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Los Angeles Daily News

Friday October 09, 2015

Los Angeles Passes Earthquake Safety Retrofitting Law for Older Buildings

By Dakota Smith
 

The Los Angeles City Council passed a law Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, that mandates earthquake retrofitting for about 13,500 apartment buildings. The council will look at who will pay for the retrofitting later this year. Above, a damaged apartment building on Plummer Street is seen after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. (Daily News file photo)

Despite outstanding questions over the price tag of retrofitting thousands of old buildings, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed legislation Friday requiring mandatory upgrades for vulnerable structures across the city.

A car sits crushed under a Reseda apartment building after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Dr. Lucy Jones said retrofitting apartment buildings would save lives in future quakes. (File photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

About 13,500 soft-story apartment buildings will require retrofitting under the proposal, intended to shore up structures likely to collapse in an earthquake. About 1,500 concrete buildings will also need retrofits.

Noted seismologist Lucy Jones, who spent a year working with Garcetti's office, likened the law to measures the city took more than 30 years ago to strengthen masonry buildings.

"There's going to be some future earthquake," Jones said. "If this passes, we'll be saying, nobody died in this earthquake because of the action the council took."

With the legislation, Los Angeles becomes the first U.S. city to require a retrofitting mandate for non-ductile concrete buildings, according to earthquake experts.

Several California cities already require retrofitting of soft-story buildings, defined as structures that have an open parking or commercial space on the bottom of the structure.

While the law marks a milestone for Garcetti's earthquake safety agenda, City Hall leaders have yet to detail who will pay for retrofits, estimated to cost about $5,000 per apartment unit.

The Los Angeles City Council will take up the cost issue later this year.

The city's piecemeal approach drew concern from Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, who is worried renters will shoulder significant retrofitting costs.

"Until we see (the plan), we're concerned," Gross said.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake destroyed about 200 soft-story apartment buildings. Sixteen people died at the soft-story Northridge Meadows apartment complex in the quake, the biggest concentration of deaths in the city.


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