Controversial Projects Reveal Faults in L.A.'s Seismic Safety Review

Recent controversies surrounding large-scale projects in Hollywood approved without comprehensive seismic evaluations reveal gaps between California construction laws and the City of Los Angeles's ability to enforce them.
August 12, 2013, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"A sprawling $200-million commercial and residential development under construction next to the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard was approved by Los Angeles city officials without a seismic evaluation, even though it sits next to an active earthquake fault capable of producing a devastating temblor, according to records and interviews," write Rosanna Xia, Doug Smith and Rong-Gong Lin II. 

Add to that, revelations that the site for the recently-approved 1-million-square foot Millennium Hollywood project may actually straddle the Hollywood fault, and it's clear the process by which the City of Los Angeles ensures that the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act is being followed is broken. The act, which was passed as a result of the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake, is meant to "prevent the construction of buildings used for human occupancy on the surface trace of active faults."

Complicating matters is the fact that "the state has not yet mapped the Hollywood fault zone, leaving enforcement of the law in a gray area," note the reporters. However, they add, "[a] retired state and Orange County geologist said the city should have been more diligent."

“It’s very disconcerting,” said Robert Sydnor, a retired engineering geologist who spent 25 years working for the California Geological Survey. “If you aggressively go after the search for the fault, then you’ll find it.”

The city should be a “watch-keeper that should be saying, ‘Yes, we would like to know where is the fault,’” Sydnor said.

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Published on Friday, August 9, 2013 in Los Angeles Times
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