Assemblymember Nazarian Urges Immediate Action on Seismic Safety

Urges the California State Senate to pass AB 429, Earthquake Inventory Act and AB 393, Strengthening Building Codes

(Sacramento, CA) Assemblymember Nazarian urges the California State Senate to pass AB 429, Earthquake Inventory Act and AB 393, Strengthening Building Codes. Both bills are currently in Senate Appropriations.

On July 4th, Southern California shook with the force of a 6.4 foreshock, followed Friday morning by a 5.4 magnitude foreshock, culminating with a 6.9 earthquake. The earthquake was centered about 125 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the remote Searles Valley that has now seen over 3,000 aftershocks.

“If this earthquake had hit closer to Los Angeles, we would have seen loss of life and severe property damage,” stated Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “This is a wakeup call; the ground beneath our feet is moving and we remain in denial. I urge the State Senate to pass stronger building codes to seismically protect our new buildings and start a list of our seismically vulnerable buildings.”

Analyses of large earthquakes anticipated in Southern California and the Bay Area predict that up to half of the buildings built to the current code will suffer enough damage to be flagged as dangerous by local building departments. This represents trillions of dollars of damage, thousands of displaced people from their homes, and significant disruption to the regional economy.

In addition, a recent study by the International Code Council identified that for every $1 invested in strengthening building codes, we save $4 in repair costs. The National Institute of Building Sciences expanded on this study in their report entitled, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report. The report stated: “The project team looked at the results of 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and found mitigation funding can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.”

Earthquake Inventory Act | AB 429

While some cities have started identifying vulnerable buildings and implemented mandatory retrofits, large swaths of the state have not identified vulnerable buildings.

AB 429 would require the Alfred E. Alquest Seismic Safety Commission to create an inventory of potentially seismically vulnerable buildings in high-seismic-risk zones throughout the state using available data.

“Mapping out our seismic vulnerabilities is the first step to being better prepared when an earthquake hits,” stated Assemblymember Nazarian.

The bill defines “potentially vulnerable” as a building:

  • located in one of 29 high-seismic-risk zones identified by the California Earthquake Zoning and Probable Maximum Loss Evaluation Program
  • with one or more design and construction characteristics, as defined, that are generally known by the engineering community to present a high risk in earthquakes.

A statewide building vulnerability inventory is essential as a first step in prioritizing funding to develop longer-term solutions to mitigate the effects of a large-scale earthquake and to protect our economy and limited affordable housing stock.

This bill is currently in Senate Appropriations.

Strengthening Building Codes | AB 393

Currently, federal and state law only requires a building to protect the loss of life, but not the loss of property. In the event of a major earthquake, our buildings should withstand the earthquake but could be rendered uninhabitable. This would result in a massive loss of housing throughout the earthquake zone, exacerbating our already dire housing shortage in California.

“By strengthening our building codes we are proactively preventing catastrophic property damage, economic disruption, and loss of homes,” stated Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “We are already dealing with a severe housing crisis across Southern California. It’s just common sense to make new buildings safer and stronger. Doing so will ensure that we can get back to business as usual after a major earthquake.”

This bill would require the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) to convene a working group to determine if a building standard based on functional recovery is warranted for all or some buildings and to investigate practical means for implementing such a standard. “Functional recovery” means a building’s structure, architecture, and systems would maintain their integrity or could be restored, to support basic functions of the building’s pre-earthquake use within a maximum acceptable time. The maximum acceptable time would depend on the building’s use or occupancy.

This bill is currently in Senate Appropriations.