A San Fernando Valley assemblyman plans Tuesday to introduce a bill to strengthen California’s building codes, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Sylmar earthquake.
The Seismic Functional Recovery Act calls for the state’s building codes to include standards to provide for timely recovery of housing and other community services following an earthquake.
“California deserves buildings that can be reoccupied and provide basic services in a timely manner after the ‘big one’ hits, with limited loss of life and property,” said Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys, the bill’s author.
“By proactively protecting our infrastructure we will save lives, protect property, provide basic services and maintain jobs after an earthquake, and actually save money in the long run.”
While buildings erected under current or older codes should withstand a quake and protect lives, they may be unrepairable or unusable for a period of time afterward, leading to loss of housing or essential services such as grocery stores or pharmacies, Nazarian said.
Citing analyses of earthquakes in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area, Nazarian warned that up to 40% of buildings that meet current code could suffer damage rendering them uninhabitable, and 20% could be deemed economically unrepairable.
“By strengthening our building codes we are proactively preventing catastrophic property damage, economic disruption and loss of homes,” Nazarian said. “We are already dealing with a severe housing crisis across Southern California and cannot afford to lose more of our stock to a large quake.
“It’s just common sense to make new buildings safer and able to more quickly regain function. Doing so will ensure that we can get back to business as usual more quickly after a major earthquake.”
The 6.6 magnitude Sylmar Earthquake struck at 6 a.m. on Feb. 9, 1971, killing 64 people, including at least 44 at the San Fernando Veterans Administration Hospital, and causing an estimated $505 million to $553 million in damage.