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City to consider banning couches on porches


Here's some breaking news about some oftentimes broken pieces of furniture: City officials are looking to ban couches on porches in Lawrence neighborhoods.

I know it may sound simple enough to some, but the issue may soon open up a can of worms — which by the way, have been known to be found in porch couches.

At the request of the Lawrence fire department, city officials have drafted an ordinance that would ban couches and all other types of upholstered furniture from porches and patios. Lawn chairs and other types of furniture specifically made for the outdoors would continue to be legal.

I've got a call into the fire chief, but based on a memo, the department believes the couches represent a fire hazard.

In case you have forgotten, porch couches, which have been known to create forgetfulness, are quite popular in certain college neighborhoods in Lawrence. If you don't believe me, drive through the Oread neighborhood. Or take a walking tour, like I did yesterday afternoon, stopping to lie down and escape from the heat on comfy couches that allow you to enjoy the outdoors and sometimes even allows tiny creatures from the outdoors to crawl upon you. (I'm assuming that is why my wife blasted me with a water hose when I came home yesterday, but that may be a bad assumption.)

My Lawhorn's Lawrence column on Sunday will tell some tales from the seat of a porch couch. But I can give you a little preview of what most of the students I talked with thought about the city's idea:

"Screw that," Travis Morris, a KU junior said from his combination couch porch/feline bed.

A common question was why a couch on a porch is any more flammable than a couch inside a living room. The fire department's memo doesn't address that subject, but I did hear from KU students who conceded that it is more likely that people will use the porch couch as a place to smoke. Whether it is through lease agreements or just courtesy to other roommates, many students don't smoke inside their apartments anymore, I was told.

The fire department's memo also mentions that the location of porch couches often make it difficult for residents of a house to escape out of the home's main entrance, if and when one of the couches do catch on fire. Since 2007, 10 of the 463 building fires that have occurred in Lawrence have occurred on a deck or porch that included upholstered furniture, according to the department's memo.

Several college communities already have implemented similar bans, including Lincoln, Neb., Boulder, Colo., Ames, Iowa, and Columbia, Mo. (But, I assume they do allow the SEC tradition of sitting on the hood of your car. The one on blocks in the front yard, of course. Not the one you drive. That would be hickish.)

We'll see what city commissioners do with this ordinance. It tentatively is scheduled to be discussed at their Tuesday evening meeting. The agenda for that meeting comes out this afternoon, so we'll know then.

In the meantime, chill out, relax. I can tell you where some couches are.


Matthew Herbert 3 years ago

will existing couches on porches be grandfathered in? (=

Adrienne Sanders 3 years ago

Wait, 10 out of 463 fires only?? Has anything else caused 10 fires since 2007? Are we banning it?

deec 3 years ago

I'd guess faulty wiring, smoking and Christmas lights have caused more fires. Ban Them! BAN THEM ALL!

Better ban empty houses with all the utilities shut off, because they sometimes spontaneously combust as well.

Oh, and lightning. Let's eliminate that, too.

webmocker 3 years ago

Indeed. Further, the article didn't even claim that the upholstered furniture was the cause of those 10 fires, only that upholstered furniture was on the porches or decks that caught fire.

Topple 3 years ago

That was my thought. Correlation =/= causation.

thefisherman 3 years ago

In a related story, 453 of the 463 building fires that have occurred in Lawrence have occurred in houses that included upholstered furniture. City ignores problem, residents outraged. EVERYBODY PANIC

Phoghorn 3 years ago

If you miss having a couch on your porch, you can by a vacation home in Morgantown and put a couch on the porch. Just make sure that your couch is in a safe location after a Mountaineer win.

Aside from that, in Morgantown you can admire the beautiful scenery. It is very pretty there at all times of the year. Maybe the commissioners in our fair city do not appreciate sitting on the porch on a fine fall day.

Ronnie24 3 years ago

It seems to me that the city and fire dept would have more important things to worry about than to look for and ban couches on front porches .

peartree 3 years ago

I imaging this is driven by complaints. It is trashy to see, and it is the type of thing that makes a neighborhood look bad and drives down property values. It's kind of a slippery slope. If people have big, junky stuff on the porch (and sometimes out in the yard), they are more comfortable leaving other junk around, then beer bottles and trash... Once stuff starts to pile up you get used to it being there, so a bit more doesn't seem like a big deal.

jafs 3 years ago

I thought this was already a violation of some city code.

webmocker 3 years ago

302.11 Outdoor Furniture. It shall be unlawful for any person to allow on any yard, or other exterior area of any premises, furniture, other than Outdoor Furniture, as that term is defined in this Chapter.

Crystal Patterson 3 years ago

I'm pretty sure that made the newspaper because keeping a body part in a bucket (even if it's yours) violates some laws.

Dan Rose 3 years ago

PittState banned them many years ago (mid-90s) - the fire reasoning is just the City's (Lawrence's) go-to reason ppl - it's because it makes the houses look trashy, and I agree with the ban the from that standpoint... it is part of traditional co-habitating in Lawrence!


peartree 3 years ago

I think you are right. Also, indoor furniture is not made to be outdoors. The stuffing grows mold really fast from ambient moisture. You absolutely could look at this as a public health issue.

SpeedRacer 3 years ago

Everyone knows that couches belong in the yard; porches are for rocking chairs.

Nick Schmiedeler 3 years ago

Our porch is made of couches, stacked about 6 high, with a pillow-tunnel that acts as the front door path. Please don't ban my couch porch/rat hotel.

jack22 3 years ago

I'm not surprised our city commission is proposing this, the same ones who have let a few developers overbuild our city with cheap apartment buildings. Welcome to the continued Johnson Countification of our once unique and diverse city. These guys won't be happy until Lawrence looks like every other paint it beige housing development in America.

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years ago

People put couches on their Porsches?

Liberty275 3 years ago

I saw a guy putting two portable air conditioners in a Porsche 911 at home depot. I wonder why a guy with a nice Porsche would need two portable air conditioners for.

I didn't notice if he had a couch already loaded.

myop 3 years ago

What about banning porches made out of wood? They are definitely a fire hazard. Heck, your whole house is a fire hazard unless it's made out of steel. We can't live in trees, because they are made out of wood too. This whole earth is a fire hazard-global warming. I think this is ridiculous. If people want a couch, sofa, duvan, bed on their front porch-let 'em. We don't need big brother telling us what can go in or on our own homes.

Phoghorn 3 years ago

But...but...but...living in a free society is dangerous...next thing you know, those darned libertarians will want access to banned books, tequila with the worm, pure vanilla, non low-flush toilets, etc. My, my, we just can't have such dangers in the neighborhood...I just wish we could ban water. You can drown in that stuff.

Liberty275 3 years ago

"I just wish we could ban water. You can drown in that stuff."

If you drink too much water it will kill you. Also, if you break it down into it's elements it is explosive.

bevy 3 years ago

Not to mention it will eat through solid steel! Dangerous indeed!

Charles L Bloss Jr 3 years ago

I agree. government is out of control, be it local, state, or federal. I am so glad I live in the county, but at times they are out of control, too. Since when is it the government's business how a person may live? If a miniscule amount of fires are caused by a couch on your porch, and you can't get out of the front door, go out the back door or a window. The world has gone completely nuts. I remember all of the things your city komission has tried to ban. Remember cell phone use in a car? They made so many exemptions they decided it would not work, and they were right.

Liberty275 3 years ago

"Since when is it the government's business how a person may live?"

Since we let the government think they know best.

jack22 3 years ago

What's next, no patio furniture on my deck? No alcoholic beverages or glass near my backyard swimming pool? Or is this just aimed at poor people who don't have or can't afford air conditioning and who use the front porch as a way to escape the heat of their house?

snitty 3 years ago

Considering that almost all couches sold in this country have been marinated in fire-retardants, I would think they pose no fire threat AT ALL.

farmgal 3 years ago

snitty, very true. Much fabric and many, many items that consumers purchase are coated with flame retardant chemicals.

irvan moore 3 years ago

shouldn't the historical society people get involved to save the couches

Chris Jeter 3 years ago

I would guess someone with some clout at the fire department lives in a neighborhood with lots of couches on porches and just doesn't like them

joes_donuts 3 years ago

Go ahead and pass this ordinance because it will not matter, the fire department is the worst when it comes to enforcing ordinances. They just expect other departments at the city to do their work. They pushed through the smoking ban, but I can name many bars were people still smoke indoors. They pushed through the ban on grills on decks, but don't enforce it. They pushed through the fireworks ban but don't enforce it. What makes anyone think they will follow through on this one?

elliottaw 3 years ago

They can all effect your insurance though, if your house burns down and the cause of it is something that was banned they can choose not to pay.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

"I thought this was already a violation of some city code."

There is. However someone must call in and ask about enforcement.... if my memory serves me well

jafs 3 years ago


What would be the difference between the way it is now, and the new idea?

webmocker 3 years ago

"302.11 Outdoor Furniture. It shall be unlawful for any person to allow on any yard, or other exterior area of any premises, furniture, other than Outdoor Furniture, as that term is defined in this Chapter."

jafs 3 years ago


So, what's the change with the new law that's being proposed?

Garth Atchison 3 years ago

Don't lie and call it a hazard. You just don't like the look of it. Maybe we are not as free and cool as we think we are. That's OK-I like people that have standards.

jgkojak 3 years ago

RIDICULOUS! 10 fires? That means about 1.3 incidents per year - any researcher at KU will tell you - you can't draw conclusions on that few pieces of data(!!!!)

Do they not have better things to do?

GettingBy3 3 years ago

Where will all the couches end up??? Oh I know on a dirt road.....

shanep 3 years ago

Some friends of mine used to have a couch on their porch. I would stop by at my liesure and nap on it. I loved it. Then someone's ill-placed and forgotten cigarette butt caught the couch ablaze and burned down the entire house. Now that house has been replaced with the ugliest house in town (sorry if it's yours.) Porch couches breed ugly houses. Ban porch couches.

jack22 3 years ago

Yeah, with that kind of thinking we should ban developers from owning historical houses, that breeds demolition by neglect and house fires, too.

gatekeeper 3 years ago

What is the difference, as far as being a fire hazard, from my outside furniture that was made to be outside? The cushions are just as flammable as a regular couch. It's weather proof, so that extra chemical or plastic component to the fabric probably makes it more flammable. The mulch outside my house if flammable. Banning it next? Heck, my house if made of wood. They'd better ban all future construction that isn't metal.

This city never ceases to amaze me. Very close to moving just outside of town.

Only the people living in "wanna be JoCo but had to settle for west Lawrence" will care if there's furniture on a porch. Leave the rest of us normal people alone. As long as my neighbors are nice, I could care less if they have a couch on their porch.

WE AREN'T JOCO AND STOP TRYING TO MAKE US JUST LIKE THEM. I left that hell hole 25 years ago for good reason.

BinNLawrence4ever 3 years ago

LIKE your comment about "wanna be JoCo but had to settle for west Lawrence"......a lot of those folks just don't get it - silver spoon all the way. no empathy.........now if the couches draw rodents I might take a new stand on this

Armstrong 3 years ago

Geez, next thing ya know there will be a ban on frdges and junk cars in front yards too

Jeremiah Jefferson 3 years ago

I would be more worried about the insects that live in those couches than I would be them burning down.

KansasPerson 3 years ago

I'm a little worried. If they ban porch-sofas, then people who have nowhere else to put them will drive out just beyond the city limits and leave them there. Then they will breed uncontrollably (because face it, most people don't spay or neuter their couches) and the next thing you know there will be hundreds of little loveseats and chairs and ottomans running around.

2002 3 years ago

This is an embarrassingly stupid idea. If you move the same sofa inside, is it less of a hazard?

The behavior of some of the government leaders in the city is shameful. So only the rich that can afford quality outdoor furniture are exempted. Great job elitists.

George_Braziller 3 years ago

I thought there already was a ordinance against upholstered indoor furniture on porches. Why would you even WANT one on your porch? After being soaked a few times from wind-driven rain and melting snow it would be nothing more than a giant mold incubator.

webmocker 3 years ago

302.11 Outdoor Furniture. It shall be unlawful for any person to allow on any yard, or other exterior area of any premises, furniture, other than Outdoor Furniture, as that term is defined in this Chapter.

tomatogrower 3 years ago

Boy they are going to break the hearts of a lot of college students. But I agree with George. Yuck!!!

pizzapete 3 years ago

This ordinance, like the noise ordinance or the three unrelated people ordinance, is another attempt at making things more difficult for college kids who want to live in converted homes on the cheap. This is one more way the city commission/developers are using to discourage college kids from renting houses or allowing them feel at home in those houses. This ordinance is just one more lame attempt to push college kids into renting an expensive apartment in a cheaply built high rise apartment building.

bearded_gnome 3 years ago

this proposed ordinance is a war on: smoking; BSing; pitching woo; and anything else that goes on on those couches.

besides, if Columbia outlaws them then of course we've gotta!

when porch couches are outlawed, then only outlaws will have porch couches.

bearded_gnome 3 years ago

Liberty: just imagine how much money that Porsche/air conditioner guy had stuck down in his couch!

kusp8 3 years ago

"Several college communities already have implemented similar bans, including Lincoln, Neb., Boulder, Colo., Ames, Iowa, and Columbia, Mo. (But, I assume they do allow the SEC tradition of sitting on the hood of your car. The one on blocks in the front yard, of course. Not the one you drive. That would be hickish.)"

One of the THE best paragraphs I've seen in a while.

jonas_opines 3 years ago

Hahaha. I think in one of the govt. buildings in Lawrence there is a giant wheel with many things on it, and when they all get that hankerin' need to really just get down and Ban something, they take that wheel for a spin.

Couches? Sounds good, ban couches! But . . . hmmmm . . . but only on porches! Ban the porch couches!

Carol Bowen 3 years ago

I by no means have a silver spoon background or inclination. My working class roots would never have found indoor upholstered furniture outdoors. If students choose to live in a residential setting, they should be responsible for mature behavior and treat their real estate accordingly. Ratty furniture on a porch is unsightly, may or may not be a fire hazard. The furniture is definitely a health hazard - everything from recluse spiders to rodents. Students who choose to put upholstered furniture outdoors are trashing their neighborhoods.

Carol Bowen 3 years ago

Not so. Some sections of the existing ordinance have been written as a separate ordinance to emphasize and provide more detail, according to Dave Corliss. (i emailed Dave) the ordinance i quoted was from a very long document. The city's or perhaps the reporter's mistake was emphasing fire safety only.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

http://www.lawrenceks.org/city_code/system/files/chapter09.pdf , 9-613

302.11 Outdoor Furniture. It shall be unlawful for any person to allow on any yard, or other exterior area of any premises, furniture, other than Outdoor Furniture, as that term is defined in this Chapter.

rumor_man 3 years ago

So glad my futon will be allowed.

bad_dog 3 years ago

Not unless your futon is "...Outdoor Furniture, as that term is defined..."

A couch by any other name still smells...

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Landlords that neglect their properties drive down property values...... not the couch on the porch.

Who says a couch on a porch is tacky? How so?

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Well it might be time to bring out the rocking chairs ....... to the front porch.

bearded_gnome 3 years ago

*you're welcome Drone.

"oneeye_wilbur 1 day, 18 hours ago

Thinking,that the sofa is ok on the roof with the bar bq grill and lawn chairs and potted pants. I.e. sunflower house"

---one-eyed-walleye: "potted pants?" sounds tackier than the ratty old couches.

Armored_One 3 years ago

Not to truly disrupt the flow of froth coming from many of the contributors to this thread, but the foam used in the cushions for couches and other indoor furniture turns into a gelatinous type of napalm, burning much hotter than wood, for example. Add to that the fact that when it is struck with water, which most drunk college students will use to put out a fire, it can basically explode, spraying white hot, burning, sticky material in all directions.

It also doesn't smother very well and can release a disproportionate amount of toxic fumes when it burns.

Besides, even if this is just a beautification concept and not a legitimate health concern, what's wrong with increasing the visual appeal of the student ghetto?

Matthew Herbert 3 years ago

Spending time as a commission writing city ordinances that already exist and simply lack enforcement: Priceless.

Turns out, writing a law doesn't work unless you plan to enforce it. Our solution to solve a problem that exists because we won't enforce our own codes: write the code again and magically it will work time!

Currahee 3 years ago

It is so nice that our local lawmakers are looking out for our best interest to ban things on personal property. I volunteer the idea of getting rid of porches altogether. They're all made out of wood and therefore a fire hazard. And maybe they should just ban all things wood in buildings because they catch on fire too. Next they should look at banning ovens, stoves, and furnaces. Those things can be quite a spectacle if they don't work right!

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