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Lancaster courthouse deemed ‘unsafe’


A state study has found that more than 140 courthouses across California are seismically unsafe, including several in Los Angeles County, raising the risk of a substantial loss of life in case of a major earthquake. The Los Angeles County courthouse in Lancaster is one of those facilities listed.

The study, which is raising alarm among court officials, also found that fixing only the worst dozen courthouses would cost more than $300 million.

In a major earthquake, 145 courthouses could face “substantial” structural damage, “extensive” non-structural damage and “substantial” risk to the life, according to the study, which was presented in San Francisco Wednesday to a committee with the Judicial Council, which sets policy for California courts.

Glendale Superior and Municipal Courthouse, which was built in 1956, received a seismic risk rating of 44.2, the highest in the state, and is among a dozen facilities considered very high risk. The report used seismic-risk ratings developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Other Los Angeles County facilities in the very-high-risk category included the west and east wings of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, with each wing receiving a 23 rating, and the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center,

with both structures in Downtown L.A. Los Angeles facilities in the high-risk range also included those in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Pasadena, Alhambra, Newhall, Norwalk, Van Nuys and Santa Monica, which collected 3.4 to 5.4 ratings.

In Orange County, the central courthouse in Santa Ana was given a 2.1 seismic-risk rating, while the north court facility in Fullerton received a 3.3. and the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange got a 4.4, The Orange County Register reported. All are considered high-risk facilities.

“We remain concerned about the current condition of several of our courthouses, but we are hopeful in these times of limited resources (that) necessary structural repairs can be made to all court facilities before they are tested or damaged by any seismic activity,” Gwen Vieau, the spokeswoman for Orange County Superior Court, told the Register.

Retrofitting the dozen very-high-risk court facilities would cost $300 million to $400 million, the study found, while the price tag for retrofitting the 44 high-risk facilities would boost the price tag by $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion.

Judicial leaders will next try to determine more precisely the cost of retrofitting the highest risk buildings and try to get money for the work from Sacramento, the Los Angeles Times reported. State lawmakers took away a $1.4 billion court construction fund raised by court fees and fines to spend on other priorities during the recession.

“We are in fairly dire straits, but we need to move forward,” Court of Appeal Justice Brad H. Hill, head of a state committee on courthouses, told The Times in an interview. “We are asking the governor and the Legislature to return that money.”