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Los Angeles tightens regulations on new building near quake faults

mark handler

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Los Angeles tightens regulations on new building near quake faults

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-la-fault-quakes-20150718-story.html

By RONG-GONG LIN II AND ROSANNA XIA contact the reporters

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday that the city has begun more extensive scrutiny of new developments proposed near earthquake faults on the Westside, in the South Bay and in Northeast L.A.

Under the new rules, the city is requiring developers to study whether faults run under their projects. The regulations apply to parts of the Santa Monica, Hollywood-Raymond and Palos Verdes fault systems. Other faults are already subject to this level of scrutiny.

The announcement comes after a Times investigation in 2013 found that Los Angeles officials approved more than a dozen construction projects on or near well-known faults without requiring seismic studies to determine whether the buildings could be destroyed in a major temblor.

At the time, Los Angeles building officials said they were not required to order comprehensive seismic studies because the state had not yet officially designated the area as an official earthquake fault zone. Critics, however, argued that the city wasn't doing enough to make sure these new buildings were safe.

In general, California law bans construction on top of faults and requires extensive studies before approving projects within about 500 feet of faults zoned by the state. But decades of state budget cuts delayed the mapping of crucial fault zones in Los Angeles.

If there's no state zone, cities aren't required to enforce the law.

But scientists have identified many earthquake faults across Los Angeles that the state has not officially mapped. Cities have the power to use existing data to draw their own fault zones and require fault studies, but many don't.

On Friday, Garcetti said the new rules are part of his larger seismic safety campaign, which includes seeking mandatory retrofits of thousands of wood and concrete buildings at risk of collapse during a big quake.

California geology officials welcomed the city's new zones.

"It definitely is a good step, because we want to make sure that the public is protected," California Geological Survey engineering geologist Brian Olson said. "That's not only the job of the state, but also local government as well."

With new funding granted to state geologists in 2014, Olson and his colleagues are now working on drawing state earthquake fault zones for the Santa Monica and the Hollywood-Raymond fault systems. Drafts could be released as early as this fall.

Building on top of an active earthquake fault is dangerous, state officials said. During the 1971 Sylmar quake, one side of the San Fernando fault shifted as much as eight feet. About 80% of the buildings along the fault suffered severe to moderate damage.

"Why would one risk constructing multimillion-dollar investments on ground that is known to be of very high hazard, and place in jeopardy the lives of those who inhabit the building?" John Parrish, the state geologist, asked in 2013.

Other cities have taken the initiative to draw their own earthquake fault zones where the state has not.

After the Northridge quake hit in 1994, the city of West Hollywood, expecting a boom in development along Sunset Boulevard, created a fault precaution zone.

Since 1997, developers have conducted more than 25 detailed geology studies and redrawn some designs so that buildings would be constructed away from the fault, West Hollywood planning officials said.

California officials praised West Hollywood for ordering those studies.

"It really helped them and their community ... especially when CGS didn't have the funding," Olson said. "To just allow and wait for one agency to come up with these maps is not helpful."

The new push to map earthquake faults in Los Angeles came as officials questioned whether a fault existed beneath the Millennium Hollywood project, a proposed development of 39- and 35-story skyscrapers in the heart of Hollywood.

City officials last month agreed with the developer that a fault probably runs under the site but is too old to be active. Project opponents say that conflicts with the state geologist's conclusion last year that the fault is active.
 

mark handler

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Los Angeles’ preliminary earthquake fault study zoneJULY 17, 2015http://documents.latimes.com/los-angeles-preliminary-earthquake-fault-study-zone/Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced three new earthquake preliminary fault study zones for the Hollywood-Raymond, Palos Verdes and Santa Monica fault systems.The new zones, colored in blue, yellow, and aqua, mean that developers will need to determine if an earthquake fault is present or absent under the proposed construction site.To find if your property is in the new zone, go to zimas.lacity.org, type in your address, and select the “Planning andZoning” link and look to see if “Preliminary Alquist-Priolo Fault Study Zone” is listed.An interactive map of the new zone is at navigatela.lacity.org. Click on the first icon to the left, which will show a table of contents. Click on the file folders next to “Geotechnical.” Then check the box next to “Preliminary Fault Rupture Study Areas.


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mark handler

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L.A.'s epic task: Fixing buildings that earthquakes could flatten

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-l-a-epic-s-task-fixing-buildings-that-earthquakes-could-flatten-20151009-story.html

rtain types of old concrete buildings have long been considered to have the most potential for loss of life in a major quake.

Recent earthquakes have spotlighted the deadly potential of buildings held up by concrete. A 2011 quake in Christchurch, New Zealand, toppled two concrete office towers, killing 133 people. Many of the 6,000 people killed in a 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, were in concrete buildings. In 1971, the Sylmar earthquake brought down several concrete structures, killing 52. Twenty-three years later, the Northridge earthquake wrecked more, including a Bullock's department store and Kaiser medical office.

On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to require property owners of vulnerable buildings to make retrofits.

Here's how it came together:



In 2013, a team of Times reporters mined thousands of city and county records to identify older concrete buildings. The Times found more than 1,000 buildings in Los Angeles and hundreds elsewhere in the county that appeared to be concrete.

Reporters walked through seven L.A. business districts to gauge the accuracy of the list. They pulled building permits and sent questionnaires to dozens of property owners, asking them to review the details. In these areas, The Times found 68 older concrete buildings, according to public records. Of those, just seven had been retrofitted, or strengthened to survive large earthquakes. The reporters' work covered a fraction of the older concrete

The survey showed the difficulties of accurately identifying concrete buildings. Some city records didn't specify the construction materials used. Some buildings that appeared to be made of concrete turned out to be steel framed, while others that appeared to be brick or steel were concrete.

Not all of these buildings would collapse in a big quake. More studies would be needed to determine which ones are most at risk.

Q: How would that process work?

To determine whether a building needs retrofitting, owners would have to spend as much as $100,000 on a structural study that ascertains what is inside the columns.

They would have to hire engineers who might install angled steel beams to provide more support, like an exoskeleton. Another solution could be the addition of sturdy interior concrete walls that stretch from the ground to the roof. The fixes could cost $1 million or more. Occupants probably would have to move out during the renovation, at an additional cost.

Q: How long have we known about the dangers of concrete buildings?

In 1971, the Sylmar quake shattered two concrete structures at the 46-year-old Veterans Administration Hospital in San Fernando. The three-story buildings pancaked when the concrete crumbled, leaving the red tile roof smashed on the ground. Many patients were crushed under the debris; 49 people died.

Seismic experts were more alarmed by Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar, which had opened just months before and was built using stricter codes. The five-story hospital lurched sideways when some of its first-floor columns broke. Three concrete stairwells toppled. A two-story psychiatric building collapsed. Three people died.

After Sylmar, L.A. officials beefed up seismic codes for new buildings, requiring more steel inside concrete columns to prevent chunks from breaking away. The extra steel acts like a cage, keeping the concrete in place, even if the column cracks.

But structures built before the mid-1970s remained at risk because many lack adequate steel rebar and can't bend. Engineers call these buildings "non-ductile."

When more concrete buildings fell in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Los Angeles Councilman Hal Bernson and Karl Deppe, a top city building official, decided the time was right to push for tougher retrofitting laws.

But those efforts failed to gain traction at City Hall.
 

Mark K

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The way I understand it the City can only require the seismic studies if the faults have already been determined to be active. If they require the studies before this has been determined then the City has exceeded its authority. But what is new.
 

mark handler

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Mark K said:
The way I understand it the City can only require the seismic studies if the faults have already been determined to be active. If they require the studies before this has been determined then the City has exceeded its authority. But what is new.
The city is a charter law city and does have authorities that general kaw cities do not. charter cities have supreme authority over “municipal affairs", a charter city’s law concerning municipal affairs will trump a state law governing the same topic. LA has its own Building Code.

List of CA Charter Cities

http://www.cacities.org/chartercities
 
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Mark K

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The authority of charter cities to legislate is not absolute and a lawyer who says otherwise has not done his homework. The case law on this issue provides guidance on what it a truly municipal affair and what is not. In the case of building codes the appellate courts have specifically found that the state has preempted the regulation of building construction which means that local jurisdictions can only regulate where the state allows.

The City of LA may call it the LA Building Code but in reality they enforce the California Building Code with local amendments.

There are specific findings that must be made when adopting local modifications to the California Building Code. When you look at the findings that have been made you will find that in most cases the findings are not relevant to the proposed changes. This suggests that a developer that did not like some of the local modifications to the CBC could win in court.
 

mark handler

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Mark K said:
The authority of charter cities to legislate is not absolute and a lawyer who says otherwise has not done his homework. The case law on this issue provides guidance on what it a truly municipal affair and what is not. In the case of building codes the appellate courts have specifically found that the state has preempted the regulation of building construction which means that local jurisdictions can only regulate where the state allows. The City of LA may call it the LA Building Code but in reality they enforce the California Building Code with local amendments.

There are specific findings that must be made when adopting local modifications to the California Building Code. When you look at the findings that have been made you will find that in most cases the findings are not relevant to the proposed changes. This suggests that a developer that did not like some of the local modifications to the CBC could win in court.
And we will find out if your legal anaysis is correct
 

mark handler

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Mark K said:
The way I understand it the City can only require the seismic studies if the faults have already been determined to be active. If they require the studies before this has been determined then the City has exceeded its authority. But what is new.
From my freinds in LA:

"Studies have been done, Assessments have been made. this action is the result."

Read the Earthquake Protection Law, a portion of the Health and Safety Code in Division 13, Part 3, commencing with Section 19100. The law allows local government to enact local requirements to mitigate the risk from existing buildings,,,

HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE

http://ca.regstoday.com/law/hsc/ca.regstoday.com/laws/hsc/calaw-hsc_DIVISION13_PART3_CHAPTER2.aspx
 

Mark K

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I have so far been unable to find any reference in the LA municipal code requiring these new studies. References would be appreciated. Imposing a requirement that was not formally adopted by the jurisdiction is a problem.

My understanding is that there was a previous building where the owner was forced to undertake a study based on a preliminary map that had not been formally adopted.

I reread the referenced portion of the Health and Safety Code.

H&S Code only allows local jurisdictions to mitigate hazardous buildings and Section 19161(a) makes it clear that potentially hazardous buildings are limited to URMs and soft story buildings. Thus until the legislature acts the City has no authority to mandate the reinforcement of non-ductile concrete buildings.

As I recall further research will show that the statutes say that an existing building that was compliant when built and maintained in the same state cannot be required to be upgraded.

When interpreting statutes it is necessary to understand what is being said and what is said in other statutes.

While H&S section 19101 talks about higher standards (adopted in 1939) Section 17958.7 (adopted 1997) makes it clear that there are limits on the local modifications. The point is that the City does not have the ability to adopt any type of modification or require mitigation of any type of building it desires.
 

Mark K

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Thanks Mark

This gives me an insight into the concrete building mitigation program. I am still trying to find the ordinance empowering the City to require geologic studies as a result of the seismic faults the City has identified but that have not been formally included in the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone maps issued by the Geological Survey.
 

mark handler

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Mark K said:
Thanks MarkThis gives me an insight into the concrete building mitigation program. I am still trying to find the ordinance empowering the City to require geologic studies as a result of the seismic faults the City has identified but that have not been formally included in the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone maps issued by the Geological Survey.
As identified in the report:

And "soft story" Structures

And since they have been communicating with the state, I am sure the state will let the City know if the City has exceeded its authority
 

Mark K

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The requirement of geologic studies for new building is separate from a mitigation program.

Although the City is required to submit filings to the Building Standards Commission nobody reviews the filings other than to verify that something was filed.
 

conarb

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Mark K said:
The requirement of geologic studies for new building is separate from a mitigation program.Although the City is required to submit filings to the Building Standards Commission nobody reviews the filings other than to verify that something was filed.
True, a few years ago I called Building Standards and they told me they didn't even review submissions, they just stamp them received and file them away.
 

Mark K

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Even if you believe the question of legality is a moot point you still need to know what was formally adopted so you can comply with it.
 

mark handler

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I do not need to comply to it. Not my jurisdiction. Has nothing to do with me at this time.

I posted the articles for information only. When the state or my city council puts it into the code, it will be my concern.

I do Not endorce or agree with everything I post. That's a mistake the others have made. I post things for common information.
 
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mark handler

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Mark K said:
Thus until the legislature acts the City has no authority to mandate the reinforcement of non-ductile concrete buildings.
So Mark is this too, overreaching and outside their authority?

http://cityofberkeley.info/softstory/

The City of Berkeley requires owners of owners of soft, weak or open front (SWOF) buildings with five or more dwelling units to retrofit their buildings per Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 19.39. Owners have until December 31, 2016 to apply for a building permit and two years to complete the work after submitting their permit application. The law took effect January 4, 2014 and applies to wood frame buildings constructed prior to 1978.

SWOF building owners must also post an earthquake warning sign and notify their tenants of the building's potentially hazardous condition. Under the first phase of the soft story program, starting in 2005, SWOF building owners were required to submit an engineering evaluation report identifying their building's weaknesses and ways to remedy those weaknesses.

A soft, weak or open front (SWOF) building is a wood-frame building with more than one story that typically has parking, a commercial storefront or other similar open floor spaces on the ground floor. This leads to a relatively soft or weak lateral load resisting system in the lower story and makes the building potentially hazardous in the event of an earthquake.
 

Mark K

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The legislature gave local jurisdictions the authority to implement mandatory mitigation programs for certain SWOF and URM buildings, This permission is in H&S Code starting with Section 19160. Thus any City can require SWOF and URM buildings be mitigated but cannot do the same for other classes of buildings.
 

mark handler

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Apartment Owners Getting Retrofits Ahead of L.A. Earthquake Law
http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleas...getting-retrofits-ahead-of-l-a-earthquake-law
September 15, 2016 6:12am
Even with years to get their buildings up to code, many are having the work done this week for the sake of safety and convenience, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and Optimum Seismic announced today.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (PRWEB) September 15, 2016

Earthquakes don't heed regulatory timelines. So, when the City of Los Angeles this year started rolling out the nation's most sweeping seismic regulations ever, many property owners took notice.

Sure, the law says soft-story building owners have seven years to get the work done, but Gregory Greene of Encino said he's getting all his properties retrofitted now – just in case the "big one" comes before the city deadline.

"I felt it was important to have the work done now so our tenants are protected," said Greene. "Not only that, but the retrofits protect my investment, too. Soft story structures have been proven to be unstable in earthquakes, and I want to guard against that for everyone's benefit."


The Los Angeles City Council last year voted to require earthquake retrofits of wood-framed, soft-story structures: the type of architecture commonly used in Southern California for apartment buildings, with parking situated on the ground floor and dwelling units built above it.

According to the city, more than half of the 13,500 soft-story buildings needing retrofits are in the Valley or the Westside. Optimum Seismic is currently performing several retrofits in both these communities, as well as in locations throughout the county.

"We're even getting requests for retrofits in the cities of Glendale, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, where the work isn't required by law," said Narek Ekmekjyan, vice president of Optimum Seismic. "A lot of building owners remember what happened during the Northridge quake, and they don't want to risk that happening to them."

According to the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, many apartment owners throughout the city are opting to comply with the law early. AAGLA is hosting a series of well-attended workshops throughout the city along with representatives of Optimum Seismic and the City of Los Angeles to inform apartment owners about their obligations under the law, potential liabilities and what to expect from the retrofit process. For more information, contact AAGLA at 213-384-4131.

"The seismic retrofit ordinance was the result of two years of involvement by AAGLA to serve the interests of our member and their tenants. Now that the law is in effect, we are conducting outreach and educational efforts to apartment owners throughout the Los Angeles area." said AAGLA Executive Director Herbert Molano. "We find that many apartment owners are taking action, first by getting an overview of the scope of work, second by understanding the costs, and third by obtaining the financing. Many property owners with vulnerable structures now have the urgency to act so as to protect their investments and the safety of their tenants."

L.A.'s law applies to buildings that are at least two stories in height, built under building codes dating back to 1978 or earlier, and contain parking or other open space on the ground floor, with dwelling or office space above.

In severe earthquakes, such as the Loma Prieta and Northridge quakes of 1989 and 1994, these soft-story structures can collapse, crushing everything or everyone underneath them. Both these quakes combined resulted in more than 120 deaths and $35 billion in damage.

ABOUT OPTIMUM SEISMIC
Optimum Seismic is the L.A. area's leading retrofit company and AAGLA's Preferred Supplier for earthquake retrofit engineering and construction. The company has more than 30 years of experience and has completed more than 1,700 retrofits throughout the state of California. For information, visit http://www.optimumseismic.com.

ABOUT AAGLA
The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) is Southern California's leading advocate for affordable quality rental housing
 
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