Proposed updates to the seismic maps covering Santa Monica and the nearby area will have little impact on the way local government regulates construction in geohazard zones.
State regulators issued proposed updates to local fault maps this month and the documents make slight alterations to the locations of fault lines in the city. City Hall has existing rules for construction within the geohazard zone and those rules will apply to any properties covered by the new borders.
There are about 3,800 properties within the existing zone and when the new maps are finalized, any new properties covered by the faults will be notified, as will homes that were already covered by the fault map.
Construction within zone has to adhere to additional layers of regulation but the fault maps don’t automatically prohibit building.
“This represents zones of required investigation,” said Planning Manager Jing Yeo. “In and of itself, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a structure here.”
If construction were to occur in the zone, either new or a remodel, staff said permits for the work would be flagged and applicants are required to provide additional reports covering soil conditions, distance from the fault and other factors related to seismic safety. From there, engineers can determine the minimum structural standards required to make a building seismically safe.
The rules for geohazard zones are a preemptive protection against earthquakes but the city is also undertaking efforts to retrofit existing buildings citywide.
The recently approved seismic retrofit program will begin notifying property owners next month of the need to upgrade their buildings and the initial noticing phase will last about 12 months.
Staff said compliance can take from 2 – 20 years depending on the type of building and specific nature of the required upgrade.
“Construction will happen in a very phased way over the next 20-30 years,” said Salvador Valles
Assistant Director – Operations of Planning and Community Development at City of Santa Monica. “It’s going to take a very long time for everything to be completed depending on what the building is.”
About 2,000 commercial and multi-family buildings are on the list including Unreinforced Masonry Buildings, Concrete Tilt-Up Buildings, Soft-Story Buildings, Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings and Steel Moment Frame Buildings. While compliance is mandatory for commercial and multi-family homes, single family homes can voluntarily participate.
The vast majority of the listed buildings are so-called Soft-Story, or buildings that have parking underneath the residence. There are many, many soft-story buildings in Santa Monica but staff said they are actually easier to fix and require less invasive work.
“We anticipate that over the next 10 years, we’ll see most of that work taking place,” said Valles.
Some property owners have already begun reaching out to the city to talk about the program
“We think that folks are generally aware of the program,” he said. “The folks that tend to reach out to us are those that have a pressing need. It just depends on the motivation of the property owner.”
City Hall is anticipating increased outreach in the coming months.
“There will be information sessions in the community,” he said. “At some point in five to six months, we’ll start doing that road show and make ourselves available to property owners and tenants to help them understand better what the program means to them and what to expect.”
Valles said residents shouldn’t panic if the see their building is on the retrofit list or in the hazard zone.
“What is important is just because a building is on the list, doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that building will collapse or is fundamentally unsafe,” he said.
Rather the work is necessary to increase the resilience of current buildings and reduce the chance it might sustain more damage in the event of a quake.