Culver City is telling the owners of 65 brick buildings to either make them earthquake-proof or demolish them to comply with a law that became effective last week.
Notices will be sent first to owners of the 27 buildings that are most heavily occupied, according to Rocco Serrato, the city's building official. The others will be notified within a year, Serrato said.
Owners will be required to have a licensed engineer study the buildings and report to the city within 270 days. If the buildings are found to be unreinforced, owners will have to improve them or tear them down.
Most of the affected buildings, which house dozens of small businesses, are concentrated in the city's old downtown area. They include about 35 buildings along Washington Boulevard and nearly every building on the city's block-long Main Street, one of the original sections of town, built in the 1920s.
The city's Bank of America branch, in a Main Street building constructed in 1923, is on the list of buildings to receive notices, as are four buildings on the Lorimar Studios lot which were built between 1916 and 1926.
All of the structures listed by the city are suspected of being constructed of unreinforced brick masonry before the state adopted strict building standards regarding earthquake safety in 1933, Serrato said.
The buildings were identified after inspections by the city and a private architectural consultant.
The city adopted its ordinance on Feb. 10 in response to state law requiring that cities have such a law by 1990. The ordinance became effective March 10.
Serrato said that buildings with 100 or more occupants must be upgraded first, followed by those with 20 or more occupants and those with less than 20 occupants.
City Hall on List
Public buildings on the city's list include City Hall and Fire Station No. 1, which are undergoing structural studies that will be finished in three to six weeks, Serrato said.
Herman Luciente owns a 51-year-old building at 3826 Main St. that is on the city's list. He said that an engineering consultant has told him that it would cost from $55,000 to $65,000 to upgrade his building, an amount that he said is equal to the building's value.
Luciente, who has operated the Grand Casino French bakery with his wife in the building since 1983, said that demolishing the 2,500-square-foot building would cost him about $7,000 and constructing a new one would cost $125,000.
"I don't know what I will do, maybe go broke. We would have to close the business for one or two months (during renovation). I would lose money," Luciente said.
Culver City's earthquake ordinance is similar to a 1981 Los Angeles law that applies to about 8,000 unreinforced brick buildings.
Allen Asakura, chief of the earthquake division of the city of Los Angeles Building and Safety Department, said that the city's law requires owners to provide complete inspections of their buildings and reinforce all weak points within the buildings.
The work itself varies from building to building, he said. Some requires adding interior walls, others involve installing anchors to fasten walls to roofs and floors, he said.
He said owners have generally cooperated with the city to improve their buildings.
"We are finding in most cases that the work is being done and that very few of the buildings are being demolished. Most of the (renovation) work is being done around (the buildings') tenants," Asakura said.
Asakura said that renovation costs in Los Angeles run about $3 to $8 per square foot, although some buildings may cost much more.