May 3rd, 2010 12:05 PM by Lehel S.
When Jess Bravo, 33, a real estate agent with Zenith Properties Inc. in Newport Beach, started renovating the early 19th century Los Angeles home she bought in February, she found an artistic gem buried in the wall around the fireplace.
“We found a beautiful tiled Spanish mural behind about four layers of paint and restored it,” Bravo said. “I was told that some people in Silver Lake have murals similar to mine around their fireplaces that could be worth up $80,000, depending on the artist.”
Bravo’s hearth may not be typical. But many buyers love a fireplace.
“People from East Coast are often looking for a fireplace,” said Bravo, who has been selling real estate since 2007.
However, with studies linking particulate soot to increased lung and respiratory problems, more than a dozen air districts in Central and Northern California and cities and regions across the West have wood-burning programs, and the Southland is no exception, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
In September 2008, the agency adopted Rule 445 governing wood-burning devices, which required the installation of fireplaces certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as clean-burning when existing Southern California homes or businesses are remodeled.
An additional provision preventing Southland builders from installing wood-burning fireplaces in new construction went into effect March 9, 2009. And a new rule banning fireplace use in specific areas on high-pollution days (typically, 15 to 20 days a year from Nov. 1 to March 31), with fines for violators ranging from $50 to $500, will go into effect Nov. 1, 2011.
Atwood said the AQMD would provide information on ban days and areas when the rule takes effect. And the curtailments, which don’t apply to outdoor fires unless they are in a permanent structure, will affect residents only in areas where pollution is found to be at unhealthy levels.
“We hope to continue a trend toward the use of cleaner-burning fireplaces that use natural gas logs, for example,” Atwood said.
For information about reducing air pollution from wood-burning fireplaces and requirements of AQMD’s Rule 445, visit healthyhearths.org.