by Erica Perez
Nearly 180 public university buildings in California used by tens of thousands of people have been judged dangerous to occupy during a major earthquake – including libraries, classroom buildings, student apartments, gyms, a hospital, and even a child care center, a California Watch investigation has found.
While some significant earthquake risks have emerged only recently, university officials have known about seismic problems with the majority of their dangerous buildings for five years or more. In some cases, they’ve known for decades.
No public university in California has more seismically unsafe structures than UC Berkeley.
California Watch reviewed thousands of pages of documents and audits and interviewed seismic safety experts about both of the state’s public university systems.
Among the findings:
• Dozens of new buildings have been built ahead of seismic safety projects that have languished. Projects with outside support, such as those receiving partial funding from donors, tend to get preference for state funding.
• CSU policies don’t mandate fixing the most dangerous buildings first.
• Rigid rules prohibit UC and CSU officials from using certain types of construction money on seismic repairs. Instead, both systems make due with limited pots of money for safety upgrades.
The recent quakes in Chile and Haiti serve as a reminder that many buildings are vulnerable, even in a state with strict building codes.
The state’s public universities have made progress toward protecting safety on campus. The vast majority of buildings are expected to pose only a small risk of causing injuries or deaths in a major quake.
But seismic fixes for some of California’s campus buildings are at least a decade away.
To read the full report go to www.californiawatch.org--and don't forget to see the maps of seismically hazardous buildings in the UC and CSU systems--and the interactive history of earthquakes in California.