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Is LA closer to a list of buildings vulnerable to collapse in an earthquake? [Updated]

LA city officials want UC Berkeley earthquake researchers to hand over a list of potentially unsafe concrete buildings.
LA city officials want UC Berkeley earthquake researchers to hand over a list of potentially unsafe concrete buildings.

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Scientists from UC Berkeley met with building and safety officials in Los Angeles Tuesday to discuss releasing a list of potentially unsafe structures in the city.

After the meeting, Mayor Eric Garcetti's office issued a statement:

"Researchers agreed to coordinate regarding how the city might use data generated by the study following scientific publication." It is unclear when researchers plan to publish their ongoing study of older concrete buildings in Los Angeles.

“Public safety is our top priority and we look forward to analyzing this,” Building and Safety Department Interim General Manager Raymond Chan said.

Researchers have compiled a list of about 1,500 concrete buildings that may collapse during an earthquake as part of a $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  But they’ve so far refused to release that list to city officials.

“It’s the first meeting with them to talk about what kind of information they have,” said Garcetti’s spokesman Yuseff Robb.

The researchers believe that only a small fraction of the buildings would be vulnerable to collapse in the event of a large earthquake, according to the mayor's office.  The UC Berkeley scientists have not studied individual buildings to determine which ones are vulnerable to collapse.

“It is our goal as researchers to have our work play a positive role in improving life and safety in California and around the world,” UC Berkeley engineering professor Jack Moehle said in a statement.

Jonathan P. Stewart, Professor and Chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UCLA, also attended the meeting. He and Moehle are principal investigators in an on-going study examining the seismic performance of certain types of older concrete buildings. 

Last month, Garcetti formally requested the list as political pressure grew in the wake of a Los Angeles Times report documenting potentially unsafe buildings. 

Over the years, many property owners in Los Angeles have fought efforts to create a list of concrete buildings that could fall in an earthquake – worried it would trigger costly new requirements to retrofit their buildings.