Seven Los Angeles School Structures Will Get Seismic Upgrades

The LAUSD says it will examine a new inventory of buildings to see if additional older concrete structures may be vulnerable

By Patrick Healy
|  Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014  |  Updated 9:52 AM PDT
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The 70-page earthquake report shows school buildings whose structures may be vulnerable in a future earthquake. What does this mean for these buildings and could there be more at risk? Patrick Healy reports from Mar Vista for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.

Patrick Healy

The 70-page earthquake report shows school buildings whose structures may be vulnerable in a future earthquake. What does this mean for these buildings and could there be more at risk? Patrick Healy reports from Mar Vista for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.

At least seven Los Angeles school structures have a type of concrete construction believed to be vulnerable to collapse from earthquake shaking, a Los Angeles Unified School District official acknowledged.

Plans are underway to retrofit or replace those structures, said Roger Finstad, LAUSD manager of maintenance and operations.

Those structures include a school building at First Street Elementary in Boyle Heights, and the concrete awning over the outdoor eating area at Venice High School, according to Finstad, who said he was not prepared to name the other locations.

Quake-Vulnerable Building Data May Be Out of Date

Attention has re-focused on older concrete buildings in Los Angeles with the release of an inventory prepared by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER), based at UC Berkeley. Of the 1,454 buildings named in the inventory, 214 were characterized as schools, according to an analysis by the NBC4 I-Team.

This comes a decade after thousands of potentially vulnerable concrete school buildings across the state were identified in survey ordered by the California legislature with Assembly Bill 300 in 1999. Retrofitting was urged, but not required.

Document: Pre-1976 Concrete Buildings in LA

"We have studied literally thousands of buildings. We need to cross reference the Berkeley list. Some buildings we have already retrofitted," Finstad said.

Since the AB 300 study, the district has retrofitted or replaced at least 30 school buildings, Finstad estimated.

In some cases, as at Ninth Street Elementary, all new structures have been built. Formerly, the school made do with temporary bungalows.

LA Landmarks, Schools Among Quake-Vulnerable Buildings

There has been considerable fallout from the release of the PEER inventory. PEER initially had made public only approximate latitude and longitude of the buildings on the list, but provided the street addresses to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety for follow-up.

The addresses and building names then became public in response to requests made under California's Public Records Act. Revelation of the addresses has prompted individual owners and companies to check their own records, and discrepancies have been found, particularly involving hospitals.

Unlike other types of buildings, hospitals face state-imposed deadlines for retrofitting or replacing quake vulnerable structures.

Special Section: SoCal Earthquake Resources

Progress is tracked by the Office of Statewide Health Care Planning and Development. Kaiser Permanente, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Cedars-Sinai have all notified the NBC4 I-Team that they have already replaced buildings included in the list. Other hospitals said they are taking steps to remain in compliance with upgrade timetables.

Sherman Oaks Hospital will "complete a voluntary seismic improvement" that will be code compliant until 2030, according to a hospital statement.

Barlow Respiratory Hospital is meeting its timetable, according to a statement issued by the hospital. In recent years, the LAUSD has spent $400 million to seismically retrofit or upgrade, according to Finstad.

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