California could require cities to report buildings vulnerable to earthquakes

A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk would inventory shaky structures

Sep.September 12, 2018 04:00 PM
California Governor Jerry Brown and part of San Francisco’s Marina District damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (Credit: CIR Online via Flickr)

The state could soon require cities and counties around California to inventory more buildings vulnerable to earthquake damage.

The state legislature has sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown requiring such reporting, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The law would expand existing requirements to cover so-called “soft story buildings” — wood-frame buildings with large open ground levels, typically for parking spaces — and concrete buildings with inadequate steel reinforcement. The state already requires local governments to inventory unreinforced brick buildings.

Many large cities — including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood — already inventory those types of buildings. L.A. also requires that property owners retrofit vulnerable buildings to withstand powerful quakes. The city has been exploring ways to help property owners pay for those retrofits, which can run upwards of $100,000. L.A.’s list includes over 15,000 buildings.

Critics of the newest measure, including the League of California Cities and the California Building Officials group, argue that the bill would heavily burden small apartment owners. Some small apartment owners in L.A. have opted to sell their properties rather than spend the money to retrofit them under existing law. The bill on Brown’s desk does not require any retrofitting.

Existing state law also limits new development near dangerous fault lines. Earlier this year, the California Geological Survey found that the Santa Monica fault line extended through the Golden Triangle area, which includes Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. That means the state could limit development there. The new bill doesn’t include funding allocations, which means it would only take effect if the state can find money for the project, according to the Times. [LAT] – Dennis Lynch 

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