City Hall Will Finally Tally L.A.'s Earthquake-Prone Apartments

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Thu, May 29, 2014 at 9:03 AM
click to enlarge Northridge, 1994. - ERIC GELINAS/FLICKR
Gracie Zheng's March L.A. Weekly report on L.A.'s earthquake-prone apartment buildings should have embarrassed city leaders.

See also: An Earthquake Could Topple Hundreds of Buildings, and L.A. Leaders Are Doing Nothing

While San Francisco not only knows how many "soft-story" buildings it has (and where they are), it's requiring owners to undertake $60,000 to $130,000 retrofits of the pre-1978, wood-frame structures. Renters will likely ante up as much as $50 a month extra to pay for the changes.

Los Angeles City Hall is 10 years behind S.F. And you know our "representatives" on the City Council aren't about to inconvenience their land-owning friends just so you can be safe when the Big One hits. 

But at least there's this:

The council yesterday voted unanimously to start figuring out how many of these buildings we have, and where they are.

It's a start. As Tom LaBonge's motion admits:
... The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety does not have a database that documents the precise number or locations of such structures (soft-story, wood-frame, multi-unit residential buildings).
Oops? Interestingly, in the midst of this shit storm, city geologist Dana Prevost, the point man for City Hall's earthquake "strategy," if you can call it that, retired.

The vote means that a city structural engineer and building inspector will be on this case for two years. The results will be presented to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

report claims that this will not cost taxpayers any extra cash.

Our March report spells out why it's important to figure out how many of these buildings we have, and where they are:
click to enlarge L.A. WEEKLY
  • L.A. Weekly
The city lags behind San Francisco by at least a decade in tackling two looming dangers: thousands of "soft-story" buildings, which sit atop poorly supported carports and garages - in L.A., mostly condos and apartments, including the famed "dingbats" - and 1,454 "nonductile" concrete buildings built before 1980, which lack sufficient steel rebar to meet quake standards.

Berkeley and UCLA researchers believe that, during a big quake, perhaps 75 of the city's 1,454 concrete buildings could collapse and far more could suffer major damage such as cracking and buckling, killing and injuring thousands of people. At the same time, other scientists say thousands of soft-story buildings, including dingbat apartments housing thousands of residents, could collapse or suffer life-threatening damage.
The 1994 Northridge quake alone heavily damaged or totally destroyed about 200 soft-story structures.

In 2008 San Francisco completed a 10-year earthquake study that found 85 percent of that city's soft-story apartment buildings could be uninhabitable (at best) after the 7.2 quake that is long overdue on California's San Andreas fault.

As we noted:
L.A. has no active plan to address its thousands of older, potentially killer buildings.
Guess we have the beginnings of a plan now.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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