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Legislators Seek Detailed Explanation of UCLA Quake Costs

October 08, 1994|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Surprised state legislators asked UCLA officials Friday to provide a "very, very detailed" accounting of how damage estimates from the January earthquake have risen to $630 million, eclipsing even the toll at quake-shattered Cal State Northridge.

The revised damage estimate at the Westwood campus, made public two weeks ago, is nearly 30 times previous calculations of $22 million.

"We've never had a flag from UCLA that suggested the original numbers . . . (were) way out of kilter," said Assemblywoman Marguerite Archie-Hudson (D-Los Angeles). "So I was frankly stunned at such a disparity."

UCLA architect Charles Oakley, appearing at CSUN before the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, told Archie-Hudson that the new figures are based on recent engineering studies that have detected widespread damage and the need for major structural upgrades in the university's massive medical and health sciences complex.

Retrofitting and rebuilding the 9,100-room complex would cost $500 million, officials say. Other repairs, including $38 million worth at historic Royce Hall, push the total to $630 million.

That sum far outstrips the expected quake toll at other colleges--most notably CSUN, where the temblor cut a swath of destruction that will cost $350 million to fix. A collapsed parking structure on the east side of the Northridge campus remains a vivid monument to the quake's destruction.

Damage at the UCLA medical complex, which remains open, is not so visible, Oakley said. But he said thorough inspections have revealed the extent of the problems at the site, where officials say at least seven buildings should receive immediate attention because they provide essential services.

Assemblyman Paul A. Woodruff (R-Moreno Valley) told Oakley that a comprehensive account of how and when the damage was detected, and why the process has taken several months, will be vital if the university hopes to win disaster-relief funds from federal and state agencies.

"This is an enormous amount of money," Woodruff said. "Our window of opportunity to capture the attention of Congress and the (state) Legislature is going to close."

Although Oakley said the first inkling that actual damage might exceed initial projections came as long ago as March, no public mention of a new estimate was made until two weeks ago, in an oral report by UCLA Chancellor Charles Young to the UC Board of Regents. In addition to the $630 million, Young also favored spending another $500 million to upgrade the medical complex, for a total of more than $1 billion.

University officials expect to have a more exact price tag next month.

Although she did not directly question the validity of the revised figures, Archie-Hudson repeatedly asked Oakley why no warning was given or interim reports issued to legislators, who learned of the increased estimate "in the newspapers." She said such information could have provided valuable ammunition in the battle to pass Proposition 1A, the $2-billion earthquake-repair bond measure soundly defeated at the polls in June.

Oakley said an aggregate figure has been hard to come by because engineers compiled separate reports for different parts of the university, including the medical complex, which includes more than a dozen buildings.

So far, UCLA has received $1.5 million in federal and state aid for its recovery effort.

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