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City Hall to Lose Shroud Near Top

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Work has begun that will allow removal of the black shroud around the top of Los Angeles City Hall--an eyesore and lingering reminder of the Northridge earthquake nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

The first of 2,000 terra cotta blocks, weighing 50 pounds each, have been installed as the skin of the 25th and 26th floors, and the job should be finished by late September, said project manager Maria Teresa Carvajal.

The shroud, actually a system of three nets costing about $60,000, was installed within days of the most powerful quake in the city’s history.

On a tour of the work site Wednesday, Carvajal and Michael Klocki, general superintendent of the $1.25-million project, said attaching the blocks is time-consuming but is proceeding at about 100 blocks a week. The off-white terra cotta is identical to the material damaged in the Jan. 17, 1994, earthquake.

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About 75% of the blocks at the top of City Hall were damaged beyond repair in the magnitude 6.7 quake, and some fell to the ground.

Since installation of the shroud, Klocki said, the protective netting has caught six-inch-by-six-inch chunks of terra cotta that could have been fatal to anyone who might have been underneath.

The replacement of the terra cotta, which has closely followed historic preservationists’ wishes, is only a small part of the seismic work at City Hall.

Most of the work, including installation of a seismic base isolation system designed to prevent most shaking of the superstructure in a large earthquake, has been suspended since last summer amid efforts to secure financing and pare costs.

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City officials said this week that negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financing, as a supplement to city bond revenues, may bear fruit in the next 10 days.

But that seismic work, estimated between $165 million and $280 million, will take three years.

In the meantime, officials are relieved that at least the upper-level project will free the building of its shroud.

“We’re as interested in getting it off as anyone else is,” Klocki said.

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Carvajal said that the terra cotta blocks--attached by epoxy, pins and clips--will be so firmly affixed that they could withstand a magnitude 8.1 earthquake on the San Andreas fault or a 6.8 along the nearby Elysian Park fault system.

Scientists have warned that quakes could occur along the Elysian Park system, which runs just north of City Hall, of magnitude 7 plus. A magnitude 8.1 quake on the San Andreas would be centered at least 40 miles away.

Klocki said 360 tons of quake debris were removed from the top floors of City Hall during the project.


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