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L.A. Mayor Garcetti set to unveil earthquake safety plan

L.A. Mayor Garcetti set to unveil earthquake safety plan
City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilman Tom LaBonge, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mitchell Englander, and U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, at a news conference at City Hall on Jan. 14, 2014. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday is scheduled to unveil his long-awaited proposal to better protect buildings and other infrastructure in Los Angeles against a major earthquake.

The expected announcement comes nearly a year after the mayor launched a comprehensive study of seismic safety in Los Angeles, with prominent U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones agreeing to act as the mayor's science advisor.

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The mayor's office said in a statement Sunday night that Garcetti and Jones "will release a report detailing action steps on seismic safety to address the city's greatest earthquake vulnerabilities. The recommendations include building retrofitting and steps to secure our water supply and communications infrastructure."

In October, the head of Los Angeles' building department said he would recommend requiring owners to retrofit thousands of wood apartment buildings vulnerable to collapse during a major earthquake.

The retrofitting would be mandated for apartments with weak first floors, such as those built on top of carports and garages and supported by slender columns. These types of buildings have collapsed during both the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes. Sixteen people died when the Northridge Meadows apartment complex pancaked.

There has also been a push from some members of the Los Angeles City Council to consider requiring retrofitting of concrete buildings, which experts say poses the greatest risk to loss of life in the event of a huge quake.

A Times report last year found, by the most conservative estimate, that as many as 50 of the more than 1,000 old concrete buildings in the city would collapse in a major earthquake, exposing thousands to injury or death.

Los Angeles officials have known about the dangers of these buildings for years, but concerns about costs killed earlier efforts to identify and order property owners to retrofit their buildings. Many owners said they shouldn't have to pay for expensive fixes on their own. The costs for an engineering assessment of a single building could be tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Garcetti's plans will need the support of the Los Angeles City Council.

For more news on earthquake safety, follow us on Twitter: @ronlin, @RosannaXia

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