West Hollywood lets condo owners off the hook for earthquake safety upgrades

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On Monday, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a motion calling for condo owners to be exempted from a forthcoming seismic retrofit program, as Wehoville reports.

An ordinance proposed by city staff would require many of the city’s concrete buildings and all steel-frame structures constructed prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake to be inspected for potential earthquake risks. Inspectors could then order property owners to bring the structures up to current safety standards.

But Wehoville reports that condo owners at the council meeting argued against the ordinance, saying the building updates should be optional.

A memo from the city’s Community Development Department notes that the seismic upgrades could be costly to condo owners in particular, and multiple residents of the exclusive Sierra Towers building told the council that (by their estimate) such retrofits could cost up to $1 million per unit.

Sierra Towers resident Joy Germont wrote to the council that “the cost of the retrofit would be so enormous that it would cause many of us to have to sell at a great loss.” She pointed to the fact that the building sustained no damage during the Northridge quake as evidence that the repairs might not be necessary.

Seismologists generally agree that Southern California is due for a major earthquake that could cause structurally weak buildings to collapse—especially those built with non-ductile concrete or stiff steel frames.

The council sided with the condo owners, but did not dispatch with the retrofit program altogether. As Wehoville reports, the rewritten ordinance will still apply to owners of apartment buildings found to be in need of retrofits.

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