The city of Los Angeles, located nearby the San Andreas fault, is currently susceptible to the “big one;” the hypothetical earthquake that is expected to strike at any time. The eruption of the San Andreas fault is predicted to be catastrophic for the residents of Los Angeles and cause major damage that could require a long recovery. To alleviate the effects that the potential earthquake could bring to the Los Angeles area, the LA city council has mandated that certain types of buildings be retrofitted. However, this decision has raised a question on who will pay for the retrofittings. This has been resolved after it was decided that owners and the tenants each must take half of the cost to retrofit outdated buildings.
Due to its close proximity to the San Andreas fault, Los Angeles has implemented a new set of standards that will require concrete buildings and wood frame buildings to be modified to resist the shaking of the “big one.” These two types of buildings were specifically chosen because they pose the most risk for people in the case of a large earthquake. Concrete is a heavy material that can crush people to death in case of a major earthquake; thus, appropriate steel supports would have to be added to reinforce the concrete. Meanwhile, wooden frames can easily collapse in the event of an earthquake, so they would have to be replaced. With these new regulations in place, fifteen thousand buildings are expected to be retrofitted, making this a significant achievement in LA’s earthquake laws. Although Los Angeles is located in a hotspot for earthquakes, this regulation has only recently passed because property owners have disapproved of how expensive retrofitting costs are. Now that the regulation has passed, building owners must upgrade their buildings within a span of seven years and pay for half the retrofitting cost. Costs can range from $130,000 for wooden-frame apartment buildings to millions for a larger concrete tower.
When this law was passed, the cost of retrofitting was a great issue for both renters and landowners. Landowners would pass the entire cost on to the renters, which caused renters to be dissatisfied at the cost of rent in a city where rent is already costly. As a result, Los Angeles city officials have tried to appease both sides through a deal that would split the cost evenly between building owners and renters. The deal would allow the owner to increase rent by a maximum of $38 over a span of five to ten years, a decrease from the maximum of $75 implemented in previous laws. The plan was eventually approved in January 2016. While this is a step in the right direction for this new regulation, there is still a lot to be done in terms of retrofitting buildings in LA.
What natural disasters is your city susceptible to? What steps has your local government taken in preventing major damage from natural disasters? Do you consider the buildings in your city to be stable enough in case of a natural disaster? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Sophia Huynh.