Real estate trends are fueled by popular opinion. Wood paneling and shag carpet have long since made way for today’s bright walls and wood-style flooring. Functionality has changed as well, with tenants demanding larger open spaces, natural light, and now — seismic safety.
A whopping 80% of Los Angeles residents support their city’s seismic retrofit law, according to a new Suffolk University/Los Angeles Times poll. Broad nonpartisan support — 88% of Democrats, 77% of Republicans and 78% of independents – was voiced for seismic retrofits. This support among residents demonstrates that earthquake safety is no longer the political issue it was once said to be. It reflects a growing understanding of the serious earthquake risks in Southern California, the personal and societal benefits of seismic retrofits, and the realization among many that safety is an important factor in deciding where to live.
“I’m glad that we did this difficult work and moved to protect lives, not in the wake of a deadly earthquake, but before disaster strikes,” former Mayor Eric Garcetti told the Times following the results of the poll, which came in just weeks after the devastating earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria. “It’s my deepest hope that all local jurisdictions in Southern California and across the country will follow this example — earthquakes don’t respect municipal boundaries.”
When Garcetti signed L.A.’s ordinance into law in 2015, requiring seismic fortification of pre-1977 non-ductile concrete structures, as well as pre-1978 wood-framed soft-story buildings, he said he did it not only for life and safety issues, but to protect the city’s ability to function after the long-anticipated monster earthquake strikes. Some thought it was political suicide to mandate seismic retrofits for these vulnerable buildings. Now, public opinion clearly supports the move.
The new poll of L.A. residents was conducted about a month after a series of powerful earthquakes — the strongest of which was magnitude 7.8 — sent shaking into Turkey and Syria, killing more than 52,000 people. Many of the deaths occurred in the same type of non-ductile concrete structures that the City of L.A.’s retrofit law targets, the Times reported.
Shortly after those quakes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward a mandatory retrofit law for non-ductile concrete buildings in unincorporated areas, including East L.A., Florence-Firestone, Hacienda Heights, South Whittier, Rowland Heights and Altadena. They also ordered an inventory of vulnerable soft-story residential buildings in unincorporated areas. Other communities are expected to follow suit as public belief in the importance of seismic safety continues to gain momentum.
Enhanced marketability, value
A recent study by the University of Colorado, Boulder, determined that seismic retrofits of single-family homes not only make the property more marketable, they can increase the resale value of the home by 9.85%.[i]
Structural engineer Keith Porter, PhD, has calculated even more dramatic benefits in the City of Los Angeles, where more than soft story 8,000 apartment buildings have been retrofitted, by saying retrofits will “reduce future financial losses by $41 billion and avert 1,500 deaths and 27,000 nonfatal injuries and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.” These earthquake retrofits are also “expected to prevent 5,000 housing units from collapsing and an additional 60,000 from being significantly damaged.”
Porter called retrofits “a very cost-effective investment” and said “every dollar invested in a retrofit will save $32 had the property owner not paid for seismic upgrades.”
1 in 16 buildings compromised
Officials estimate there are as many as 300,000 structures in Southern California standing today that could crumble or collapse in an earthquake. These numbers equate to one in every 16 buildings, a USGS assessment determined[ii]. These vulnerable structures include but are not limited to:
- Soft-story structures built before 1978
- Unreinforced masonry built before 1975
- Concrete tilt-up built before 1994
- Non-ductile concrete built before 1977
- Steel moment frame built before 1996
If your building falls within one of these categories, you should consider getting an engineering study to assess the structure’s unique circumstances, which includes not only structural design and composition, but also soils composition and proximity to nearby fault lines.
The benefit of knowing your risks
An engineering study of your property can help to clearly establish your parameters of risk. That will help in calculating the type of action you should take to guard your investment and your tenants against harm in the event of a major earthquake.
This information can ultimately lead to structural upgrades that can help to:
- Protect your building’s equity
- Guard against liability
- Preserve a building’s cash flow
- Avoid demolition costs
- Qualify a structure for earthquake insurance
- Enhance the overall value of the property
Most apartment owners have worked very hard for their property. It’s what they rely on for their retirement income, and it’s definitely in their best interest to protect it.
Keep yourself informed about the potential risks of earthquakes not only to your building, but to your financial health and well-being. Visit optimumseismic.com for more information or call us at 833-978-7664.
[i] University of Colorado, Boulder, file:///C:/Users/dhust/Downloads/Alhumaidi_colorado_0051N_16955.pdf
[ii] U.S. Geological Survey, https://www.usgs.gov/programs/earthquake-hazards/earthquake-facts-earthquake-fantasy