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RE: Paso Robles Earthquake

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Here is my experience on the subject as this was my specialty while I
lived in Los Angeles and worked with SEAOSC Hazardous Building Committee
on the retrofit methodology first used by the city of Los Angeles (RGA
1-91) and later became (with some modification as to the allowance of
the number of interior cross-walls allowed to absorb shear or act as
dampers to reduce the shear to exterior URM walls:

The state does require the inventory of hazardous building state wide.
This was completed some years ago, but the state left the retrofit
ordinance to each local jurisdiction. This was a reasonable request as
most communities in outlying areas of major metropolitan regions such as
Los Angeles, did not have the financial resources to force owners to
strengthen the buildings.

Santa Monica was a good example of this. I designed the retrofit for a
number of small buildings where the owners were able to afford to
complete the work. However, two buildings come to mind - the First
Christian Church was located on 7th and Arizona and the second was a
commercial building located on the Southeast corner of 4th and Broadway
that took up about 1/2 of a city block. The owners of both buildings
could not obtain financing from local banks.

The reason at the time that the owners could not obtain financing and
the Church could not get the support of their group of churches (I am
sorry but not being a Christian I do not know the proper terminology for
their organization that decides how to distribute funding) was that the
City of Santa Monica fought the state ordinance requirements as most of
these building were subject to rent controls.

The church had a homeless shelter in the basement. The Minister was able
to obtain funding to add anchorage to the first floor framing to the URM
walls and this work was done. The Church dated back almost to 1900 or
before (I am not sure, but it did have historic value to the community).
After the Northridge earthquake hit, the building was so damaged that it
was not financially feasible to repair it and it was torn down. The
homeless in the shelter were saved without any injuries or collapse of
the floor and the retrofit proved to have saved their lives.

The building on 4th and Broadway was estimated to cost about $250,000.00
to retrofit before the earthquake hit. The owner, an 80 year old lady,
could not obtain financing to do the retrofit work and hoped that she
could do the work without losing tenants that she had for ten or more
years (including Vans Shoes on the first floor of the tower and a
warehouse for the Rand Corporation on the South end of the building).
The cost to repair and retrofit the damage exceeded $1.5 million
dollars. She was able to fund the repairs and I worked with the
architect who had an office in the building and ultimately took over the
fourth floor of the tower as his office space. The plus side was that
the building was restored, architecturally, to the match the photographs
of the original building in 1930. The job had it's problems some of
which included tying back heavy stone veneer that was displaced in the
shake. I remember asking Nels Roselund to help me with this tower
section and he led me in the right direction to install concealed
anchors from the inside and torque the stone - pulling it back into
place and epoxy injecting the stone to the brick wall behind. 

Most of the one story buildings on Santa Monica Blvd. that were used as
auto dealerships were destroyed in the shake - open front structures.
Apartment buildings with tuck-under parking were damaged as were
conventional light framed structures with soft-stories.

The city took immediate reaction and in spite of the building owners
association, placed an ordinance in play to get these buildings
retrofit. Santa Monica is still one of the strictest jurisdictions and I
believe a lot of this goes back to the demands of the City Council to
insure that their buildings will perform better in future seismic
activities. This, of course, is only my opinion. The original people in
the building department are pretty much gone and Tim McCormick was
offered the job as their new Building Official (Tim came from the City
of Los Angeles and had been on this list for a long time). 

The difficulty is not the insurance industry although coverage is next
to impossible to get to pay for limited damage coverage, but it is the
investment by lenders on a hazardous building that will remain hazardous
even after it is retrofit. Remember that the purpose of the retrofit is
to provide time for tenants to get out of the building. The Existing
Building Code makes no guarantees as to the performance of the building
or the possibility of loss of life. 

The outlying areas (Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial counties and I
assume San Luis Obispo county) lack the accessibility to funding because
they are unable to recover the cost of retrofit, being in poorer
communities. 

Riverside County, before the loss of the car tax, planned to use some of
the revenue to repair some of the older building and promote Empowerment
Zones to bring in new business and build degrading communities. 

The State can not force a building owner to retrofit if the owner can
not obtain the financial resources to do the work. It appears that
California may not be able to financially help the building owners with
low income loans or arrange banks to make loans that may end up in
bankruptsy if the buildings are irreparable after an earthquake.

I hope this explains some of the problems that Paso Robles may have
encountered before this earthquake hit. The governor may be in a
position now to make low interest loans available to help these building
owners, but what about all of the other communities in the state that
are at risk.

One final note - it is more cost effective to retrofit these buildings
than to tear them down and rebuild. New buildings also require
appropriate compliance to the code for parking and Title 24's. URM don't
need to comply with current code which means that these building remain
hazardous but affordable to those leasing the space. 

Dennis S. Wish, PE
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Roger Turk [mailto:73527.1356(--nospam--at)compuserve.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2003 5:50 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Paso Robles Earthquake

Jake,

Earthquake insurance is insurance to repair damage caused by an
earthquake, 
just like wind insurance is to repair damage to the insured from wind,
but 
does not protect the insured from liability due to a piece of the
building 
blowing off and decapitating someone.  (Also like collision damage
insurance 
on your car --- it repairs damage to your car.  Your liability coverage
would 
pay for damage to another's car or to an individual were you at fault.)

The incentive to retrofit is that you will be less likely to have your 
building collapse and injure someone in an earthquake than if you didn't

retrofit.  As USGS' Lucy Jones is quoted as saying, building owners
gamble 
that they will never need the retrofit.

A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
Tucson, Arizona

Jake Watson wrote:

. > This brings up an interesting point.  Where do the insurance
companies sit
. > on this issue in California?  If the owner gets sued for not
retrofitting
. > the building, will to owner pay or will the insurance company likely
pick 
. > up the tab?  If it's the insurance company, do you know of any
companies 
. > that revise rates based on retrofits? Bottom line, in hindsight it's
easy 
. > to say it would have been cheaper to fix the building.  But are
there any 
. > monetary incentives going forward?

. > Jake Watson, P.E.
. > Salt Lake City, UT

. > -----Original Message-----
. > From: Roger Turk [mailto:73527.1356(--nospam--at)compuserve.com]
. > Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2003 3:27 PM
. > To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
. > Subject: RE: Paso Robles Earthquake

. >  - Snip -

. > I will also assume that the anguished husband of the dead woman, as
well 
. > as the parents of the young girl, will make the cost of retrofit
appear 
. > like a mere pittance to the building's owner and the historical 
. > preservation group.

. > A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
. > Tucson, Arizona

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