LA resilience officer: Over 8,000 apartments are still unsafe from earthquakes

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1994 Northridge earthquake
Northridge meadows after the earthquake in 1994 | Wikimedia Commons

More than two decades after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, city officials and property owners in Los Angeles are making strides in improving the resiliency of apartment buildings that are especially vulnerable to earthquakes.

As of February 2018, the mayor’s office reported that retrofits have been completed in 608 soft-story structures, while another 4,000 installations are still in progress.

These figures are just a fraction of the 13,000 that were mandated to comply but the city’s chief resilience officer Marissa Aho considers it as a “great start.”

“The way that I look at this information is that 5% of the soft-story retrofits are complete and 30 percent of them have met their first two-year deadline,” she said.

Soft-story structures are those with wooden frames and open ground levels. They are somewhat similar to the city’s dingbat-style apartments that feature open space parking on the first floor.

Its vulnerability was tested by the Northridge earthquake, which affected tens of thousands of such buildings across Los Angeles.

This prompted city officials to prioritize resilience and subsequently, an initiative requiring retrofits was launched by October 2015. Property owners then began receiving notices around May 2016.

In June 2017, 298 soft-story structures have completed retrofits, while 1,841 were still under construction. In contrast with the latest record, these numbers have nearly doubled.

The initiative also covers 1,500 non-ductile concrete structures that tend to give way during earthquakes. To date, none of such buildings have completed any retrofitting but property owners are given 25 years to comply.

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