Several business associations Thursday emphasized the economic risks Los Angeles business owners face if their buildings aren’t modified to withstand major earthquakes.
Representatives from the Los Angeles Business Federation, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Optimum Seismic Inc. and the Southern California Association of Governments discussed a 24-page report on encouraging and creating incentives for property owners to upgrade their buildings to make them resilient against earthquakes.
The report was co-written by Evan Reis, the executive director of the U.S. Resiliency Council, and Ali Sahabi of Optimum Seismic Inc., a real estate developer and general engineering contractor.
“All building owners should know if it is retrofitted or not, otherwise you risk losing it all,” Sahabi said.
Sahabi said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been telling Los Angeles business leaders that if they don’t update their buildings, 40% of businesses might not survive a major earthquake.
“Yet, this is preventable. Earthquakes are not preventable, but disasters are,” Sahabi said.
Sahabi said that studies have shown for every $1 spent on retrofitting a building, $7 could be saved. He pointed to Anheuser-Busch spending more than $1 million on its San Fernando Valley brewery for earthquake retrofitting and that it saved hundreds of millions in potential losses when an earthquake struck in 1994.
Reis said with the San Andreas Fault running right next to Los Angeles, it’s not a matter of whether or not an earthquake will strike, it’s a matter of when. He said planning with community members and insuring businesses could help the region skirt economic crisis should “the big one” hit.
Business representatives said that given the size of the economies of California and L.A., if a disaster essentially brought commerce to a halt, it would affect the rest of the U.S. and parts of the world.
Reis said expenses for retrofitting can deter some business owners from upgrading their buildings.
“Cost is an issue, especially in a good economy when there’s a lot of construction going on,” Reis told City News Service. “We’ve heard about the time it takes to get permits just for required retrofitting, and so we’re looking to partner with cities to consider expedited permitting. But the cost itself is not really the barrier that people think it is. Some of the best engineers in the world are in southern California, and they’ve developed really good techniques to retrofitting buildings that are cost-effective.”
According to the report, building damage is the main cause of death, injury and property loss resulting from earthquakes. Many building codes considered safe 25 years ago have now been proven to be ineffective in guarding against the violent ground movement experienced in a major quake.
The report claims that there are about 15,000 buildings in the city at risk of collapse in an earthquake, estimates it took from data provided the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office.
The business organizations are going to hold a monthly web series on their respective websites that will inform property owners of what they can do to retrofit and prepare. Some of the things that can be done Thursday, Reis said, are to contact engineers for assessments, and there are various ways to strengthen buildings against earthquakes.
According to SCAG, researchers at USC have estimated the eight-county region of Southern California could suffer property damage of $113 billion in a major earthquake, with additional business-related impacts of $68 billion or more. The report estimates more than 90% of buildings in Los Angeles don’t comply with modern building codes.
In 2014, Los Angeles created the Resilience By Design report, which led to the enactment of a law that requires building earthquake retrofitting.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in August reported that more than 2,500 “soft-story” apartments, which are vulnerable to earthquake damage, have been retrofitted, and a little more than 10,000 more are in progress and expected to be finished within the next five years.
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