After a multitude of earthquakes in California during the 1970s and ’80s, we’ve long assumed the state’s old buildings are much less susceptible to damage because of new codes.
That’s not the case. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that thousands of brick buildings in the region remain unstrengthened against earthquakes, especially in poor municipalities such as the Route 66 town of San Bernardino. And the report specifically cited one Route 66 business there as vulnerable.
As many as 8,000 remaining brick buildings are at risk of collapse, according to the data published by the state in 2006. The number probably has not changed significantly since, commission Executive Director Richard McCarthy said. […]
San Bernardino’s mandatory retrofitting law lasted only a short time before it was rescinded in 1999. Only 15 of about 130 brick structures have been retrofitted there. […]
Molly’s Cafe in downtown San Bernardino is in an unreinforced building on historic Route 66. Restaurant owner Antonio Canul, 51, said the brick exterior is one of its draws, and he wouldn’t want to tinker with the building.
“Lots of people know it by the way it is,” Canul said. “I’m not going to fix something that’s not broke. I’m going to leave everything the way it is.”
Part of the problem is retrofitting a building is expensive, and many business owners cannot or will not pay for it. Also, San Bernardino is bankrupt and subsequently is unwilling to enforce costly building codes.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, almost all of its brick buildings have been retrofitted. However, the Times last year reported that 1,000 concrete buildings in L.A. alone remain vulnerable, including in its historic downtown — where the western endpoint of Route 66 originally was.
In case you were wondering, last week’s strong earthquake in California’s Napa region damaged buildings, but none collapsed — mostly because they were strengthened.