City Of Santa Monica To Identify Buildings At Risk During Earthquakes

Sunday, 16 Feb 2014, 9:28:00 AM

Brenton Garen

The City of Santa Monica has allocated $105,000 to launch the first phase of a comprehensive seismic safety program which will identify buildings at risk during earthquakes and address vulnerabilities within the City.

This initial phase focuses on the creation of an inventory of buildings that may require seismic retrofitting. City council members voted on the program at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor said earthquake safety was of utmost importance to the City.

“We are launching a comprehensive seismic retrofit program to both update our existing building inventory and establish requirements for seismic assessments and mitigations,” O’Connor said. “While we await the State revision of its earthquake fault maps, Santa Monica will continue to require stringent compliance with the City’s geotechnical guidelines as well as State and City Building Codes. We are committed to the highest standards in seismic safety."

This work represents the first phase in the City’s continuing effort to identify buildings that may not have been retrofitted following the City’s requirement to retrofit hazardous buildings.

It allows the compilation of an inventory of buildings requiring strengthening, augmenting staff’s on-going efforts. The consultant would identify non-ductile concrete buildings and steel moment frame buildings. This work would complement staff’s on-going efforts to identify other types of buildings requiring retrofit, such as unreinforced masonry buildings, concrete wall tilt-up buildings, and soft-story structures.

During the second phase, City staff would re-assess the current seismic retrofit plan check and permit fee waiver that was instituted after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

This reassessment would focus on whether the fee waivers should be continued, as well as examine best practices of seismic retrofit programs from other communities, such as the City/County of San Francisco.

City staff would present this information and a recommendation for City Council consideration during the FY 2014-15 budget process. In addition, City staff will work closely with Rent Control staff on the rent control implications of building upgrades for affected buildings

In phase three, staff will return to City Council in the fall of 2014 with recommendations to update the municipal code to incorporate the latest technical standards, timeframes for retrofit, and related administrative requirements. This will be followed with notification to building owners of un-retrofitted structures and full implementation of the program.

Seismic retrofits improve building safety, reduce insurance premiums, and help with marketing to potential tenants. The goal of these efforts is to ensure that Santa Monica is well prepared, and that the community remains safe.

Efforts at the state level include funding allocations by Governor Jerry Brown for the mapping of California faults, including the Santa Monica Fault.

State Assembly Member Richard Bloom and State Senator Ted Lieu were instrumental in pushing for funds to advance the mapping studies. Upon official approval of the map by the State Geologist, the most recent fault information will provide additional means for mitigation of earthquakes hazards and building safety.

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