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Santa Monica says it has discovered report on store built near fault

A top Santa Monica building official reversed himself Friday, saying the city now believes some underground seismic trenching was performed on the site of a Whole Foods Market before it was built.

The official, Ron Takiguchi, had told The Times two weeks ago that the city did not order underground testing to determine whether the fault ran under the store, which opened in 2003, when it was approved for construction. City records reviewed by The Times also made no mention that such underground testing was performed.

But in an interview Friday, Takiguchi said the city has now been told that a geologist hired by the developer did perform a trench study. The city is now trying to get a copy of the report to review it, he said.

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It was unclear why the city didn't know about the report or why its findings were not included in the public building records. A representative for the property's owner was out of town and unavailable for an interview.

The Whole Foods Market was mentioned in a recent Times story as among four approved for construction in Santa Monica located on or near the Santa Monica fault. 

The Times identified the supermarket and three other projects in Santa Monica as located less than 500 feet of the state's most up-to-date map of the Santa Monica fault. In the case of the supermarket, the state map shows the fault might sit beneath it.

The Times also reported that geologists reviewing the supermarket project on Wilshire Boulevard said the site might sit on top of the fault and recommended digging across the site to determine whether it is there. 

Only an intensive seismic investigation, such as digging a trench, can determine whether the fault actually lies under the property. 

While Takiguchi said he had not seen the trenching report for the supermarket, he said he was told that it shows no evidence of a fault being found underneath the property.

Takiguchi said Friday he knew of no trenching studies on the other three properties.

The city's policy does not require intensive seismic investigation to be completed on properties near faults before buildings break ground, Takiguchi said. 

The Times found that the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica in the last decade approved 18 construction projects on or near two well-known faults without requiring seismic studies to determine if the buildings could be destroyed in an earthquake. The survey found 14 in Los Angeles. 

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