OJAI : City to Help Pay for Quake Safety Study

The Ojai City Council will share the cost of an engineering study with eight building owners before requiring that their structures be brought up to earthquake safety codes.

The city will split the $12,000 cost of the study with the owners, the council decided, before ordering them to either fix the buildings or demolish them in three years.

The tallest building in the city, the 65-foot Ojai post office bell tower, and the crumbling Catholic chapel on Ojai Avenue are among those on the list for seismic strengthening.

City Manager Andrew Belknap said Ojai has some unusual conditions that must be considered before the city adopts the unreinforced masonry law required by the state to strengthen structures built before 1933.

"Commonly in California, you see a lot of brick, but here--I don't know why--you see a lot of these buildings with hollow-clay tile," Belknap said.

As a result, he said, eight buildings need more scrutiny before the city can tell the owners what work will be required.

"The relatively small number of buildings and owners involved offer the opportunity to develop a more tailored mitigation program for Ojai than might be possible in a larger jurisdiction," Belknap said.

Of the 29 buildings originally identified as unreinforced masonry, 12 were repaired during the city's $1.7-million renovation of the downtown Arcade. Two others--the Presbyterian Church and the Pacific Bell substation--were found to be of different construction. Another, the city-owned Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce building, was recently renovated in a separate $61,400 job.

"We have a good spirit of cooperation between the city and the landowners, and I hope to keep it that way," Belknap said.

In other recent action, the council asked Belknap to estimate the cost of putting together a proposal to restore the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel and to buy it from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Council members said they need to get a property appraisal and other information before they can decide whether to begin negotiations.

Parish spokesman Ken Fay said parishioners would like to see the bulging Ojai Valley Museum move into the larger chapel, where only a few services are still held. Museum board members, hopeful of such a move, have delayed expansion plans for the current museum in an old county fire station.

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