Panel to Take Fresh Look at City Hall Repair Issue : Quake: Replacement of damaged structure is one option. Soaring cost estimates stalled seismic retrofitting project.


Mayor Richard Riordan and City Controller Rick Tuttle named a 14-member panel Wednesday to take a fresh, hard look at how to retrofit--or conceivably even replace--Los Angeles’ quake-damaged City Hall.

With the retrofitting project stalled since September due to soaring cost estimates that pushed the original $92-million projection to $242 million, Riordan’s chief operating officer, Mike Keeley, said it is “very important that the panel wraps up its work as early in January as possible.”

The panel’s chairman is Stuart Ketchum, who has 50 years experience in major commercial building construction and real estate development. As a member of the Music Center board, Ketchum was among those this year who opposed starting work on the proposed Walt Disney Concert Hall until final funding for the project was guaranteed.

The City Hall panel has four seismic experts, including George Housner, professor emeritus at Caltech; Allan Porush, the structural engineer who recommended the quick closure of a large Downtown parking structure for public employees last year because of fears it was seismically unsafe; Stanford quake risk expert Charles Thiel Jr., and Chet Widom, an architect responsible for the retrofitting of UCLA’s Kerckhoff Hall.


Another member is Jerve Jones, head of Peck/Jones Construction, one of the nation’s leading contractors. He has major seismic retrofitting experience.

Other panelists include Nelson Rising, head of Catellus Development Corp. and a longtime adviser to former Mayor Tom Bradley; Buzz McCoy, a former head of Morgan Stanley Realty and now president of the Urban Land Foundation; Ed Carson, retired chairman of First Interstate Bancorp, and Christy McAvoy, managing principal of Historic Resources Group.

Riordan and Tuttle pledged that the panelists would avoid conflicts of interest. They said none of them had any affiliation with the management team that has been coordinating the City Hall retrofit, and that each member has agreed not to seek any employment through the project in the future.

In an interview Wednesday, Ketchum called replacement of City Hall, which was damaged in the January, 1994, Northridge earthquake, “one of the options, but I don’t think a very realistic one.”

“I would hope it could be successfully retrofitted,” he said. “I have no preconceived ideas, but I hope this historic structure can be preserved for the future.”

Keeley, speaking for the mayor, called the panelists “extremely well-credentialed people. . . . We expect them to look at what they feel is relevant in a project of this scope, and they could go beyond that.”

The other four people named to the panel are Esther Cabanban, president of Construction Management Resources; Patty DeDominic, past president of the National Assn. of Women Business Owners and head of PDQ Personnel Services; Bruce Ludwig, executive managing director of Westmark Realty Advisors, and Thad Williams, head of the real estate brokerage of Thad M. Williams Associates.