Major earthquakes in metropolitan areas of California have highlighted the vulnerabilities of certain types of buildings. Unreinforced masonry can crumble. Houses not bolted to foundations can slide. Brittle concrete towers can collapse, as can “soft story” apartment buildings.
After decades of debate, Los Angeles and several other cities have in recent years required retrofitting of buildings that experts say are most vulnerable to collapse in a major quake. The city of Los Angeles has among the nation’s strongest quake rules, requiring fixes to both brittle concrete buildings and wood soft-story apartments.
Los Angeles inspectors spent about two years developing a list of 13,500 so-called soft story buildings that probably need seismic strengthening. These apartments, which feature flimsy first floors that often serve as parking spaces, became popular after World War II as Los Angeles was spreading north into the San Fernando Valley and west toward the ocean.
But they’ve also proved to be vulnerable to violent shaking. Such buildings collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, including one apartment building where 16 people died.
Owners of each building have been put on notice, and a number of them already have begun the retrofitting process. The retrofits can cost as much as $130,000, which has sparked concerns from owners and residents feeling the pressure of rising rents and a housing crunch.
Older concrete buildings are also particularly prone to collapse in major earthquakes because many were not constructed with strong enough steel framing to keep them in place. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times compiled a database of concrete buildings in the city of LA that were constructed before 1976, when stricter seismic standards went into effect for new buildings.
How vulnerable is your apartment building in an earthquake
If you don’t know the condition of your apartment or house, you won’t know your risks if you’re home when another big quake hits. We’re here to help.
Ask these key questions.
1. WHEN WAS THIS BUILDING BUILT?
2. HAS IT BEEN RETROFITTED?
3. ARE THERE FOUNDATION ISSUES?
4. WHAT KIND OF SOIL IS BENEATH THE BUILDING?
5. ARE WE ON A FAULT LINE?
6. HAS THIS BUILDING BEEN AFFECTED IN A PREVIOUS DISASTER?
7. WHAT IF MY PLACE BECOMES UNINHABITABLE AFTER THE QUAKE?
8. WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
9. IS THIS BUILDING INSURED FOR EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE?
10. WHERE IS THE GAS SHUT OFF?
To get started today or for more information, contact us today to schedule a FREE on-site inspection by our team of soft story experts or call us now at (818)287-8002.