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Move to Temporary Library Hits Snag : Seismic Law Causes Delay in Planned Opening in Former Bullock's Building

November 30, 1986|EVELYN De WOLFE | Times Staff Writer

Seismic safety concerns could delay the opening of the city's Temporary Central Library for several months.

Plans are to reopen the library in the former Bullock's department store at 7th Street and Broadway.

In the wake of fires that destroyed 200,000 books earlier this year at the Central Library, the Board of Library Commissioners and its prospective landlord, L. A. United Investments, have been negotiating terms of a $6.5-million lease to house the library collection until 1991 when an expanded and improved library is expected to be completed.

Studies will determine the anticipated cost of bringing the two main buildings of the Bullock's complex planned for library use into compliance with city and state seismic codes, and also determine the economic feasibility of the project.

The key players have been unwilling to comment on details dealing with the temporary library for fear they will upset the sensitive lease negotiations relating to human safety and protection of a vast treasury of 2.3 million books from seismic danger.

Earlier Optimism

An earlier, optimistic prediction of moving books into the basement restoration area by this month and a possible opening of library facilities to the public by next March, now is out of the question. The Central Library has been closed to the public since the first, disastrous fire April 29.

The Board of Library Commissioners, headed by Ron Lushing, will not fulfill its commitment to lease 255,730 square feet of space in the Bullock's building until it learns what the final arbitrator--the city's Department of Building and Safety--has to say.

The department's main concern is whether the primary structures for library use (the Earl building, built in 1907 and the Hollenbeck, built in 1912, part of the Bullock's complex now housing the St. Vincent's Jewelry Center), can withstand the book load and adequately serve as a public assembly site, according to Karl Deppe, assistant chief of the city's earthquake division.

All owners of pre-1933-built structures are on notice about their future obligations to upgrade safety factors on their properties, including owners of the historic Bullock's and nearby Broadway buildings, both former department stores.

Earthquake Hazards Law

The new law (AB-547), approved and signed last July, charges the state Seismic Safety Commission to establish a program of earthquake prediction and earthquake hazard mitigation.

The law requires identification of all potentially hazardous buildings throughout the state by Jan. 1, 1990, and preparation of an advisory report for local jurisdictions containing criteria and procedures by Sept. 1, 1987.

The Seismic Safety Commission estimates that more than 60,000 unreinforced masonry buildings constructed before 1933 remain in use in the state, of which 8,000 are in the Los Angeles area.

The bill states that any "potentially hazardous building" means any building constructed prior to the adoption of local building codes requiring earthquake resistant design of buildings and constructed of unreinforced masonry wall construction.

When the bill was first drafted, the above specification read "unreinforced masonry bearing wall construction," Deppe said.

Non-Bearing Walls

"When the bill finally came out and the word bearing had been left out, we thought there had been a mistake, so we requested an opinion from the executive secretary of the commission. The omission, they said, was deliberate, so that the requirements would also be applicable to all 'non-bearing' wall construction.

"This would then apply to both the Bullock's and the Broadway buildings, which are steel-framed with masonry filler, or unreinforced non-bearing wall construction.

"This will be the criterion on which we will base a strengthening program, yet to be developed in consultation with the Structural Engineers' Assn. Currently we do not have the kind of methodology such as we already have for buildings of bearing wall construction," Deppe added.

"In regard specifically to the proposed temporary library site, and as an added precaution, we have asked the firm of Englekirk & Hart of Pasadena, which is in charge of the structural engineering for the project, to draw plans for significant seismic improvement of the structure. We are concerned, not only with lateral but also vertical stress from the book load, in case of a major earthquake.

Require Testing

"For this reason, we are also requiring testing of the slab (a 150-pound load per square foot), which the engineering firm had already initiated on its own, but which it wants to repeat to reconfirm the weight-bearing capacity of the Bullock's structures," Deppe added.

The building and safety official emphasized that thus far its assessment of the project can only be termed a "preliminary review . "

"After the testing is done and the new structural plans submitted and all codes met in the completed architectural plans, only then will we convey our opinion," he said.

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