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Future of the Field Act

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A three hour hearing on the Future of the Field Act is scheduled for Thursday,
July 9th, Room 444 of the State Capitol in Sacramento, CA. 

The Field Act is a 1933 state law that was intended to ensure the seismic
safety of public schools in the aftermath of the Long Beach Earthquake that
year. Two high school students were killed and 75 percent of the schools in
that city were heavily damaged. Far more lives would have been at risk had the
earthquake occured during school hours. 

The state then preempted local government code enforcement for public schools
and assigned that responsibility to the Division of the State Architect.
Subsequent acts also clarified that School District Boardmembers are
personally liable for the safety of occupants in public schools. By 1976,
nearly all pre-Field Act public school buildings were no longer used by
students unless retrofitted. 

For many years, the state legislature has considered bills that would water
down the Field Act. Most recently the Assembly Republican Caucus sponsored a
bill that would return public school code enforcement to local governments
among other things. This bill as well as two others have either died or been
amended. Due to term limits, many of the defenders of the Field Act have left
the legislature or are in their final year. The Caucus inferred that they will
be back with a similar bill next year. It appears that contractor and
developer interests are the sponsors of efforts to water down the Act. Local
Government Building Officials have also stated that much has improved since
1933 and that they can ensure school safety.

The CA Seismic Safety Commission is sponsoring this hearing to encourage a
dialogue on the issue in anticipation of legislation next year. All are

Fred Turner
Staff Structural Engineer
Ca. Seismic Safety Commission
1900 K St. #100 Sacramento, CA 95814
916-327-1606 916-322-9476 Fax