L.A. Tally of Vacated Buildings Drops by 30% : Damage: Building and safety officials mistakenly added 9,000 dwellings to the list of structures left empty after Jan. 17 quake. FEMA funding will not be affected.


The number of homes and businesses vacated in the city of Los Angeles because of earthquake damage is actually 30% lower than was previously cited, city officials said last week.

Due to a clerical error, city building and safety officials until recently had said that 30,680 homes and businesses were vacant due to quake damage.

In fact, only 21,536 were vacated, officials said.

Gerald Takaki, a building and safety supervisor, said the error occurred when a notation in a report for $9,000 worth of damage to one dwelling unit was erroneously counted as 9,000 dwelling units vacated.

Some other buildings were taken off the list because they are no longer empty.

The error will not affect quake funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because most of that money is doled out as a reimbursement for costs paid out by the city, officials said.

In a report submitted to the City Council's Public Safety Committee, the Building and Safety Department said the quake forced the evacuation of 20,844 residential units, 336 commercial buildings, 314 mixed-use structures and 42 other buildings.

Total damage to buildings in the city has been estimated at $1.6 billion.

In a related matter, the Public Safety Committee recommended that beginning next year all new and remodeled buildings be required to have a gas valve that automatically shuts off during a quake.

The recommendation by Councilman Marvin Braude, chairman of the committee, modifies a proposal originally offered by Councilman Hal Bernson.

The Bernson proposal failed to get approval because council members feared that the gas valves currently on the market may be triggered too easily, cutting off gas flow due to vandalism, accidents or small aftershocks.

The council voted to send the proposal to Braude's committee for further study.

Braude recommended that the ordinance requiring gas shut-off valves be adopted but not take effect until July, 1995, to give manufacturers time to make adjustments to the device so that they only shut off gas during severe quakes.

The representatives for two gas-valve manufacturers told Braude at a hearing that they could make such adjustments fairly easily.

Robert Picott, a bureau chief for the Building and Safety Department, who was critical of Bernson's original proposal, said he supported the modifications suggested by Braude.

"It seems to be a fair proposal," he said.

Bernson could not be reached for comment. The City Council will reconsider the proposal June 16.

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