Council Calls for Probe of Risky Buildings - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Council Calls for Probe of Risky Buildings

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(FOX/CNS) Two City Council members said today they want the
city to conduct an investigation into older concrete buildings that are at risk
of crumbling during a major earthquake.

Councilman Tom LaBonge introduced a motion asking Building and Safety
Department officials to do a survey of pre-1976 "non-ductile concrete
buildings" that have not been reinforced against earthquakes, and to report
back on the costs and methods for getting those structures retrofitted.

"One thing is for sure, we are going to have another earthquake,"
according to LaBonge's motion. "We must prepare, and we must understand the
situation to make sure we have taken the necessary and reasonable steps to
prepare for that eventuality. Of course there are significant cost concerns to
figure out, but it is important to understand the risks."

The motion pointed to a projection that 50 of the more than 1,000 at-
risk concrete buildings in the city would tumble down during an earthquake.

In a separate motion, Councilman Bernard Parks called on the Board of
Public Works to work with the city attorney to examine data about older
concrete buildings around the city and to "identify via city records the
accuracy of such data and report with recommendations and necessary ordinances
to address both safety and city liability issues."

Both motions were prompted by media reports that the city has been aware
of the dangers surrounding concrete buildings over the past 40 years, but
have backed off on mandating retrofitting of the buildings after receiving
complaints the costs would be a hardship on property owners.

The city does not keep a list of concrete buildings that are vulnerable
to earthquakes and has yet to take up an offer by university scientists to
supply them with one, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A 1981 effort to require retrofitting of 8,000 brick buildings proved
successful, according to Parks' motion. The 1994 Northridge earthquake led to
60 deaths, but none of them happened in brick buildings.

Many of the buildings destroyed in the Northridge trembler were "soft-
story" residential apartments, which are the subject of another motion
recently introduced by LaBonge.

The "soft-story" buildings were built before 1978 and have weak ground
floor walls that are prone to collapsing during earthquakes, according to
LaBonge's motion.

All three of the motions have been assigned to the City Council's
Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

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