The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Thursday, 20 February 2014 12:33cat

Santa Monica Wants To Be First Earthquake Safe City

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Damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake Damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake Fema News Photo

The city of Santa Monica, California will spend $100,000 over the next year identifying steel, concrete, and wood-frame buildings that would be vulnerable to an earthquake. If investigators determine that a building is at risk, the owners of the building must retrofit the structure to comply with current building codes. A timeframe for when building owners must complete the retrofits has not been announced.

Other California cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have already adopted or are planning to adopt similar programs, but Santa Monica’s plan goes much further than anything the state has seen so far. Instead of just looking at steel or just investigating concrete buildings, Santa Monica will identify steel, concrete, and wood structures that need to be fixed. Researchers at the University of California recently found more than 1,500 concrete buildings in Los Angeles that may be at risk if an earthquake occurs. Santa Monica is located 15 miles west of Los Angeles along the Pacific Ocean and the city has a population of 90,000.  It is unclear how many vulnerable buildings investigators anticipate finding, but some estimate that each inspection could cost between $4,000 and $20,000. The city has at least 70 concrete buildings. Santa Monica Mayor, Pam O’Connor, hopes the program will succeed in making Santa Monica a more secure city. She stated that although you cannot predict when an earthquake will occur, the city can find out where the risks are now. 

The city is prepared to face a backlash from property owners. The retrofits could cost anywhere between $10,000 to $1 million depending on the size of the building and scope of the retrofit. The program does stipulate that owners have the ability to demonstrate that their building is safe, but if they fail to do so, they must make upgrades. Many residents would like the city to setup a low or zero interest loan fund that will assist smaller building owners. They would also like to exempt owners from the city’s rent control policies and allow them to pass some of the costs onto the building’s tenants.

Santa Monica had created a similar program 20 years ago, but the city stopped enforcing the laws a few years after they were created. The city has not found the list of buildings, investigators generated before stopping their search. City officials are hoping that the program succeeds this time, and their goal is to make Santa Monica the first earthquake safe city in California.

Sources: LA TimesCurbed LA

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