“California is not prepared for the staggering cost in lives and property damage when the ‘Big One’ hits…”

Jerry Brown

(Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times) California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have asked cities and counties to create lists of buildings that could be at higher risk of major damage or collapse during earthquakes.

The bill could have been a major advance in efforts over the past decade to identify seismically vulnerable buildings in California. A few cities, including Los Angeles, have compiled lists of potentially vulnerable buildings with the greatest risk of collapse. Some have ordered owners to make those buildings more secure.

Backers of the bill said creating a list of possibly vulnerable buildings in the state’s most seismically active areas would have been a major step in alerting Californians to whether the buildings they live and work in should receive more study to determine whether they’re at risk in an earthquake.

But Brown wrote that he was concerned the bill “will not provide the greatest value for the significant investment this enterprise requires.”

It was unclear what creating an inventory would have cost; rough estimates published by legislative staffers say it could be in the tens of millions of dollars. Advocates suggested a far lower cost, perhaps $15 million to $20 million. The bill would have required the inventory to be submitted to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services by Jan. 1, 2021.

“A more suitable approach,” Brown wrote, “is to develop a partnership between the state, local governments and building owners to develop a plan to cost effectively identify collapse-prone buildings and a realistic timeline to develop an inventory.” Brown said he would ask the state Seismic Safety Commission and other seismic experts to recommend “an achievable path toward improving the safety of earthquake-vulnerable buildings.”

The bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, said he was disappointed by the veto.

“California is not prepared for the staggering cost in lives and property damage when the ‘Big One’ hits. I look forward to working with the California Seismic Safety Commission to identify and improve building safety across California,” Nazarian said in a statement.

The measure was opposed by some groups representing local governments. The League of California Cities as well as California Building Officials — an association of local building officials — said the mandate to create such a list would have been burdensome to small building departments.

©2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.