Santa Monica leads the way in seismic retrofit plan

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Santa Monica’s City Council voted Tuesday night to require seismic retrofitting to as many as 2,000 buildings. It's the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofitting effort. The city has posted a list of vulnerable buildings, the first in the state of California to do so.

The proposed law would take the City of LA's safety rules one step further by requiring improvements for steel frame buildings, in addition to wood and concrete.

It's a costly undertaking: up to $10,000 per unit for wooden apartments and $50 to $100 per square foot for concrete and steel buildings, according to city officials.

The northern part of Santa Monica sits on a fault line and city leaders don’t want to take any chances. Santa Monica was also hard-hit by the Northridge quake, which damaged buildings and caused the loss of 1,500 apartments.

Tuesday's vote was unanimous, but the ordinance still needs another vote in City Council in the next month. If the measure is approved a second time, it will become law 30 days later.

If passed, the law would require owners to have their properties undergo seismic evaluations and if necessary retrofit them. The law would not, however, affect single family homes.

How the costs will be distributed between owners and tenants has yet to be decided. Owners will pay initially, but some costs might be passed through to tenants.

More information about Santa Monica's Seismic Retrofit Program is available at

Photo: Buildings in Santa Monica, seen from the beach. (Eric Fredericks)