Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Increased railing height would have prevented Ranger's fan's death by Mary Cummins real estate appraiser

Firefighter and Rangers fan Shannon Stone died after falling over a railing trying to catch a baseball. The railing was 33" tall. Stone was 6'3" tall. Was the railing too low? Should minimum railing heights be increased in sports arenas?

In 1999 a UCLA student fell over a 36" balcony railing and died. l wrote an article about this railing death because the railing was not high enough. l also wrote a letter to editor in the Times about legal roof top deck railings when they ran a story about making a roof top deck with NO railings at all. Besides being an expert witness in real estate cases such as these l put a roof top deck on a property l owned so l knew the railing requirements.

The UCLA student death made everyone rethink safe railing heights. This also brought up the issue of immediate and mandatory retrofitting of older buildings. Generally retrofitting is done upon sale or transfer only.

As of January 2008 California balcony, landing, porch and deck railings for residential properties must be a minimum of 42". California has the strictest building codes in the nation. In other states it is generally 36" to 42".

If you take a look at the video footage of the fall, it appears to me that there was no way he was not going to fall over the railing. Stone was 6'3", probably had a 33" inseam. His center of mass was easily over 36" off the ground. He had momentum as he was moving toward the railing with his arm out stretched over the 33" railing bending down for the ball. As soon as his upper body was over the railing and his body hit the round railing he was almost flipped over the railing. Things were made worse by the fact that he was only standing on his forward foot with his rear leg up behind him with both arms over the railing. He is not much taller than an average man. He was not doing anything that you wouldn't normally do at a ball park.

Here are some stills which show my point. His waist is quite a bit higher than the railing.



Here is the video. Obviously it's graphic because you see him flip over the railing. You do not see him land.

City officials said that the railing was seven inches higher than required which they state is 26".  26" is the minimum between rows, not at the bottom of the aisles as in this situation. They are misquoting the 2003 International Building Code and the 1988 Uniform Building Code. The minimum height at the bottom of aisles is 42" according to the International Building Code.

I believe that if that railing were 42", he would not have fallen over it. I realize there are line of sight issues with tall railings but they can use clear material for the railings like they do at The Pond in Orange County. I bet there will be a lawsuit and the plaintiff's family will win. Hopefully these sports arenas will raise the railing heights. This tragic death could have been prevented.

UPDATE: Texas Rangers agree to raise the railing heights. Thank you!

Texas Rangers to raise rail heights in wake of deadly fan fall

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 19, 2011 4:37 p.m. EDT


(CNN) -- The Texas Rangers will raise the height of the rails at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the team said Tuesday, after a 39-year-old fan fell to his death while trying to catch a ball.

"Even though all current rail heights in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington currently exceed code, the Rangers intend to raise the height of all rails in front of seating areas to the highest standard in the United States at this time," the team said in a statement.

As the rails are being refitted, the Rangers said they would take "interim" steps, such as posting new signs that will remind fans not to lean, sit on or stand against the rails. The team will also issue a warning prior to the start of each game via its public address system, the Rangers said.

The news comes in the wake of the death of Shannon Stone, a veteran firefighter and Rangers fan whose death prompted a national outpouring of condolences.


Mary Cummins of Cummins Real Estate is a certified residential licensed appraiser in Los Angeles, California. Mary Cummins is licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate appraisers and has over 35 years of experience.

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McMansion is Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, California by Mary Cummins real estate appraiser

The word "McMansion" was coined in the early 1980s in Beverly Hills. Related terms include "Persian palace","garage Mahal", "starter castle", and "Hummer house." An example of a "McWord," "McMansion" associates the generic quality of these "luxury homes" with that of mass-produced fast food meals by restaurant chains.

In Beverly Hills the larger estates are located on larger lots North of Santa Monica Blvd. Lots south of the Blvd are much smaller and have smaller homes which are proportionate to their lot size. The lots in this area are 5000 to 7500 max. The homes were 2-3 bedroom homes approximately 1,800 sf.

During the Iranian revolution many Iranians fled their country. Many moved to Beverly Hills first moving into apartments then later buying homes. Because land is so expensive in Beverly Hills and they generally lived with extended families, they would enlarge their home and remodel to their tastes. They would prefer to buy the cheaper smaller homes on smaller lots in Beverly Hills then enlarge them to fit their needs instead of buying the more expensive, larger estates on larger sites. They were putting 4,000 to 6,000 sf homes on 6,000 sf lots.

They generally would remodel to build the largest home they could legally build on a lot using the entire foot plan. This would most times be a square home with Greek or Colonial embellishments on the front. It would cover the maximum lot lines and top out at the maximum height limitations. Many felt these homes were tacky and tasteless.

These two story plus homes which looked a bit like gaudy apartment buildings would dwarf the smaller one-story Spanish and Traditional homes around them. They would also generally get rid of the garage and have a circular driveway in the front. On top of this more people would live in each home. As they got rid of the garages street parking became an issue. This bothered the original neighbors and did look a bit sightly.

Over time this spread to other expensive cities. The public finally put their foot down and demanded that something be done. Building and planning departments made changes especially in Beverly Hills. New homes had to go through a more rigorous approval process. Height limitations and maximum square footage were changed as were lot lines, set backs and styles. They would no longer allow homes to use the maximum foot plan of the site or maximum height limitations. They also would not approve homes which were just solid squares.

Here are a few McMansions in Beverly Hills which I photographed last week. I did not appraiser these though I have appraised a lot of these types of homes. These are south of Santa Monica Blvd north of Olympic. Notice on the side near the rear the house juts out again. That's because the set back changes at that point and they wanted to use as much land as possible. They also added basements to be able to add even more living space.



Below are the two original main styles of homes in Beverly Hills south of Santa Monica Blvd. The McMansions look like 8 unit apartment buildings next to the original homes.



Another criticism of McMansions and mansionization is people think they are a waste of space and materials. There are sometimes more space than a regular family would need with tall ceilings and open atrium entrances. The quality of the materials and workmanship were sometimes also an issue. They didn't always use the best architect ending up with a home which was a bit tasteless to the point of being obnoxious. Besides this the design and style of the homes seemed to be a jumbled mix of gaudy additions such as columns, multiple front balconies and statuary.

Over time new owners of the original "palaces" have toned down the front facades and color schemes. They've also replaced the acres of pink marble flooring with wood and removed some of the flourishes.

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.


Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.

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