Despite their sturdy appearance, many older concrete buildings are vulnerable to the sideways movement of a major earthquake because they don’t have enough steel reinforcing bars to hold columns in place.
Los Angeles officials have known about the dangers for more than 40 years but have failed to force owners to make their properties safer. The city has even rejected calls to make a list of concrete buildings.
In the absence of city action, university scientists compiled the first comprehensive inventory of potentially dangerous concrete buildings in Los Angeles.
The scientists, however, have declined to make the information public. They said they are willing to share it with L.A. officials, but only if the city requests a copy. The city has not done so, the scientists said.
Pretty interesting look at how concrete buildings can be built to withstand earthquakes. The key issue here seems to be retrofitting: should it be required and if so, how much would property owners complain about the cost? As the article notes:
Earthquake safety has rarely been an issue that draws deep public passions and outrage. Most seismic regulations are approved in the wake of destructive earthquakes, but there hasn’t been one in California in nearly 20 years.
In other words, occasional disasters allows room for complacency. When the events are rare, people will question whether the money should be better spent elsewhere. This is part of the debate over other disasters as well like: how should buildings in Tornado Alley be constructed if tornadoes might occur? Should New York be protected from hurricanes and rising water levels by constructing gates and barriers? How much should be spent on levees in New Orleans to avoid situations like that after Hurricane Katrina?