Los Angeles could adopt the strongest earthquake safety laws in the country Friday, adopting mandatory retrofits for brittle and old buildings that pose a risk to residents during the quakes. The necessary upgrades could be pretty costly, ranging from $60,000 into the millions per building.
Structural engineers have urged City Hall to address the threat for years; however, the city has largely ignored those warnings. The new city ordinances will target two main types of buildings: brittle wooden residences with weak first floors and large, brittle concrete buildings, according to the Los Angeles Times. Those types of buildings have been responsible for as many as 65 deaths in the city's last two major earthquakes.
It wasn't until the last two years that the mayor and City Council decided that the changes would be necessary and began working on the new regulations. Without the changes, a major earthquake could seriously damage the city's economic viability: Large swaths of housing could be destroyed, commercial areas could become uninhabitable and the city would face an uphill battle to regain its economic footing.
"For the city of Los Angeles, we finally took our head out of the sand," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last year of the decision to take on the effort to implement the new standards, the Los Angeles Times reports. "We can’t be that city that takes years, even decades, to get back to where we are today."
The retrofits are estimated to impact 13,500 wooden apartment buildings and 1,400 concrete buildings. The cost for wooden buildings ranges from $60,000 to $130,000 a pop. For the concrete buildings, retrofitting can get into the millions, depending on how tall they are. Apartments will have up to seven years to make the fixes, and the concrete buildings will have 25 years to make the fixes.
Who will pay those costs is yet to be determined. Apartment groups are hoping for financial support, as many older Los Angeles apartments are subject to rent control that can't be raised. Those groups hope that they might see some tax relief.