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Davis Vetoes Bill to Allow Colleges to Bypass Some Seismic Standards

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis, acting to prevent a weakening of school earthquake safety construction standards, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed community colleges under certain circumstances to bypass provisions of the state’s strict seismic building standard.

The Field Act was adopted in 1933 after the deadly Long Beach earthquake, which killed 120 people and destroyed a number of school buildings.

The quake struck at 5:54 p.m., when schools were out for the day, so children who would have been in the buildings were spared.

The present bill, written by Sen. William J. “Pete” Knight (R-Palmdale), would have allowed community colleges to hold public hearings and then decide to use less stringent standards on certain types of buildings. The buildings that would have been covered by the bill are those that would be used part time by the University of California or the California State University systems.

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It was the second time in the last two years that the governor has vetoed such a bill, saying it would be inconsistent with the highest structural safety standards.

Knight said in an interview Wednesday that he would try again next year. He noted that his bill had passed through the Legislature with only one vote being cast against it.

“Since 1933, building standards have improved significantly and technology has advanced,” the senator said.

“The old method under the Field Act is significantly more expensive,” Knight added.

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Besides, he said, the Field Act, which applies mainly to elementary and secondary schools, doesn’t affect state universities -- which are four-year schools -- so he questioned why it should apply to community colleges.

The state Seismic Safety Commission, however, opposed the Knight legislation, noting that community colleges often serve as emergency shelters during disasters and contending that these buildings should be highly resistant to quake damage.

The Field Act requires engineers at the state architect’s office to review school building plans and mandates that localities hire inspectors to ensure that seismic safeguards are incorporated in construction.

The bill proposed by Knight would have dropped those requirements.


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