The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to pass a law that will mandate retrofitting for at least 15,000 Los Angeles apartment buildings most at risk of collapse during an earthquake, reports the LA Times. The new law focuses on the two types of structures most vulnerable during an earthquake: concrete buildings and wood apartment complexes with weak first stories (aka dingbats). More than 65 people have died in building collapses during LA's last two major earthquakes because of the inadequate resilience of wood and concrete apartments.
City Hall has for a long time dragged their feet on the retrofit law. Ten years ago, the city didn't even want to take inventory of buildings prone to collapse, but lately they began to see the writing on the wall. With LA's housing shortage spinning rapidly out of control, a potential loss of thousands of residences in an earthquake would be especially bad.
The big question now is who is going to be financially responsible for picking up the tab. The retrofits are extremely expensive, between $60,000 and $130,000 for wood apartments, and up to millions of dollars for concrete structures, and apartment owners are balking at the cost. Building owners are hoping for tax incentives to retrofit, but until those materialize, it appears the costs will fall at least partially on their renters.
The law allows building owners to increase rents up to $75 a month to pay for earthquake retrofits, but there's doubt that tenants will be able to handle the steep rent hike with rents already so insanely high in LA. The city's housing department is suggesting renters and owners split the cost of the hike, allowing owners to charge $38 a month in retrofit payment. In a housing market where tenants are already spending nearly 50 percent of their income on rent, any hike will be a big deal, and only owners will actually reap any financial benefits from the improvements.
There are long grace periods for completion of the mandatory retrofits, so it will take some time for the city to come to full compliance. Wood apartments will have to be retrofitted within seven years and concrete buildings will be given a 25-year deadline.
· Los Angeles will have the nation's toughest earthquake safety rules [LAT]
· Mapping LA's 1,451 Most Potentially Collapse-Prone Buildings [Curbed LA]
· The Average Angeleno is Now Paying Nearly Half Their Income Toward Rent [Curbed LA]