Some Entries on List of Potentially Quake Vulnerable Buildings May Be Out of Date

State law compels seismic retrofitting of hospitals, but not most other buildings

Several buildings that appear on a newly released list of potentially earthquake-vulnerable structures have already been replaced, signaling some of the data may be out of date, officials said.

At least three hospital buildings identified by the now-public inventory of "Pre-1976 Concrete Buildings" have already been replaced, hospital officials told NBC4's I-Team.

The academic research group that prepared the list has acknowledged that some of its data was collected as far back as 2008, and changes since then may not be reflected in the inventory.

Document: Pre-1976 Concrete Buildings in LA

A certain type of older concrete buildings known as "non-ductile" has been characterized as more vulnerable to collapse in quakes.

The inventory named 1,454 buildings which appear to have concrete construction and which the authors believe deserve follow-up investigation. Of those, 47 were categorized as "hospital" buildings.

Among those identified is the original Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. However, it was demolished in 2009 and a new facility constructed in its place, said Anasia Hairston, public affairs representative for the hospital.

Another listed Kaiser Permanente Hospital, in Panorama City, was replaced with a new structure in 2008, said Laura Gallardo, managing director of public affairs.

The older building was not immediately demolished, but will be now that it's been determined not to be suitable for retrofitting, according to Gallardo.

Addresses of Potentially Quake-Vulnerable Buildings Released

"We suspect there could be a number of errors on the list," said UCLA Engineering Professor Jonathan Stewart, one of the study's principal authors.

Stewart emphasized that the purpose of the inventory was to identify buildings for follow-up. Those who gathered the data did not have access to Los Angeles Building and Safety records, did not enter the buildings, and in some cases, did not view the buildings in person, but instead relied on online images, such as those available on Google Maps, Stewart said.

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, based at UC Berkeley, provided the inventory to the city of Los Angeles last week.

When the report was initially released to the public, titles of buildings were omitted and locations were given only with approximate latitude and longitude, not street addresses. Addresses were released only in response to requests made under the California Public Records Act.

Such an inventory for Los Angeles has never been done city-wide, though more data is available for hospitals, because their seismic safety is governed by specific state law that requires annual reports and sets remediation deadlines.

Special Section: Quake Information and Resources for Southern California

The PEER inventory identified one concrete building on the Hollywood campus of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The last in-patient unit there will be transferred to "a newly renovated space in a compliant building in October, according to a statement from Rodney Hanners, Chief Operating Officer.

The list also named three buildings it associated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

However, state of California records do not identify any Cedars-Sinai buildings with seismic issues. Located at one of the addresses on the list, 8720 Beverly Blvd., is the Saperstein Critical Care which opened in 2006 to replace an older building damaged during the 1994 Northridge quake.

Apart from the tight seismic restrictions for hospitals and schools, most other pre-1976 concrete buildings--even if determined to be "non-ductile"--need not be brought up to code until they undergo a major rehab or repurposing. In the downtown area, dozens of former industrial or office buildings have been upgraded during conversion into residential lofts, according to Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini.

The inventory names scores of residential buildings, from hotels to apartments, including the towers of the massive Park La Brea complex, where thousands live.

Prof. Stewart emphasized that it's not the intent of the inventory to scare residents into leaving, saying that would be an "overreaction." But he acknowledges the release of addresses--before follow up investigation--can leave occupants in an uncomfortable position.

"We're going from the difficulties of the transition from no knowledge to having some knowledge," Stewart said.

Quake Warning System Technology Grows

"But awareness is a big part of it." He encourage building owners to pursue additional information without necessarily waiting for city inspections.

"The best way to find out if a building is vulnerable or not is to have an engineer look at it." A request for comment was made to Park La Brea's management office.

It's yet to respond. Several Park La Brea residents walking outside the gated complex expressed surprise to a reporter inquiring about the inventory. Some said they would like more information about their building. Others were nonplussed.

"If a serious incident occurs, is anyone really safe," wondered a resident who identified himself as Jameson. In recent weeks, the Los Angeles City Council has expressed support for gathering data and pursuing remedial action for potentially quake vulnerable buildings.

"The List allows us to start the process of moving forward," said Lucy Jones, PhD, a US Geology Survey seismologist and expert on risk reduction who is now serving as quake advisor to the city of Los Angeles.

Also coming under scrutiny will be so called "soft story" buildings, many of them apartment houses with "tuck-under parking" like the Northridge Meadows building that collapsed in 1994, killing sixteen In the 1971 Sylmar quake, 52 died when two concrete buildings failed, Councilmembers Mitchell Englander and Tom LaBonge are pursuing ways not only to fund inspections, but also to defray the cost of retrofitting.

Reality is the existing pre-1976 concrete buildings have withstood numerous earthquakes. However, Stewart makes the point that shaking during Northridge and Sylmar quake was stronger in the San Fernando Valley than to the south in the Los Angeles basin where far more of the older concrete buildings are located.

"If you're in the southern San Fernando Valley, LA Basin, Santa Monica, Hollywood, you have not seen your 'design' earthquake. And riding those earthquakes (Sylmar, Northridge) out, does not mean your building is safe."

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