LA Passes Tough Seismic Retrofit Legislation - Bay Area Opportunities

The City of Los Angeles has unanimously approved the nation’s toughest seismic legislation, requiring that approximately 15,000 buildings, both concrete and wood framed, be retrofitted to handle violent shaking.

The challenge for Bay Area communities is to enact standards for existing and new buildings that ensure communities can quickly recover from earthquakes; to develop financing tools to pay for improving seismic safety; and to ensure coordinated improvements of essential infrastructure. Speedy recovery requires that vulnerable buildings and lifeline systems are upgraded so that homes remain livable and businesses are operational.

In 2014, the Loma Prieta 25th Anniversary Symposium (LP25) marked the launch of a three-year public policy program to improve state and local laws that address community safety and resilience. The LP25 Steering Committee developed the following policy recommendations, informed by the Northridge 20th Anniversary Symposium Summary Report, which was also developed in 2014.

The LP25 Symposium promoted a legislative program with these goals:

• Update building codes. Adopt building code standards to improve the seismic performance of new and existing buildings and ensure that building codes meet community performance expectations.

• Upgrade vulnerable apartments and condominiums. Enact statewide guidelines for the identification, evaluation, and retrofit of seismically unsafe apartment and condominium buildings.

• Develop financial incentives. Establish regional financial incentive programs for improving the seismic safety of apartments and condominium buildings.

• Convene lifeline providers and cities. Establish a State Lifelines Council and convene regional Lifeline Councils in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Southern California.

Seismic and policy experts defined these four actions as critical next steps to achieve in the near future that could launch widespread implementation throughout the Bay Area; however resilience-building is an ongoing activity that will require more effort beyond these near term actions.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) serves as the public policy hub with its member cities, towns, and counties to implement these policy actions, and will work to incorporate these policies into other regional planning efforts. The ABAG Regional Planning Committee endorsed the LP25 policy measures in October 2014, and recommended their adoption by the ABAG Executive Board, which unanimously approved the policies in January 2015.

The LP25 Policy Action Report was recently posted to ABAG’s website and is available at