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If the 'Big One' hit, would your home be earthquake ready?

LA needs to retrofit thousands of apartment buildings against an earthquake but landlords say they'll have to pass on costs to their tenants.
LA needs to retrofit thousands of apartment buildings against an earthquake but landlords say they'll have to pass on costs to their tenants.

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The recent "swarm" - or a series of back to back small quakes - near the Salton Sea triggered a temporary warning of a potentially larger earthquake to follow. In response, officials in San Bernardino closed their City Hall for the duration of the warning, because the building's not up to code.  

While the temporary alert has been lifted and San Bernardino City Hall has reopened, seismologists say there's a good chance a large earthquake will rock California in the coming years.

Californians are left wondering, is my home ready for “The Big One?”

To get the details, Take Two’s A Martinez spoke with an expert in earthquake retrofitting. John Taferner is a licensed contractor and owner of Cal-quake Construction.


Is my building earthquake ready?

It depends on when the building was built. If it was built after 1995, there’s a very good chance that - with the adaptive codes - that you’re sitting in a good building. Anything pre-1995, there would be some speculation.

What kind of retrofitting could my home need?

 We look at the building and we make an assessment as to the codes from the Angeles Department of Building and Safety We look at that and adapt it to the building.

This would be bolting of the foundation. When we say bolting, it’s a general term for retrofitting which includes bolting your sill plate (bottom, horizontal layer of the house) to the existing foundation.

If you have cripple walls, (bottom vertical layer between the foundation and first floor), you’d have to plywood the inside.

Also, there needs to be an attachment of an angle clip (angled piece of connecting steel) up to the cripple wall or sill plate, up to the rim joist (end of the structural floor) so that the building would all move together.

It would be the same as a “slab on grade” home (foundation is built into the ground.) If there’s no bolts, you’d have to open it up and install those bolts.

 What kind of inconvenience should I expect with a retrofit?

As a homeowner it sounds pretty complicated because this would require a lot of specialized tools to do it, like we have. But the good thing about it, is that nobody has to move out and it’s done under the crawl space of the home. The crew crawls underneath  and everything is done under the home. The only inconvenience to the homeowner would be the noise for that 1 or 2 days when the work is going on.

Last year, the city of L.A. identified apartment buildings in need of a retrofit. How do I know if my building is on the list? 

The city has sent out letters to all of the owners, about 15,000 buildings, and now they’re being followed up with compliance orders. So, if you know that you have parking underneath an apartment building and it is build prior to 1979, you’re going to get the letter.

Go to and go to the soft story ordinance.

How will the city ordered retrofit affect tenants?

An owner has to fill out a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) where we inform all of the tenants of the work that’s going to be impending, duration of the work and the possible impact when it comes to rents. The rent increase can be up to $38 per month for half the cost of the mitigation.

There may be an inconvenience in parking for a few days, but the majority of the time, it just goes on as if it wasn’t even there.

*Quotes edited for clarity

 For the full interview, click the blue arrow above