Friday, May 8, 2015

"I LOVE LUCY..."

I always loved Lucy. Actually I bought a collection of all the episodes of the "I love Lucy" shows. It always gives me pleasure to watch the lovable but very silly Lucy getting into all kinds of trouble.

Fast forward about 5 decades and see that Lucy is running the show again!

Of course she is not the same Lucy, but at this time she is maybe the smartest and very influential Ph.D. Lucy Jones who's running the show at least for the city of Los Angeles. Of course I'm speaking of Lucy Jones, who is in the science advisory role to the mayor Eric Garcetti, on "loan" from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) to the city of Los Angeles. She is also known as the "Earthquake Lady" after her numerous appearances on television as a commentator to the latest La Brea earthquake. For the past year or so she has been helping the City of Los Angeles to put together a program to make vulnerable buildings in the city safer. I've met Lucy last year at a west side symposium and I was very impressed by her agility, knowledge about earthquakes and determination to make the city of Los Angeles a safer place to live.

In a nutshell, based on the recommendations by Lucy Jones, the mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed:

Mandatory retrofitting of older concrete buildings, mostly serving as office buildings and "soft story" wooden multi story buildings, generally multi-unit apartments. This is earth shattering proposal, considering that in Los Angeles up 'till now only the so called Divisions 88 and 91 required mandatory retrofitting of unreinforced brick buildings and inefficiently built tilt-up and similar building's wall to roof connections, respectively. Almost 100% of the URM (Un-Reinforced Masonry building) were retrofitted or demolished as a result of the Division 88 The benefits of this kind of retrofit is obvious if considered, that no people died in these types of retrofitted buildings from the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

As with anything new, there are opponents of this. Landlords are already concerned, that this type of retrofitting will cost thousands of dollars. Yes, it is true, but one of the major problem with this issue is, that landlords mostly do not live or work in these type of dangerous buildings. They don't know or don't want to know the responsibilities they have. Probably, if the landlord would have to live on top of a "soft story" structure and think about the building collapsing in even a moderate earthquake, he or she would retrofit and make it more safe, earthquake proof the building right away. (Do you remember I wrote about the Hungarian structural engineer who was in a small dinghy under the bridge over the Danube, what he designed, during the test loading, showing the world that he is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk too?) And yes, the city of Los Angeles should have some kind of financial help, i.e. loan guaranties, tax credits or even a state wide bond measure to help the landlords as well. There are already positive vibes from council members to support this measure.

Garcetti also proposed some kind of rating system for these effected buildings. I still like the idea of placing mandatory placard on the front elevation of buildings indicating the seismic safety of the structure for everybody to see, before they decide they want to live or work in these buildings. San Francisco is way ahead of us in this, let's catch up. Nothing is going to make landlords deciding to do retrofitting faster, than loosing tenants who will look for safer places to live and work. When it hits your pocketbook, it'll hurt.

Anyway, "I love Lucy..." who is instrumental behind this very important development in our city.