Two concrete buildings at the San Fernando Veterans Administration Hospital crumbled in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, killing 49 people.(Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times)
Concrete columns supporting the stairwells of Olive View Medical Center failed because there was too little steel reinforcement. After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, county officials toured the destruction.(John Malmin)
Scientists who have a list of concrete buildings in Los Angeles that could be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake will meet with L.A. officials Tuesday to discuss their research.
The group is led by UC Berkeley engineering professor Jack Moehle, who has so far not agreed to provide the list to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. The agency asked for the list at the direction of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Last month, Moehle wrote that the university was “investigating the legal and ethical constraints” of releasing preliminary research data. Moehle had earlier rejected a verbal request by the city for the information.
Researchers led by Moehle have compiled a database of about 1,500 concrete structures in Los Angeles built before 1980 that may be at risk of collapse in an earthquake. Seismic experts say obtaining the list is critical for the city to begin tackling the problem. Structural engineers have said hundreds could die if even one concrete building collapsed.
Garcetti has told The Times that seeing the list would be helpful to the city.
“I think it would be helpful to see, as long as people understand … that it’s not definitive,” the mayor said last month.
Backed by a $3.6-million grant from the National Science Foundation, Moehle and his team have been working since 2006 on the issue. By the most conservative estimate, as many as 5%, or 75 buildings, could collapse in a major earthquake, according to the scientists’ figures.
In Los Angeles, several attempts to create a list of vulnerable concrete buildings over the last 40 years have failed after opposition from property owners. A report in The Times last month refocused political attention on the issue.
Councilman Bernard C. Parks has said that the city should demand the list, saying it would be irresponsible for the city to do nothing.
“Whoever made the original call, I don’t think they should stop and say, ‘Well, they didn’t speak to me, so I quit,’ ” Parks said.
Moehle has said his team was willing to assist Los Angeles with efforts to create its own inventory of concrete buildings.