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Garcetti pushes quake safety plan


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a far-reaching earthquake safety plan that calls for protecting the city’s water system and requires owners to retrofit certain homes and concrete structures that he said were “known killers” in past temblors.

“Los Angeles has always been an epicenter of seismic risk,” Garcetti said. “But today we are taking bold action to make L.A. an epicenter of earthquake preparedness, resilience and safety.”

Garcetti discussed the plan, “Resilience by Design,” at a news conference with his science adviser, Cal Tech seismologist Lucy Jones, and other city officials.

Garcetti tasked Jones in January with putting together a set of recommendations on earthquake resilience by the end of the year.

Jones said while the resulting recommendations “cannot prevent 100 percent of the losses in an earthquake,” they could help “prevent the catastrophic collapse of our economy by addressing the biggest vulnerabilities.”

“And if all of these recommendations are enacted, I believe that Los Angeles will not just survive the next large earthquake, but we will be able to recover quickly and thrive,” she said.

The mayor is proposing mandatory retrofits on “soft-story” structures built before 1980 be done within five years. These are typically wood-framed apartment buildings with weak first floors built above carports.

“This plan here today requires mandatory retrofits of the brittle, non-ductile concrete buildings that are known killers—buildings that are built with the same sort of construction as the Olive View hospital that collapsed in the Sylmar earthquake (in 1971)” and the Kaiser Permanente medical clinic in Granada Hills severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Garcetti said.

Garcetti wants retrofits of non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings to be completed within 25 years of the building being determined vulnerable. Those buildings have brittle columns and frame connectors that easily break during shaking. The city has an estimated 1,500 such structures, Garcetti said.

Building owners would be expected to pay for the retrofits, but incentives and loans could potentially be made available under Garcetti’s proposal.

She noted that soft-story apartment buildings “represent most of the affordable housing in this city.”

Garcetti’s mandatory building retrofitting proposals will be considered next by the City Council, which will decide what parts of the plan will move forward.

Garcetti’s plan also calls for creating a back-up water system to ensure water is available to fight fires following an earthquake; upgrading the city’s water system with earthquake-resistant pipes and materials; and adopting measures to protect water carried by the Los Angeles Aqueduct over the San Andreas fault, which seismic experts predict will be the epicenter for the next “biggest” and “likeliest” major earthquake.

The mayor’s plan also recommends improving Internet and cell phone networks in Los Angeles by working with telecommunications companies to protect against breakdowns in communications following a quake. He also proposed creating a solar-powered, citywide wireless internet network and fortifying cell phone towers.