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School buildings meet all quake standards, officials say

April 12, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
  • Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School on the 1700 block of N. Verdugo Rd. in Glendale on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School on the 1700 block…

Glendale Unified buildings comply with state seismic safety standards, school officials said this week, despite a recent report that questions the ability of 29 structures within the district to withstand a major earthquake.

The buildings — which range from a kindergarten building at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary to the gym at Hoover High School — were among thousands of sites included in an Internet database published late last week by the investigative news organization California Watch.

The database, made up in part by information compiled in 2002 by the Division of the State Architect, includes categories such as older buildings with “potentially dangerous seismic hazards that require more detailed evaluation” and buildings that have not been certified by the state. It also lists structures near fault lines or landslide zones, among other potential hazards.

But a spokesman for the state agency said being on the list does not necessarily mean a building is unsafe.


Eric Lamoureux said that significant state oversight occurs during school-site construction. But districts decide when it is safe to occupy a building, he said, and many do so before receiving official certification.

Sometimes, the official certification process gets delayed or pushed aside altogether, Lamoureux said.

“It wraps up all the compliance issues that were addressed during construction,” Lamoureux said, explaining the need for the paper trail. “It leaves no unanswered questions.”

According to the California Watch database, the most problematic school sites within the district are Crescenta Valley High School and Clark Magnet High School. Eleven and 10 structures at the sites, respectively, are listed as needing “structural evaluation.”

Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for Glendale Unified, said that the database does not accurately reflect the status of district buildings. Closing out older projects is a cumbersome and expensive process.

“When districts are really tight on money [spending funds] on a detailed structural engineering report wasn’t really thought appropriate,” she said.

Glendale Unified buildings meet all state standards, including those outlined by the Field Act, legislation passed following a major earthquake in Long Beach in 1933 that destroyed dozens of school buildings.

The district spent millions of Measure K money on construction work to enhance the seismic stability of schools, said school board member Mary Boger, referring to the $197-million bond measure passed in 1997.

“Each time we address a building, we address it from a safety point of view,” Boger said. “Modernization includes those kinds of issues.”

And many district buildings have already proven themselves in past events, she said.

“We believe our buildings are very safe,” Lueck said. “These are older buildings that have been through prior earthquakes.”

All new construction is done with the most up-to-date safety engineering and techniques, she added.

“All of our drawings go through the Division of State Architecture and those are very high standards,” Lueck said.


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