months of debate.

It resurfaced several months ago, following an early morning fire that killed 22-year-old Renden LeMasters, who was sleeping in a rental home. Officials say a couch on the porch caused the April blaze to spread more quickly.


Kimberly LeMasters has been urging the Ann Arbor City Council to pass the ban on couches on porches.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The fire was one of four that evening deemed suspicious by investigators. Officials believe the fire started in a trash bin, spread to a nearby couch on the porch, then engulfed the home.

The proposed language says the city would notify any residents who had furniture outside that it needed to be removed within a specified period of time. Failure to comply would result in the furniture's removal, and the violator or property owner would be responsible for the cost of removal and face up to a $1,000 fine.

"The last thing I want to do is regulate people’s choice of porch furniture, but there are some other issues that come into this,” Mayor John Hieftje said.

Several questions still remain about who would be responsible for costs associated with removing furniture and how the process would work.

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, questioned why the ordinance language says indoor furniture shall not remain “exposed to the weather.” City Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain said indoor furniture becomes more flammable when it's exposed to the outside weather and deteriorates.

Chamberlain also noted large pieces of upholstered furniture on porches have more material to burn than regular outdoor furniture and have more oxygen around them. The material on the porch is highly combustible, and no fire alarms are outdoors to alert residents of a fire on the front of the house.

“It’s the perfect condition for a very large fire to spread throughout the house or residence that it’s adjoining to it,” Chamberlain said.

Kimberly LeMasters, Renden LeMasters' mother, urged council members to approve the resolution.

“I fully realize the student population is unlikely to support this, but that likelihood does not absolve us from the responsibly to make the city as safe of a place for those students as we can,” she said.

Bob Snyder, president of the South University Neighborhood Association, said his group pushed for the ordinance six years ago. He added LeMasters could possibly still be alive “if political pressure hadn’t taken a hold of our elected officials.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 2:46 p.m.

My posting contained a typographical error. Should have been "poorly worded" not "poorly wooded" regulations.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council at its finest. Unfortuantely the Council seems to have little to do of real substance and therefore likes to develop poorly wooded regulations. Perhaps the Council will ban children and then there will be no need for children's play furniture (not intended for outdoor use) to be on a porch.


Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 2:22 p.m.

I hope they do something so the area around the houses on State and Packard don't look like some Little Rock Arkansas drug and whore house is embarrassing....

Milton Shift

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

Politicians wanting to appear useful without spending anything, as usual... If they really wanted to prevent these fires, they'd hand out fliers to freshmen students about the issue, and perhaps help them fireproof anything they throw on the porch. They'd rather hand out tickets though.

Missy O

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

I dislike the soggy soup-couches.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:13 p.m.

@Dagny Ditto on that


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

regulate what i do at home at your own peril. that is just lame How do u spell LOSER?

Mike Hulsebus

Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

I see that @Awakened beat me to pointing out that there are already some grill bans, but I thought that I would also link the specific information about what is and isn't allowed


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 10:58 p.m.

Fire dept report showed 3 couch fires in a 4 year span. There are about 300 fires a year in Ann Arbor according to fire dept. So about 1200 fires in 4 years. Thus roughly 3/1200*100% = 0.25% of all fires in Ann Arbor involve couches on porches. Therefor the "problem" of couch porch fires in the city is really vanishing small relative to other causes of fire. Also the fire fatality was appears to be from arson... going after furniture seems misdirected.


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 5:25 p.m.

"City Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain said indoor furniture becomes more flammable when it's exposed to the outside weather and deteriorates." Does anybody know if that's objectively true? It would seem to be pretty dependent on the current weather you'd think. I would think a damp sofa might actually be *less* likely to burn.


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 4:35 p.m.

This is possibly the most egregious attempt at personal choice micro-control by a government I have heard since moving to this supposedly 'freedom loving' town. You're going to regulate porch furniture?!?! What's next? No pink flamingos on my lawn because they distract passing traffic and could cause an accident? Stop trying to regulate every facet of life! Just because you are a member of government does not mean that you have to pass a law every day. You are not paid by the amount of ordinances you pass/create! I'm glad I live in Pittsfield Twp, which we call 'Ann Arbor lite'; all the services and half the taxes and stupidity from the local government! I'm sure that because of things like this, I would find living in the city of Ann Arbor absolutely intolerable, and that's sad for a city that prides itself on it's freedom of expression.


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

And I think it would be nicer for you students. What would you rather have - nice, clean vinyl that you could wipe dry after rain or snow, or a sprung old couch that smells like feet, old beer and mildew??


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

Here's a solution, and I'm not joking. Go to a junkyard and pick up an old vinyl bench seat from out of a dead pickup truck or sedan. They are actually quite comfortable. Kinda like sitting in a lounge chair. Not real flammable and basically impervious to the weather. You could add a couple of old bucket seats to your decor too, to complete the look. Then all you would need is some place to set your beverage of choice. Of course, you'd be close to the floor so you could just put 'em down there. And don't forget a metal trash can with a lid. Try it! You'll like it!

Jay Allen

Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

Best post yet! From Stephen Landes: "We need one more thing: we need to treat Renden LeMaster's death as murder". Right after this tragic event occurred, I had a conversation with a Lawyer friend. He stated that death resulting from Arson would be tried as murder. Excellent point Stephen!!! Wasting tax payer money with unenforceable ordinances is not the way to catch the arsonist. Now.......I find it very funny that one thread AA.Com has is all about the new North Quad. People are in there bashing it because it is nicer than their home, etc. Essentially bashing it because it is so nice. Then you have folks in bashing student homes because they look like "crack houses". I suggest everyone gets out more....... You know, there is no pleasing people for the most part. People just want to complain and they think complaining is going to fix something. Instead of just typing worthless rhetoric wasting bandwidth, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING!!! Lastly, I knew there would not be any "proof" to back statements about students complaining about couches. One of my pet peeves are unfounded posts given as fact when there is nothing factual to substantiate it. Have a GREAT Day! Headed to Gallup for a 5 miler!


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

I think the problem with this is illustrated by the number of comments about banning grills. In fact, grills are banned by the Ann Arbor fire code on porches, under overhangs, etc, etc. Yet they are still there. Take a drive around the student houseing and check. Q-Who is going to enforce this? A-The same police department that has taken 35% cuts over the last decade. The same police department that is called upon to make an "all out effort" to catch an arsonist. The same police department that is tasked to do all the same things that they did ten and fifteen years ago. Council is voting this ordinance to reduce their liability and SAY that they did something. It is a meaningless gesture either way. BTW- The arsonoist will be caught when someone sees him light a trash can on fire and follows him until the police get someone free to show up and stop him. If there were leads they would have long ago followed them.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

@barbara hackney As gently and respectfully as possible, I understand exactly how you feel because I lost my brother to a drinking driver. We became very active with MADD, but we never wanted either automobiles or alcohol to be banned. What we wanted, and still do want, is for people to take personal responsibility for their actions; to not drink and drive. I don't want anyone's liberty infringed anymore than is absolutely necessary. I also lost a high school friend to a fire in a rental house here in town, but I don't want the rental housing people put out of business or to have their properties taken away. As I understand the situation the fire began in a trash can, not a couch. We should take a code look at the fire code in the city for an appropriate response to this tragedy. We should also make more inspections of property to be sure all code violations are taken care of thereby reducing the risk of fire and death for everyone. However, a knee jerk reaction to Renden's death is not acceptable. You know what will happen: we take care of couches on porches, think that we have really done something, and next time it will be something else. Let's take the time to do this right and to honor the memory of your friend with a real overhaul of the city fire code, engage private property owners, tenants, the fire department, and any other stakeholders in this discussion with the objective of a serious, top to bottom review of the code and best practices. We may choose to ban indoor furniture in use outside buildings or we may not. However, we need more than this simple, one shot, city regulation if we are going to make housing safer in the city. We need one more thing: we need to treat Renden LeMaster's death as murder. The fire was arson; arson is a felony. As I understand it a death in connection with the commission of a felony is murder. Our police department needs to be investigating this death with all the energy and determination they would have for any other death during commission of a felony. I have yet to hear anything from the police department that tells me they have this level of attention to Renden's death.

Steven Harper Piziks

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

All of you who are opposed to the ban are howling about it in the wrong place. Your vitriol and screaming here doesn't change a thing. If you disagree with the ordinance, tell the council at the next meeting, not the AANews.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:21 p.m.

Well, time to make lemonade (for me anyway). I'm going to start buying lumber, making wide free-standing porch swings, and putting up flyers around campus. How much do you think students will be willing to pay? Seriously - I want to know how cheap I need to shoot for when building these things.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

if this becomes law, does it mean certain student housing areas will no longer look like the ghetto crack houses they currently appear to be?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

@TheAnnouncerMan007: I was referring not to other events of couches burning but other events where city council passed new laws that directly impact students during Summer months when the students are out of town. The last two I witnessed first hand were related to parking issues. Sorry, I wasn't clearer.

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

@CountyKate: "Mr. Ranzini, I would appreciate it if you and others would actually read the article. Evidently, you missed this paragraph" -No ma'am, I believe that everyone has in fact read the article. Just because 90% of the posts strongly oppose AA City Council and yourself does not mean they did not read the article. I harp enough on folks NOT reading through and educating themselves. This is NOT the case here. I also believe that those of us that remember this silliness from years ago have enough of a voice of reason to speak up too. "The ordinance would prohibit furniture not intended for outdoor use to be on city porches, decks and patios. It will come back for a second reading following an informational presentation from city fire officials during the council's first September meeting when University of Michigan students - who strongly opposed the ordinance several years ago - are back in town." -Now ma'am, it is YOU that has not read what has transpired here through out the day. There is a plethora of outdoor furniture that is MEANT for outdoor use only that is flammable. Please educate yourself. I have a patio set right here on my deck that I can take pictures of the cushions that say right on them, "flammable". Next, students arrive in September. They barely are thinking about school little lone have enough time or energy to immediately run to city council meeting. I think the timing on this STINKS and all it is, is an attempt is to cram legislature down their throat. Then when a student gets into trouble the by-line will be "Well, you had your chance". "If this ordinance is passed - and I hope it is - students will grumble for awhile and in a year or so it will be forgotten that couches were once allowed. This is a tempest in a teapot." -Really? The "out of site out of mind" mentality? What they don't know won't hurt them? That makes it right? They won't complain because they don't know? Laughable at best. "This is a tempest in a teapot" LOL - This is an on-line tactic to divert attention from the real issue. All you are trying to do is squash the momentum. It is easy for a person like you to do this just because the vast majority disagrees with you. OK, so the motion passes. What is next? Now don't dismiss the question, please answer it? What's next? Someone puts a 500.00 patio set on their front porch. Some arsonist decides to set fire to another trash can. Are YOU & the city council then going to ban patio sets? Just do the right thing and catch the criminals responsible for this. Oh wait, we cannot do that either because we have wasted more tax payer money by creating an ordinance (or whatever you wish to call it) agreeing with Arizona and the immigration bill. We have also wasted money on a police boat. But we won't have officers to drive the boat because officers are being laid off. [Mike Tyson in the "Hangover"] N-I-C-E


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:11 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini: I was NOT advocating a one-step process. Perhaps you should read slower. I was merely pointing out that the second step is scheduled for a September meeting, when the students will be back in town, thus making your argument about their not having a voice null and void. Mr. Vielmetti kindly backed me up by providing the official web site showing the item is on the September 7 agenda. Will you be there?

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

@Stephen Lange Ranzini. You have made comments over the last few days that I wanted to say something, but now I cannot hold back. This comment: "This is not the only recent event of this type, nor the only events of this type in the past several years. When these events happen, the complaints from the students are (rightly) loud about the un-democratic nature of the process. Perhaps you've never been present at a city council meeting when student leaders are riled up?" Please, show me PROOF of this statement. Now I am not talking 1 or 2 incidents in the SEVEN years you have been in Ann Arbor either. I have been here 47 years, couches on porches is the LAST thing we need to be discussing as far as issues go in AA. OK, maybe not the last, the Police Boat is dumb, but it is near the end. You make sound as though couch burnings occur nightly resulting in death frequently. You are wrong, you are exaggerating. Did you not READ what others have said, including myself? Make a drive out to Carpenter Rd. Now because you may not know where this is, take Packard east and then south on Carpenter. There is a Lowe's and a Home Depot out there. I invite you to look at the OUTDOOR FURNISHINGS that are available. What do you, just as flammable if not MORE flammable than a couch. Gonna ban those too? And guess what? They will not burn just like a couch will not burn unless some moron sets them on fire. As finally has been said, it is aesthetics and nothing more.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 2:23 p.m.

If the city council is so concerned about student safety, perhaps they should take a long, hard look at the conditions in which students are forced to live. Students are paying exorbitant rent for unsafe, squalid housing off-campus. What about these greedy landlords?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 2:18 p.m.

Stupid. We are really talking about aesthetics here...not safety.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 2:15 p.m.

@CountyKate: What is the point of the first hearing and why does the city have a two step process, if as you assert one reading is enough to pass legislation? I think our elders who wrote the city's constitution were correct in advocating for a two step process to pass any new law. This gives the proper amount of time for reflection and for news articles and letters to the editor to be written to form opinion. This is not the only recent event of this type, nor the only events of this type in the past several years. When these events happen, the complaints from the students are (rightly) loud about the un-democratic nature of the process. Perhaps you've never been present at a city council meeting when student leaders are riled up?

Kristina Birk

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

@BigMike: Aware. I am fine with the rule, and it seems like the rest of the sub's homeowners are too. I've never lived any place where it was an issue (I can't recall seeing many indoor couches stationed permanently outdoors before moving here, even when I was in college). Guess my preference for an uncluttered front porch means I'll never be a townie. I am empathetic toward owners of student rentals whose tenants don't realize that potentially flammable and actually burning items maybe shouldn't be sitting on old wood surfaces that are not their property.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.

I am against this ban if it is for safety and for it if it is for aesthetics. Call it what it is! This is a ban for aesthetics. But to try to disguise it under the guise of "safety" is wrong. Although I know there are some that are having knee jerk reactions to the tragedy. That is not the driving force here! I have seen numerous holes burned in decks from charcoal falling through the holes in the bottom of grills. Much more inherently dangerous than a couch no matter what its material! "There are many chairs, swings, cushions, etc that ARE INTENDED for out door use that would burn just as quick as a couch." Very good point!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 1:03 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini, I would appreciate it if you and others would actually read the article. Evidently, you missed this paragraph: "The ordinance would prohibit furniture not intended for outdoor use to be on city porches, decks and patios. It will come back for a second reading following an informational presentation from city fire officials during the council's first September meeting when University of Michigan students - who strongly opposed the ordinance several years ago - are back in town." If this ordinance is passed - and I hope it is - students will grumble for awhile and in a year or so it will be forgotten that couches were once allowed. This is a tempest in a teapot.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

"the violator or property owner would be responsible for the cost of removal and face up to a $1,000 fine." Ticket the violator, not the property owner. Landlords are already getting skewered by the city and their "inspections" and taxes.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 12:36 p.m.

Whenever city council passes legislation on something that impacts students directly while they are on vacation, it is a slap in the face. If this resolution is such a good idea, why rush it through during August instead of September when the students can weigh in with their opinion? It isn't very democratic (or Democratic) to pass laws regulating people's behavior when they aren't there or able to have their say, yea or nay!

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

Hey Tom! I read that link that Ryan had put up. I am well aware of the MSU ban as a group of my colleagues were ticketed 2 years ago while attending Homecoming in East Lansing. This is why I said: "I guess just about every other University or College town". I was too vague I 'spose. That is my mistake. The percentage is overwhelming in favor of allowing vs not allowing. Yes, while there are other college towns that disallow them, the majority is the other way. BTW TO EVERYONE!!! I just returned from a quick trip to Lowe's for some junk. While I was there I decided to walk into the Lawn Furniture section just to see.......There are many chairs, swings, cushions, etc that ARE INTENDED for out door use that would burn just as quick as a couch. Gonna ban those too?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

Yes, someone died near campus early this spring in a house fire which was fueled by an outdoor couch once the flames had reached it. That tragic occurrence, however, does not really drive this long-proposed ordinance. A few months ago, and especially a few years ago, homeowner groups and their business association allies made it clear that "cleaning up" the street appearance in student rental neighborhoods was a principal motivation for pushing to make porch couches illegal. Being 'unsightly' mattered above all. That is, if all these couches were somehow invisible to any passerby on the street, there would not now be any real effort on the part of city council to ban them. The safety issue would, by itself, not be sufficient to build wide local support for the ordinance. Besides, various other risky consumer items lurk on or near home porches. Realistically, why focus on furniture alone? "... it is a matter of accidental fires. Try dropping a cigarette on your grill/plastic patio furniture/newspaper and see if it smolders for hours and then bursts into flames...." Or try having a drunk student at a Saturday barbecue bump into and tip over a grill in use, heaving its glowing hot contents across the dry, worn porch of an old wood frame house. That sounds like good times and great memories for all. No wonder our city council hasn't considered banning porch grills!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

Kristina - a ban on porch couches by your sub is a private action by a group of people who have agreed to regulate themselves. Sub owners who want to be active actually have a chance to repeal this kind of ban. The city council ban is a government ban. Our duty as citizens is to carefully scrutinize every attempt by the government to restrict our freedom.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

Silly Tree, To be honest I would not have a problem with the fire dept. coming around every so often to check that the porch did have a working smoke detector. I'll give you that much people would tend to remove the batteries.. But! if the FD put a seal on the smoke detector when they checked it they could site people for not having them or breaking the seal and not calling up the department. Lets face it the fire guys could spend more time in the field checking out peoples porches to make sure they were safe.. I would have no objection to a fire guy showing up and kindly informing me that bunch of old oily rags in the corner of my porch could ignite and that I should make a few adjustment. I say pro-active fire control mechanism.. I will give you anti-couchers this much: a couch could be a large accelerant to a fire and kick off a fire. If this were not just all about couches and more about taking the time to look at the entire picture I would not have nearly as much of a problem with this. The whole thing about continually making rules to cover mistakes though does not work for me. Proper action in time is better than a monday morning quarterback saying " I know we'll ban couches and call it a day". I am pro fire safety. I am anti arbitrary rule making in response to an event that attracted publicity.

Tom Perkins

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

Theannouncerman007, Ryan Stanton posted this link below a previous article on the topic. Apparently several other college towns do have similar bans. Also, I know from experience while attending EMU 12 years ago that Ypsilanti doesn't allow it. But residents like to keep things a little more tidy over there.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

Okay, I changed my mind to some extent. It think the smoke detector idea is the best one. It should be connected to inside alarms though. I do wonder if an outdoor smoke detector would be effective though. And if people grill and it keeps setting the detectore off, they will probably disconnect it. Still, a smoke detector that works in those conditions and alerts all people in the house is the best idea for preventing injuries in fires. Will it help prevent the fire though? I mean will it warn in time for people to get out and possibly to halt the spread of the fire. Fire prevention is first on any FD's list. Escape comes second.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

Lana, your story about the tiki lamps only de-validates your wishes to ban couches. There are many things that are flamible.. you can't just ban them all.. Again, if you want fire safety on the porch use a smoke detector so people can be alerted of smoke and take action.. Also consider requiring a fire extinguisher. Also consider like many people have said fire-proof trash cans. It will not matter what the source of the flame is and you won't have to impinge upon peoples furniture choices.. If your worried about smokers why are you not banning smokers on the porch? I don't suggest this but seems the couch is a very arbitrary thing to corner. Again not to mention the real causes arson/trashcan whatever are not being addressed here.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

Cause and effect cannot be isolated except in closed systems. One events cause is another events effect. To provide a conduit for flames to progress more rapidly than they otherwise seems a bad idea. Also, not all garbage smells. It depends on its composition. Waste cans with paper in them could go years without smelling. I understand the want to be emotional over this. I even give some credit to your opinion. I'm glad it's here and I wouldn't want you ever to throw your thoughts in a stinky garbage can. They have validity, but so do mine.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

If couches are such a hazard why don't they ban them inside the home as well? The arson/murder mystery is solved! "It was the couch, on the front porch, with a... " Maybe this issue can be reversed not by suggesting something sensible like a smoke detector on the porch.. but by bringing something equally ludicrous to discuss such as the environmental impact that all these abandoned couches will have on the environment. What will we do with all the couches? where will they go? Could we set up a force to apprehend the couches if we see them "sitting" on a porch?! Could we possibly spend more time on the couch project, maybe some funding? Why is the vote on this 60/30? The comments are overwhelmingly pro-couch.

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:37 a.m.

Once again, instead of insituting a LAW on the EFFECT and NOT the cause, is ludicrous. Tiki Lamps should not be taped on the porch. I agree. This is asking for problems. Grilling on the porch is asking for a problem. Saying you live in a sub that disallows couches, Hmmm.......Sounds like the homeowners association needs something better to do. Like limit fence heights. How much are your dues? Why are there TRASH cans on the front porch? The last time I check, trash stinks. So I am going to sit on my porch enjoying a pop all the while sniffing trash? Come on. Complaining about going outside to smoke and some how saying that is a reason not to have a couch, OMG, really? I would suggest that you place those comments where they belong, like the stinky trash can! I guess just about every other University or College town will follow AA's lead and they too will ban couches (or "upholstered" furniture)on the porches of those houses? NOT. What a waste of energy, money, and time.

Lana Hawkins

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

As a landlord of a few student houses I completely support this rule. And I'm usually not a big fan of rules. Students are focused on things like studying, partying, playing games and grilling outside and on the front porches. Many of them are not thinking like property owners and don't think about fire safety. Here is an example. I went by one of my rentals one day and saw Tiki torches duct-taped to the front porch railing of a 100 year old wood house. Looking up, I saw black smoke residue on the edge and ceiling of the 100 year old, probably dried out, wooden porch! I also find grills on the porches sometimes too. If it's on the porch then it might me tempting to use it there. I'm thinking that anything that could easily burn needs to stay way far away from an old wood house. I would be really upset if one of my houses caught on fire and someone was injured because of a tenant just not thinking about the consequences of a fire hazard so close to an old house. The students have other things on their minds and we need to look out for them. If the couch rule passes then there may be one more resource watching out for the safety of the students. Big Brother or Big Mother? I feel like a mom to these kids and this rule makes sense to me.

Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:17 a.m.

Eminently sensible restriction. The key fact is that smokers have been driven outdoors and an outdoors couch becomes extremely combustible tinder as it is dried out from the elements. A wayward ember from a cigarette or joint can take hold and smolder while the unaware smoker has already returned indoors. That imminent porch fire has already taken out one of your exits.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:14 a.m.

Remember that a ban on porch couches was attempted six years ago. This was prior to the tragedy this year. There had already been reason to believe that the couches are unsafe. The argument that the sofa was not the source of the fire is not valid. I doubt that any sofa spontaneously combusts. The source of ignition must be different, maybe a match; a ligher; a cigarette; What would I rather have burning on my porch or deck. Comustibles in a garbage can? Flames in a grill? A flaming couch? Still, its a tough call. Personal freedoms should not be restricted, but what if you are the one sleeping in the room upstairs. You never wanted a sofa on the porch. That was someone else's idea. You even argued against it, but they said, "Hey, there's no law against this, be quiet." and then you get killed by someone else's carelessness. This is not a law to protect people from themselves as it has been purported to be. It is a law to protect people from others.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

Stupid law. If council really wants to enact something worthwhile, why not consider a "Don't Block the Box" law that would make it a substantial penalty for entering an intersection, in a car, where you have no hope of clearing it before the light changes and then become a barrier for cross traffic. In NYC, this is a serious crime that results in points and a hefty fine. It's extremely annoying to sit thru 3 or more light changes because people can't wait to get into an intersection only to end up blocking it. While I'm ranting, someone in the city should look at the timing of the westbound signal on Plymouth Rd at Huron Parkway. This construction project has really screwed up the traffic going west as the light only allows for 3-6 cars to pass. In the meantime, traffic is backed up all the way east of US23.

Kristina Birk

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

My sub doesn't permit fugly old couches on porches. Somehow, the neighborhood has managed to thrive despite this breathtaking abridgment of our right to pass out on a soft surface near our own front doors.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

If council did not pass meaningless resolutions and pointless new regulations, what else would they do?

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

@barbara hackney: As per my comments, it is HORRIFIC a young person died. It truly is. Make no light of that and I believe no one is. But seriously. Did the COUCH set the fire? No. Some perp did that has not been apprehended yet. Was the COUCH the catalyst? No. The articles in the trash can were. Is the COUCH the blame? No. And to blame the COUCH is blaming the wrong entity. I am in my late 40's. I have watched couches come and go on just about every porch on the campus. Heck, when I used to DJ at Dooley's we used to go to several houses and sit on those VERY couches. NONE of them caught on fire. Why? Because no one set fire to a trash can, on the porch. Had the house in question burned vs the porch, then what? Ban inside furniture, inside? The ISSUE is the perp who set the fire. That is why ARSON is against the law. And to again echo others, here is the fine AA city council not doing the things that NEED to be done.

Jay Allen

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

Yet another example of Government getting too big. While it is horrific that a young person died in the house fire in question, the COUCH did not kill the young man. The COUCH was not the catalyst. The COUCH did not set the fire. Classic example of persecuting the RESULT and not the cause. More time wasted. More tax dollars wasted. As has been said by several other members, plastic burns, trash in cans burns, as well as the can themselves. Where do you end? For that matter, even the PORCH burns. The house burns. So following the poor logic used, we all will be living in tents and sleeping bags. [shaking head in disbelief]

barbara hackney

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

wow! i can't believe what the comments are! someone died! someone, i know, whose family i know. what is the big deal on couch's? i say, the council is finally doing something


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

Fix bridges? No Clean streets? No Invest in infrastructure? No Create jobs? No Ban Couches? Yes!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

@racerx The difference between a couch and a grill, newspaper or plastic patio chair is the upholstering. This is not a matter of someone intentionally starting a fire (thats what gasoline is for) it is a matter of accidental fires. Try dropping a cigarette on your grill/plastic patio furniture/newspaper and see if it smolders for hours and then bursts into flames after you go to sleep! I am a former UofM student who has owned more than a few porch couches in my day and I can say from personal experience that they are a unnecessary fire hazard. In 2004 one of my friends stepped outside after a party to find the couch on his porch smoldering from a forgotten cigarette, he was just lucky he caught it in time. Before everyone cries neo-liberal, Stalinist, Nazi/Hitler government takeover please try to remember what it was like to be at a college party (did you stay sober or keep track of where all the cigarette butts landed). When I was 18-19-20 I lacked some common sense/caution and I am willing to bet that most of you did too. Would you be comfortable with your children living in a home with such an obvious accidental fire risk. I think this is a good common sense resolution aimed at protecting students and property in the city.!Burning homes and dead kids is all good for nobody!

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

"City Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain said outdoor furniture becomes more flammable when it's exposed to the weather and deteriorates." Did she mean "indoor furniture"? Due to the difficulties of unlocking a door while inebriated, couches offer a soft resting place for many a student. With the lack of a sleeping area, now we will have students apply other methods of getting into their house, such climbing in through the windows. I can only imagine the wackiness that will ensue.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

Bad things happen to good people. It's a fact of life. The City Council cannot possibly try to regulate this.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:59 a.m.

This is what you get when one political mind set rules a community. We have allowed one narrow minded group to hold on to the council and mayor's office for too long. Unfortunately that group is more concerned with conformance to their vision of how we should live than to individual freedom, personal responsibility, and personal and property rights. They prefer a "nanny state" view of life. I'm constantly amazed at the short sightedness of people, particularly young people, who say they value freedom and "doing your own thing" and then turn right around and vote for people who's actions say "we're here to tell you what's good for you".

Rabid Wolverine

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:59 a.m.

The A2 dictators are at it again. Focus on something that actually matters, please.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

The first act of the incumbents after winning the primary? Ban couches. Not fix the bridge. Or trash the fountain. But crack down on the placement of upholstered furniture.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

The proposed ordinance has everything to do with enforcing suburban aesthetic standards near campus. The residential safety aspects are mostly secondary, though essential to providing political cover for council approval. If safety were really the central issue, city council would have extended the proposed ban to also include other substantial fire risks, some more serious than couches. In student areas, one can also find cooking grills situated on or near wooden porches, the use of which creates greater danger than furniture. Wooden swings and chairs, especially the sturdier models, provide excellent starter material for would-be neighborhood arsonists with fuel. So, why on earth would council so narrowly limit the scope to just indoor-use furniture? To a large degree, that's because other potentially risky items, like cooking grills and wooden furniture, can be found in outdoor residential use throughout town, not just in the student ghetto. And Lord knows the city has no intention of entering long-established neighborhoods to issue fire hazard tickets for recreational practices that homeowners have enjoyed for eons. On the other hand, these same homeowners, whom the city does not wish to irritate, harbor a strong aesthetic distaste for placing cushioned furniture on front porches. It's regarded as poor form, like front lawn vegetable gardens, and they'd support the city enforcing their fashion sense in student areas. After a half-decade in political hibernation, couch ban supporters have now reemerged to exploit a serious, fatal fire on campus a few months ago. Venture capitalists might take note that a nationwide student market exists for cushy sofas designed to function poorly as incineration enhancements. And, as far as I know, California law requires all furniture to resist flames — including foam, fiber or other materials on the inside, not just the exterior.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:50 a.m.

Maybe they just should've written a resolution condemning the couches for burning in the first place. The nerve of those couches, anyway!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

"The ordinance would prohibit furniture not intended for outdoor use to be on city porches, decks and patios" On our deck, we have a small childrens play table which was not specifically designed for outside use. Now that will be illegal. Ladies and gentlemen... the Ann Arbor government at its finest.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

"This ordinance is an example of an over-reaching government regulation. As tragic as was the death of Mr. LeMasters, the number of injuries and deaths relative to the number of couches does not justify the intrusion onto private property. Stay off my porch!" I agree with the sentiments of BigMike. I would only add, show me some hard statistical data that indicates a real ongoing problem with couches catching/being set on fire.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:53 a.m.

"Officials believe the fire started in a trash bin".... A fire starts in a trash bin so the council bans couches. Why not pass a resolution encouraging trash cans be made of nonflammable steel with "self closing oxygen depriving" lids?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.



Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.

This ordinance is an example of an over-reaching government regulation. As tragic as was the death of Mr. LeMasters, the number of injuries and deaths relative to the number of couches does not justify the intrusion onto private property. Stay off my porch!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:22 a.m.

Oh the irony, the lefty council laying down dictums regulating human behavior on private property. Why didn't they ban smoking on the porch and salty snacks???????????? Of course the A2 City Council has become the self annointed surrogate parents for "wayward" college kids. The Nanny State lives here! Let freedum ring.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:11 a.m.

What will happen when the leaves no longer being picked up pile up and create a fire hazard in yards? Oh yea you can pass an ordinance limiting the number of leaves a tree is allowed to produce!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

If the fire was stared by a trash container why don't they look at making those more safe instead of the couches? Another example of trying to add another arbitrary rule to the rulebook to solve problems. I'm imagining some older fellow who is disgruntled about seeing people out on their porches using the couches mumbling " those darned couches, see I told you the couches were dangerous! " Then his wife chimes in with " and they are such an eye sore " Is this really about safety? Are couches a primary contributor to fires in Ann Arbor? If so.. could we spend some tax money for officials to develop a longer list of things that can catch fire so that we can ban those things as well? If they are worried about porches catching fire why not enforce the use of smoke detectors on all porches? Wouldn't a smoke detector on every porch help prevent more fires and be a better alternative?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 5:30 a.m.

Will grills be next? Newspapers? Even plastic patio furniture can burn. So what's the difference with these items as oppose to couches? If someone is intent upon starting a fire on a porch they will regardless what is set, be it a couch or other items. As with this latest incident, it was the work of an arsonist, and it's proven that he was intent on starting a fire. Gee what's next, cars in our driveway?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 5:20 a.m.

"The last thing I want to do is regulate peoples choice of porch furniture, but there are some other issues that come into this, Mayor John Hieftje said. Agreed, like personal responsibility or the lack thereof. If students or going to be so grossly negligent, then council doesn't really have choice, do they?