Santa Monica plans to spend more than $100,000 over the next year identifying buildings that would be vulnerable during an earthquake.
Then property owners must show the buildings are safe or fix them. City officials said they would determine over the next few months how much time the owners have to complete the retrofitting.
The survey is expected to cover hundreds of buildings, including steel office towers, older concrete buildings and wood multistory apartment houses that dot the city.
Santa Monica has estimated that it has at least 70 concrete buildings alone.
Los Angeles officials are considering a similar inventory of concrete and wooden apartment buildings. University of California researchers last month released a list of nearly 1,500 older concrete buildings in Los Angeles, but more work is needed to determine which ones need retrofits.
Last year, San Francisco required retrofitting of wood apartment buildings.
But Santa Monica's effort goes much further, covering the three types of buildings that most concern seismic experts. Concrete buildings are thought to pose the greatest risk of loss of life in a huge temblor.
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