Los Angeles would become an "epicenter" of preparedness under a new plan by Mayor Eric Garcetti to prevent the city from being "jarred into action by a devastating earthquake."
The safety proposal detailed at a news conference on Monday would require property owners to retrofit certain homes and concrete structures built in Los Angeles so that they would not be as vulnerable to collapsing during the next big temblor.
Retrofits would be required within five years at "soft-first-story" buildings built before 1980, and within 25 years at "non-ductile reinforced concrete" buildings built before 1980.
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The mayor said his proposal addresses building types that are "known killers" in past earthquakes. Soft-story structure are typically wood-framed apartment buildings with weak first-floors that are built above carports.
"Los Angeles has always been an epicenter of seismic risk," Garcetti said. "But today we are taking bold action to make LA an epicenter of earthquake preparedness, resilience and safety. Instead of being complacent and then jarred into action by a devastating earthquake, LA is moving forward proactively with a comprehensive package of preparedness and resiliency measures to fortify our buildings, protect our water supply, and keep our telecommunications online when the 'Big One' hits."
Garcetti's plan also calls for creating a backup water system to ensure water is available to fight fires following an earthquake; upgrading the city's water system with earthquake-resistant pipes and materials; and adopting measures to protect the San Andreas fault, which is predicted to be the epicenter for the next "biggest" and "likeliest" major earthquake.
US Geological Survey seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, dubbed "the earthquake lady," joined Garcetti to announce the "Resilience by Design" report.
"We acknowledge that we cannot prevent 100 percent of the losses in an earthquake. What we are trying to do is prevent the catastrophic collapse of our economy by addressing the biggest vulnerabilities," said Dr. Lucy Jones. "And if all of these recommendations are enacted, I believe that Los Angeles will not just survive the next large earthquake but we will be able to recover quickly and thrive."
"We all saw a fire this morning," Jones said, referring to an enormous fire in downtown Los Angeles that burned down an under-construction apartment complex. "Imagine 1,600 at the same time ... We can't pretend that we don't have a problem."
Garcetti's mandatory building retrofitting proposals will be considered next by the LA City Council, which will decide what parts of the plan will move forward.
The mayor's plan also recommends improving Internet and cellphone networks in Los Angeles by working with telecommunications companies to protect against breakdowns in communications following a quake. He also proposed creating a solar-powered, citywide wireless Internet network and fortifying cellphone towers.