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Nearly 4,600 Addresses in Santa Monica At Risk in Quake  

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Note: A previous version of this article has been edited to clarify that there can be multiple addresses per structure.

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 2, 2017 -- The City of Santa Monica has released a new list of almost 4,600 addresses in some 2,4000 structures identified as at-risk in earthquakes.

The list includes some exclusive locations, such as the multi-million dollar condominiums at the two Ocean Towers, as well as what was once famous as the 21-story Lawrence Welk Plaza -- one of the city's tallest buildings.

But at least 80 percent of the list of 4,594 addresses is a sea of "soft story" buildings, structures with a notorious -- and deadly -- past of crumbling upon themselves in quakes.

Of the addresses in the City's database of vulnerable buildings, many are in small two-story buildings, while others are in high-rises containing 90 or more units. For more information on the City's Seismic Retrofit Program and to search for an address click here.

The at-risk list was released recently as the City Council decides on February 14 whether to follow the lead of Los Angeles and other municipalities by modifying existing law to make seismic retrofits mandatory.

If enacted, the law phases in retrofits for five types of buildings considered especially dangerous in an earthquake.

Soft-story buildings have up to six years to retrofit. Building with unreinforced masonry, found in the oldest structures, have two years. The list includes 174 such buildings.

Additional structures identified as potentially dangerous are "non-ductile concrete" buildings, which have 10 years to retrofit. The list includes 360 of them.

Also on the list are "steel moment frame" buildings and "non-ductile concrete buildings.

Single-family homes are exempt from mandatory retrofitting.

For the most part, the City's tally of at-risk buildings does not delineate uses at the addresses included, such as whether they are residential versus commercial.

However, soft-story buildings are often associated with the apartment houses that started springing up in Southern California to provide affordable housing in the post-WWII population boom ("Santa Monica Library Hosts Panel on Local Phenomenon," March 11, 2016).

The buildings, known as dingbats, usually feature flimsy first floors with garages or car ports that aren't strong enough to support the units above in the shaking of a quake, and thus collapse.

The City of Los Angeles released a list of its own at-risk buildings last year, finding 13,500 structures at risk. Most of them were also soft-story buildings that were concentrated in the Westside, the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.

L.A's owners have already been put on notice, and some have started the process.

Retrofitting can be extremely expensive. But in a crowded region crisscrossed by earthquake faults, and with the ever-rising fear of "the big one", officials are trying to brace their communities.

Santa Monica, also like Los Angeles, is apartment intensive. About 70 percent of its population rents.

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