March 21, 2010 (San Diego) – An investigation by California Watch has found nearly 180 buildings on California public universities are too dangerous to occupy during a major earthquake. That includes San Diego State’s Love Library.
Although the new domed library addition is deemed safe, the report concludes that the old library, which holds more than 3,500 people, “could collapse in a major quake and would pose severe life hazards” due to brittle perimeter columns.
University officials have known of the danger since 2006, but no timetable has been set for seismic safety retrofitting.
Reviewers examined thousands of pages of documents for the California State University and University of California system. They did not include community colleges, since renovations at community colleges are required to undergo review for seismic safety under the Field Act. CSU and UC remodels, surprisingly, are exempted from such reviews, the author of the California Watch report discovered.
The most unsafe campus, according to the study, is U.C. Berkeley with 71 occupied buildings that could endanger lives in a major quake. The campus sits directly on the active Hayward earthquake fault.
The UC system has spent over $1 billion on seismic safety since 1979, while CSU has spent over $480 million since 1987. Yet dozens of new buildings have been built before seismic safety retrofit projects, in part due to funding coming from private sources with specific priorities attached. CSU policies don’t even require fixing the most dangerous buildings first. In some cases, officials have known about the dangers for decades.
No buildings at CSU San Marcos or U.C. San Diego were on the list, with the exception of a U.C. building closed to the public already for remodeling.
San Diego has experienced a flurry of minor tremors in recent weeks--tremors that some emergency officials have suggested could be indicative of increased seismic activity or precursers of a major earthquake.
To view the report and the full list of hazardous buildings at CSU and UC campuses, visit www.californiawatch.org.