After scouring more than 8,600 homes and businesses, Simi Valley building inspectors have almost completed their assessment of structures damaged in the Jan. 17 earthquake.
Although the city receives new inspection requests daily, city officials said the total cost of damage caused by the quake remains at about $350 million.
Most of the new requests are coming from homeowners who want their homes reviewed for additional damage caused by aftershocks, rain and wind, said Homer Croy, manager of the city's building and safety operations. The latest estimates show about 1,200 requests remaining.
Once those reviews are completed, however, inspectors say they will still have much to do.
Requests for permit inspections, which are required to repair everything from cracked foundations and toppled chimneys to leaky swimming pools, are just beginning to roll in.
These inspections are more meticulous than quake damage assessments. "An earthquake inspection is a rapid evaluation that lasts about 10 to 20 minutes," Croy said. "A regular inspection for a permit requires a much more thorough analysis to see if they are following plans and codes."
To keep up with the pace, Jeff Turnbull, the city's inspection field supervisor, said he assigns his inspectors several more homes than he thinks that they will be able to cover in a day.
"It keeps everybody on their toes," Turnbull said.
At the peak of the post-quake inspections, 20 inspectors from Riverside, San Luis Obispo and Watsonville joined Turnbull and his staff of 10, working dawn to dusk to evaluate the safety of homes and businesses.
But now those inspectors are gone, leaving the task to Turnbull and his crew.
"Some people are still getting quake inspections and others are getting ready to start their repairs," Turnbull said. "We've got our work cut out for us."
Meanwhile, upset about what they say is the city's lack of concern, homeowners on the city's east end are meeting tonight to discuss plans to ask the city for an extensive soil study of their neighborhoods.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Simi Valley Board of Realtors, 2080 Winifred St.
Leading the effort is C. Jill Clark, whose home on Sabina Circle was badly damaged when the ground cracked during the quake.
"We want real experts to tell us what the elements are under the soil," Clark said. "We don't want them in five years or two years, but now."
Responding to Clark's concerns, the City Council agreed Monday night to ask the state Department of Conservation's Division of Mines and Geology to conduct an in-depth study of the area around Clark's home.
State geologists have visited the city twice since the quake, conducting cursory soil checks.
Jim Davis, chief of the mines and geology division, said his department's ability to conduct a more thorough study depends on the amount of federal disaster funds received.
"We'll review the request, but I can't say much more than that," Davis said. "It's all hypothetical right now."
Clark, who has spoken at two City Council meetings about her concerns over unstable soil, said she is not satisfied with the city's response.
"It's a day late and a dollar short for the homeowners," she said. "Many people are already beginning to rebuild, and they have no idea what the problems with the soil might be."
The earthquake disaster relief center in Simi Valley is moving from the Sycamore Drive Community Center to the K mart shopping center at 59 Tierra Rejada Road. The center helps residents get financial assistance or information about housing repairs, small business loans and state grants to families. The new facility will open at 1 p.m. Wednesday and will close at 7 p.m. Starting Thursday, the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.