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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Earthquake Law Affects 15,000 L.A. Buildings

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles on Friday passed a law requiring property owners to retrofit 15,000 older buildings to strengthen them against earthquakes, and setting timelines for it.

Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the mandatory building retrofit ordinance into law in the afternoon after the City Council unanimously passed the new regulation in the morning. It is the toughest of its kind in the nation.

"Together, we're leading the nation in requiring this level of building safety retrofit before, not after, the big quake we know is coming," Garcetti said. "We know that it's not just the lives lost, but the lasting social and economic effects that we can avoid by strengthening our city's skeleton - our buildings - and protecting our communities."

Property owners must strengthen wood-frame one-story buildings built before 1980, including large open spaces used for tuck-under parking or garages.

Building owners have 1 year to file paperwork showing that their properties have been retrofitted or that strengthening is not required.

The city will give owners another year to secure a permit for the work.

Once owners are given notice, they have 7 years to complete the work.

Owners of buildings built with non-ductile reinforced concrete have 3 years to file paperwork and 10 years to show that the buildings have been upgraded.

"Property owners would have 25 years total to complete the retrofit work, inclusive of the first 13," the mayor's office said.

The city has identified 13,500 wood-frame buildings and 1,500 concrete buildings that fall under the new regulations.

Costs of retrofitting run from tens of thousands of dollars to millions. Officials did not say where the money would come from, but building owners are barred from increasing rent by more than $75 to cover retrofits, according to the L.A. Times said.

The Times cited studies that estimate that a large quake in the L.A. area could kill 3,000 to 18,000 people and result in up to $250 billion in damage.

Despite the oft-repeated messages and fears of The Big One, there is no such thing as The Big One in California, seismologists say. There have been and will be repeated big earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault and the myriad faults associated with it.

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