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By Caroline Torosis

Why Seismic Retrofitting Santa Monica Buildings is Essential Before the Next Big Earthquake

A series of destructive earthquakes in Mexico this month is a stark reminder that Santa Monica will be left vulnerable should a quake of similar magnitude hit the southland.

The newly redrawn Santa Monica fault line runs directly across a large portion of Santa Monica, and an earthquake has the potential to damage some of Southern California’s most expensive real estate, not to mention risk the lives of our residents.

In March 2017, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a comprehensive retrofit ordinance to bring Santa Monica’s most earthquake-vulnerable buildings up to today’s safety standards.

As many as 2000 commercial and multi-family residential buildings may now be subject to mandatory structural improvement.

The first scheduled notices have been mailed to owners to let them know of the requirements with which they must comply.
More than 1200 of the 2000 seismically vulnerable buildings in Santa Monica are subject to rent control.

With the City Council’s passage of the earthquake retrofit ordinance, the question now falls to the City’s elected Rent Control Board to determine how much of the cost of retrofitting, if any, should be passed on from the landlord to the rent-controlled tenants.

According to a March 2017 publication of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), researchers at Caltech found that for every dollar spent on retrofitting, owners could expect to save up to $7 in repairs.

These calculations did not include the possibility of death or injury, or the loss of contents within the structures themselves.

In order for the Rent Control Board to fully consider the issue now before it, it is imperative that the public and the City’s many stakeholders weigh in.

The Board will be taking public comment at its Thursday, October 12th meeting to begin considering how the retrofitting costs will be handled.

I urge tenants and landlords to come and be heard – join us at City Hall at 7:00 p.m. to express your thoughts to the Board.
All citizens and visitors have the right to know that whenever they walk into a building in Santa Monica, above all else, they will be safe.

The destruction we have witnessed in Mexico underscores the importance of putting in place a plan and process certain so that vulnerable buildings can quickly and safely be retrofitted.

Caroline Torosis is a Commissioner on the Santa Monica Rent Control Board