Assemblymember Nazarian Introduces Seismic Functional Recovery Act on 50th Anniversary of Sylmar Quake

California Must Build to a Seismic Functional Recovery Standard to Achieve Resilience

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA-- On February 9, the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake (also known as the San Fernando Earthquake), Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D –Van Nuys) will introduce the Seismic Functional Recovery Act calling for California’s building codes to include standards to provide for timely recovery of housing and other community services following an earthquake.

“Fifty years ago, the San Fernando Valley was left devastated by the Sylmar earthquake and our community saw the destruction that happens when we don't properly prepare for these seismic disasters,” stated Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, “California deserves buildings that can be reoccupied and provide basic services in a timely manner after the ‘big one’ hits, with limited loss of life and property. By proactively protecting our infrastructure we will save lives, protect property, provide basic services and maintain jobs after an earthquake, and actually save money in the long run.”

Currently, state law only requires a building to protect the loss of life, but not limit damage and loss of property to enable timely recovery. In the event of a major earthquake, buildings built to current codes should withstand the earthquake safely but could be rendered unusable and maybe even unrepairable. Buildings built to older code are expected to perform worse. This would result in a massive loss of housing throughout the earthquake zone, exacerbating our already dire housing shortage in California. Furthermore, the expected level of damage and downtime would likely result in limited availability of services such as pharmacies, grocery stores, home improvement stores, and other basic government services throughout the earthquake zone.

Given our state’s high seismic risk, California should follow the recommendations of a recently-released report from the federal government that encourages state and local governments to develop and implement seismic functional recovery standards or take other interim steps that they deem appropriate for their state and local conditions, which will further inform the development of national standards that will take at least 10 years to complete.

Analyses of large earthquakes anticipated in Southern California and the Bay Area predict that up to 40% of buildings built to the current code may suffer enough damage to be unoccupiable and up to 20% may be economically unrepairable. This represents billions if not trillions of dollars of damage, displacement of people from their homes, and significant disruption to the regional economy.

“By strengthening our building codes we are proactively preventing catastrophic property damage, economic disruption, and loss of homes,” stated Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “We are already dealing with a severe housing crisis across Southern California and cannot afford to lose more of our stock to a large quake. It’s just common sense to make new buildings safer and able to more quickly regain function. Doing so will ensure that we can get back to business as usual more quickly after a major earthquake.”

This bill is expected to be heard in Assembly policy committees in the spring.

Adrin Nazarian represents the 46th Assembly District, serving the San Fernando Valley communities of Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Universal City, Van Nuys, and Valley Village Learn more at: https://a46.asmdc.org/