New Study Says L.A.’s Courthouses Aren’t Even Seismically Safe

Posted May 25, 2017, under Blog

It’s time to get serious about earthquake preparedness.

new study revealed that many of Los Angeles’ courthouses are not seismically safe, and face major damage or collapse during a large earthquake.

Researches also estimate that collapse of these buildings could result in a “substantial loss of life.”

“We can’t be in a position after a major earthquake having the public say what did you do and why didn’t you sound the alarm,” Court of Appeal Justice Brad H. Hill, head of a state committee on courthouses, said during a conference in San Francisco. “We are sounding the alarm.”

Of all the judicial buildings in the greater Los Angeles area, the study found that the Superior Court in Glendale – which was built in 1956 – is the most vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake.

Pasadena’s municipal courthouse, the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles and courthouses in Burbank and Beverly Hills also topped the list.

Leaders of California’s judicial system are rallying together to get money from Sacramento to retrofit these buildings. It’s estimated that retrofitting each structure will range from $140 million to $200 million.

“We are in fairly dire straits, but we need to move forward,” Hill said, via the L.A. Times. “We are asking the governor and the Legislature to return that money.”

Though it sounds like L.A. doesn’t have the financial means at the moment to retrofit these buildings, measures will be taken to reduce risks of injury or even death during a big earthquake.

“We owe it to the people who use the courthouses … to try to do our best to reduce the risk of death and serious injury to the people,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger.

However, Stephen Nash – court executive order of the Superior Court in Costa County – wants immediate attention, especially since he works at a courthouse that was rated high-risk.

“We are sitting on a time bomb,” Nash lamented. “We are watching the clock tick, and our ability to do anything has been taken away.”

Slowly, but surely, Los Angeles has started to remedy these issues and has built 30 new courthouses in California over the last 10 years to replace some of the buildings at risk of collapse.

“We tell architects we are not here to win design awards and not here to have marble and exotic woods,” Hill explained. “We are here to have courthouses that will last 80 years. We can’t afford the courthouses of the past.”

There are other state buildings in seismic danger, too – many state universities have structures that have been tagged as high-risk for damage or collapse in the event of an earthquake.

Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles earthquake retrofitting, foundation inspection, foundation repair and foundation replacement. As the founder of Julian Construction, Julian and his company have inspected over 15,000 structures.

Julian Construction routinely works with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety. The company has done more seismic retrofit work in Los Angeles than any other company in the area over the last five years.

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