LA City Council Enacts New Seismic Retrofitting Standards
On Friday, October 9, the Los Angeles City Council voted to tighten seismic retrofitting standards for two specific types of buildings: concrete buildings and wood-frame apartment complexes built on top of carports. The measure passed by the city council seeks to improve seismic retrofitting standards for the approximately 15,000 affected buildings because of their vulnerability in the event of an earthquake.
The specific building-types targeted by the new seismic retrofitting standards were the cause of at least 65 deaths during earthquakes in 1971 and 1994. Since then, efforts to pass increase seismic retrofitting standards for these buildings have failed at City Hall in the face of objections from property owners, largely due to the financial burden such a measure would place on the property owners.
The new law provides building owners seven years to fix wood frame apartments and 25 years to retrofit concrete buildings. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other lawmakers hoped that tax credits would be available to offset the cost of retrofitting, but on Sunday, October 11, only two days after the LA City Council’s passage of the seismic retrofitting law, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 425, which would have given owners a 30% tax credit to offset costs. Governor Brown cited “financial uncertainties” as the reason for the veto.
While the costly burden on property owners is an unfortunate consequence, the seismic retrofitting ordinance is necessary to ensure safety in the event of the next “big one”, and will likely save lives. The lengthy timeline permitted by the ordinance will also permit current property owners to either build funds for the retrofit or sell to investors with the necessary funds.
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