Los Angeles agency to urge mandatory retrofits for earthquake-vulnerable apartment buildings

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles' building department will recommend mandatory retrofitting of thousands of older wood apartment buildings that would be most vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake.

The decision came after months of studies on so-called "soft story" apartments, department head Raymond Chan told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday (http://lat.ms/1CqGU6w).

Soft-story buildings are wood-framed structures whose upper stories often are built above carports and have minimal support. One apartment complex in the San Fernando Valley collapsed during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, killing 16 people.

The city estimates there are about 5,800 such buildings. A full survey, ordered by the City Council, is expected to be completed in January.

The proposal needs the backing of the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti. The mayor in his State of the City speech expressed support for the idea of mandatory retrofitting, and a spokesman said Wednesday the mayor would address the issue in coming months.

If approved, the retrofitting could be completed in four to five years, Chan said.

Los Angeles would follow San Francisco, Santa Monica and other, smaller cities in ordering property owners to strengthen apartment buildings, a step that can cost $60,000 to more than $130,000 for each building.

Some Los Angeles property owners told the newspaper they now expect the city to pass a mandatory retrofitting ordinance but hope that it comes with some type of financial aid.

"We will continue to work with all city officials to make sure that our apartment owners and landlords can meet the demands of the mandate financially. It's really going to hinge on that," said Beverly Kenworthy, executive director of the Los Angeles division of the California Apartment Association.


Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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