SACRAMENTO — The state Seismic Safety Commission is proposing an $800-million bond issue to finance strengthening or demolishing hazardous state government buildings that could collapse in an earthquake.
More than 100 such buildings are used by the University of California, according to a commission survey.
The bond recommendation is contained in a new report compiled by the commission on implementing life-saving strategies to reduce earthquake hazards between now and 1999 and to improve the state's emergency response capabilities.
In a repeat of a familiar warning, the commission said that while steps have been taken over the years to cope with major quakes, "California is not prepared."
Chairman Wilfred D. Iwan said the proposed program represents a "significant new step by providing the state with a comprehensive approach to seismic safety that can be carried out." He said it also was offered with a sense of urgency "because the potential for an avoidable catastrophe increases with the passing of each day."
The report was ordered by the Legislature, which directed the commission to fashion a five-year program to be updated annually that would "reduce earthquake hazards significantly" by the end of the century.
The proposed $800-million general obligation bond issue constituted the commission's costliest immediate recommendation. The funds would be spent on strengthening or removing hazardous buildings owned by state government, including University of California and State University and Colleges System buildings. The bond issue would go before voters in 1988, pending approval by the Legislature and Gov. George Deukmejian.
The commission reported that preliminary surveys of state buildings found that about 250 are "potentially unsafe in an earthquake" and roughly half of these are high-occupancy structures on campuses of the University of California.
"In the event of a damaging earthquake, these facilities pose a danger to members of the general public, employees, students and visitors," the report warned. "Although the cost of this program will be high, the investment in structural strengthening will secure the far larger investment in these public facilities."
As for emergency responses to devastation caused a major quake, the report stressed the need for effective communications and coordination between the many law enforcement, fire, medical, health and other agencies that would be involved.
The report said an analysis of the emergency services responding to the severe Coalinga earthquake of 1983 suggested the need to improve coordination of medical care and on-scene management. "A similar disaster in a major metropolitan area could create insurmountable problems," it said.
The current status of emergency communications systems throughout the state came in for heavy criticism by the commission, which noted that "local emergency services organizations do not have adequate radio frequencies (and) there is no reliable intergovernmental communications systems linking cities, counties and state government emergency headquarters."