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Old Buildings Will Be Required to Meet Quake Standards

September 17, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Owners of more than 380 antiquated buildings in Glendale will be required to reinforce structures against earthquake damage under an ordinance that City Council members said they will adopt next week.

The ordinance will implement for the first time a 1975 seismic safety plan that calls for all structures in the city to conform to earthquake code standards. City officials said the law will affect all unreinforced masonry structures, including residential buildings with five or more units, built before 1938.

Cost of the work could range from $2 to $9 a square foot, or even more, depending on the amount of reinforcement needed, Public Works Director George Miller said.

Mayor Ginger Bremberg said the city is "long overdue" in adopting the law, which is designed to protect lives.

The ordinance, introduced Tuesday, will go into effect 30 days after it is adopted. However, zoning code changes, which will be used to implement the new standards, cannot be adopted until after public hearings are held. Those hearings are scheduled before the city Planning Commission on Oct. 12 and the City Council on Oct. 27.

Once the zoning laws are changed, owners of pre-1938 buildings will be given from 30 months to six years to make improvements. Owners of buildings that pose risk to the greatest number of people will be required to comply with the law first, Miller said.

Buildings that have been declared to be historically significant by the city must also be improved, including the city-owned Casa Adobe de San Rafael, built about 1871.

Building Supt. Alexander C. Pyper said reinforcement of historical buildings "can be done without destroying the architectural integrity" of the structures. The new law will not apply to single-family dwellings or residences with four or fewer units, Pyper said. Several property owners on Tuesday pleaded with the council to postpone adoption of the ordinance, which is not required under a state mandate until 1990. Edward Lamel, who owns property in the Brand Boulevard redevelopment district, complained that the law "will create tremendous financial hardship" on landowners who face difficulties in obtaining private financing to reinforce old buildings considered to be unsafe.

Despite the protests, Councilman Jerold F. Milner said: "The overriding thing we need to be concerned about is the safety of people. We need to move ahead to protect the people who live and work and shop in our city."

However, council members on Tuesday said they are willing to consider methods to provide city-sponsored financing for owners in hardship cases.

Councilman John F. Day suggested that the city sponsor low-interest loans from private institutions to finance reconstruction of some buildings. The property being repaired would serve as collateral for the loan and no money would be required from the city, Day said.

Day's proposal was endorsed by other members of the council, who instructed the city staff to investigate other financing alternatives, even though Bremberg said such city-sponsored financing "would be highly unusual." A city report on financial options is expected to be issued in two months.

Earthquake reinforcement standards have been under consideration by the city for three years. Both the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and the city Building Commission had urged the city to adopt a more lenient policy that would have, among other things, allowed owners to hire their own inspectors to check building improvements and to avoid city permit fees. The City Council rejected those alternatives by endorsing a city staff recommendation.

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