Councilman Urges Culver City to Vacate City Hall Because of Quake Risk

Times Staff Writer

A Culver City councilman has said that the city should vacate its 68-year-old City Hall and Fire Station No. 1 because they are not earthquake-safe.

Councilman Richard Alexander, a longtime opponent of proposals to build a new city hall, said the city should consider moving its staff elsewhere, such as the nearby Filmcorp building.

“If the building is seismically unsafe, we shouldn’t have people in it,” he said.

Alexander was reacting to a consultant’s report that said City Hall could would collapse in a major earthquake.


City officials said they plan to continue to use the structures for two to three years until a proposed new city hall and civic center is built.

Mayor Paul A. Netzel said the possibility of earthquake devastation did not warrant immediate action, but said the consultant’s study “raises that as an immediate question. . . . We need to remove all questions about the safety of the building.”

Better to Wait

But Councilman Paul A. Jacobs said it would be better to wait until the city conducts another, more extensive study before deciding whether to move the staff.


“I think it’s premature to think about moving out,” Jacobs said. “I would be interested to know if there was ever a 6 or 7 Richter Scale earthquake on the Inglewood fault line. I don’t know if there ever was, (so) I wouldn’t be rushing to evacuate City Hall. I would be more interested in moving as expeditiously as possible to construct a new one.”

Councilman Richard Brundo said he would need proof that the City Hall would be endangered by an earthquake measuring less than 6 or 7 on the Richter Scale to convince him that the building is unusable.

“There’s no question that the building is not earthquake-safe, but that is not to say that we have to evacuate. I don’t believe the building, as it is today, is uninhabitable.”

Added Councilwoman Jozelle Smith, “I definitely think we ought to wait until the (new) study comes out. I don’t think the staff or the council is in any immediate danger.”


Netzel, Jacobs, Brundo and Smith favor building a new city hall.

A report by city consultant David Taubman, a structural engineer, said that both City Hall and Fire Station No. 1 are “over-stressed” and could not be brought up Los Angeles City earthquake codes even if Culver City decided to strengthen them by anchoring walls to roofs and floors.

“I strongly recommend that this building not continue as the Culver City Hall,” Taubman reported. “An earthquake of a 6.0 to 7.0 magnitude on the Inglewood fault would probably put this building out of commission, if not cause total collapse.”

Built in 1929


Taubman also suggested that Fire Station No. 1 “be demolished and rebuilt” because of its importance to city fire services.

City Hall and the fire station were built of unreinforced masonry at Culver Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue in 1929, several years before the state developed building standards for earthquake safety. In March, the city’s insurance company canceled earthquake coverage for both buildings because of excessive risk.

The buildings house offices for most city officials and departments, including planning, building and fire. The fire station houses a battalion chief, a paramedic team and a seven-man engine company.

The city Redevelopment Agency on Monday voted to find out how much a more extensive coring study of the two buildings would cost. Fire Chief Michael L. Olson, who also coordinates the city building department, said he expects the agency to approve the study when he submits a cost estimate Sept. 15.


“This is the seat of city government and we need to ensure the safety of its employees and citizens. (City Hall) is a building we need to continue to operate,” Olson said.

The Redevelopment Agency on Monday also approved a plan to study three possible sites for a $10-million city hall and civic center project that may include a new Culver City municipal court and offices for the Culver City Unified School District and Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Culver City).