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Santa Monica Is Looking To Retrofit Up To 2,000 Buildings

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Santa Monica may soon retrofit 2,000 buildings in the interest of earthquake safety. According to the L.A. Times, this would be the largest retrofitting effort in the United States. Part of this is because Santa Monica would, unlike Los Angeles, require steel-framed buildings to be retrofitted. Los Angeles only requires retrofitting for structures made from wood or concrete.

While steel-framed buildings are considered safer than other types of buildings, they are not infallible. In 1994, about 25 steel buildings were damaged in the Northridge quake. There were no fatalities, yet some of them were complete losses.

Costs are estimated at $5,000 to $10,000 per wood apartment building, while concrete and steel buildings run about $50 to $100 per square foot. Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer said the upfront cost is worth it, if it will prevent the "loss of life and the destruction of buildings."

“We are very committed here in Santa Monica to make sure that we are resilient in the face of possible catastrophe,” Winterer said. “We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our community.”

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Residents can check and see if their building is considered a candidate for retrofitting online here. Of particular risk are soft-story buildings, such as those that contain a parking garage tucked underneath the building's first floor, supported solely by insufficient pillars. According to the database, 217 such buildings were added to the list as of January 31. Of course, it should be noted that "inclusion of a building on this list is not confirmation that the building is structurally deficient, hazardous or unsafe."

According to KPCC, initial efforts to identify vulnerable buildings missed a number of soft-story structures, as some were located behind other buildings and could not be seen from the street or alleyways. Others, according to Ron Takiguchi of Santa Monica’s Department of Building and Safety, had garage doors that obscured the building's design.