Posted on 10/09/2015

Ensuring L.A.'s most vulnerable buildings can survive “the Big One,” life-saving building retrofit ordinance introduced by Councilmember Gil Cedillo passes City Council with unanimous support.

Mayor Eric Garcetti today signed into law a historic mandatory building retrofit ordinance to ensure L.A.’s most vulnerable buildings are strengthened to prevent loss of life in the event of a major earthquake.

The ordinance, introduced and championed in the L.A. City Council by Councilmember Gil Cedillo, comprises two of the primary recommendations in the Mayor's Resilience by Design report. Executed in partnership with seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, the report outlines ways to better prepare Los Angeles against seismic threats.

“Today, Los Angeles makes good on our promise to take action before it’s too late. Together, we’re leading the nation in requiring this level of building safety retrofit before, not after, the big quake we know is coming,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We know that it's not just the lives lost, but the lasting social and economic effects that we can avoid by strengthening our City’s skeleton — our buildings — and protecting our communities. I thank my colleague, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, for his leadership and tenacity in turning this ordinance into law, and my Science Advisor for Seismic Safety, Dr. Lucy Jones, for her work to unite the best and the brightest, and turn resilience research into actionable reality.”

“As chair of the Housing Committee, I am elated that the City is taking steps to mitigate any potential future housing catastrophes," said Councilmember Cedillo. “The Northridge earthquake was a lesson for emergency preparedness and prevention. The more we can do up front to brace ourselves for an earthquake, the better off we will be at the moment one strikes. I commend the Mayor for his vision and thank my Council colleagues for their support to make Los Angeles safer.”

Key to ensuring life preservation and economic resilience in the event of a major earthquake, the ordinance signed today requires mandatory seismic retrofitting for two of L.A.’s most vulnerable types of buildings: non-ductile reinforced concrete, and what are known as soft first-story buildings, built before 1980. Soft first-story buildings are wood frame buildings that have a large opening on the first floor for things like tuck-under parking, garage doors, and retail display windows.

Under the new ordinance, building owners will be required to accomplish the following seismic safety measures:

  • For soft-first story buildings built before 1980, under the new law, building owners will have one year to submit to the City documentation establishing that an acceptable retrofit has already been conducted or that a retrofit is required, and an additional year to acquire necessary permits. Property owners will have seven years total to retrofit their buildings upon receipt of notice. The seven years is inclusive of the two years granted to the property owner to conduct an assessment and obtain permits.

  • For non-ductile reinforced concrete, building owners will have three years to submit documentation to the City to begin the inspection process, and 10 years to establish whether an acceptable retrofit has already been conducted or that a retrofit is required. Property owners would have 25 years total to complete the retrofit work, inclusive of the first 13.

“I applaud the Mayor and City Council for their commitment to a safer Los Angeles that will be here for future generations,” said Dr. Lucy Jones. “These actions preserve our affordable housing and show the rest of California the way to protect the communities we care about.”

Approximately 13,500 soft first-story buildings have been identified by the Department of Building and Safety as subject to this ordinance, and approximately 1,500 non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings have been identified in a study released by U.C. Berkeley last year. The Department of Building and Safety will send information on the new law to building owners, along with instructions on how to comply with it.

Mayor Garcetti also announced his appointment of L.A.’s first-ever Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), Marissa Aho. In her duties as CRO, Aho has been charged with implementing the recommendations of the Resilience by Design Report, as well as building on that work to expand L.A.’s overall resilience capacity through development of an action-oriented resilience strategy. The Chief Resilience Officer is an innovative new position in city government funded by grant dollars from 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) — pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation — of which Los Angeles is a member. L.A.'s resilience work with 100RC will help address both acute shocks — events like earthquakes and severe weather — along with chronic stresses like lack of economic mobility and infrastructure development.

The creation of the Resilience by Design report was led by Dr. Lucy Jones, one of the nation's foremost seismologists, who served for one year as Mayor Garcetti’s Science Advisor for Seismic Safety, on loan from the U.S. Geological Study (USGS). In that year, Dr. Jones convened academics, industry professionals, scientists, community members and policy makers to address L.A.'s building safety, communications, and water networks. Dr. Jones this week received The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal in the Citizen Services category for her work in uniting seismic safety with public policy. Commonly called the “Sammies,” they Heyman awards are known as the “Oscars” of government service.


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Mayor Garcetti Signs Historic Earthquake Retrofit Measure Into Law; Ensures Safety For Thousands Of Angelenos