Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law Friday the nation’s strongest earthquake safety rules, under which property owners in Los Angeles will be required to make seismic retrofits on more than 10,000 older buildings considered vulnerable during major shakers.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo by John Schreiber.
“Today, Los Angeles makes good on our promise to take action before it’s too late,” Garcetti said. “Together, we’re leading the nation in requiring this level of building safety retrofit before, not after, the big quake we know is coming.”

The signing came just after the Los Angeles City Council approved the mandate, which affects as many as 13,500 wood-framed, “soft-story” buildings with weak lower floors, such as multi-story apartments with tuck-under parking spaces, and an estimated 1,500 brittle concrete buildings.

“What we’re doing is protecting the lives of residents of the city of Los Angeles,” Councilman Gil Cedillo said.

Soft-story building owners will have up to seven years to comply with the mandate after being issued retrofit orders from the city, while owners of the concrete buildings will have up to 25 years.

The mandate targets buildings that were constructed prior to the enactment of seismic building standards, which include pre-1978 soft-story buildings and concrete buildings with permits dating back to before Jan. 13, 1977.

San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley all have similar regulations for soft-story buildings. But Los Angeles is the nation’s first municipality to make seismic retrofits mandatory on concrete buildings, making the city’s new law the strongest in the country, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones.

Jones, who worked with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city last year to create an earthquake resiliency plan, told the City Council she was “honored” that city leaders listened to her advice.

“We know the buildings that will kill people. We don’t know when the earthquake will happen near them that will cause them to fall down — we know what those buildings are. And that’s what this is about, and I want to thank you for taking action on it,” Jones said.

City leaders have yet to agree on how the estimated $5,000-per-unit retrofitting costs will be split between tenants and landlords. One proposal by city officials is to split the retrofit cost 50-50 and cap the monthly rent increase at $38.

Garcetti and other city leaders have also been pushing to create financing options for the retrofitting projects, and also have their sights set on a bill authored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Sherman Oaks, that would offer tax incentives equal to about 30 percent of retrofitting costs.

Nazarian’s bill was approved by the state legislature last month and now sits on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The governor has until Sunday to veto or sign it.

Los Angeles’ quake retrofitting mandate is part of a push by Garcetti to address the city’s vulnerabilities during a major earthquake. The plan authored with Jones’ input, makes recommendations for reducing casualties and protecting the city’s water supplies, communications infrastructure and buildings.

— City News Service

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