New rules could make it difficult for California schools to carry out seismic upgrades

Aug. 22, 2011
To acquire state funds, districts would have to pay upfront costs of tests

From California Watch: The California State Allocation Board earlier this year scrapped restrictive rules that blocked school districts' access to nearly $200 million in seismic retrofit money. But weeks after lowering technical hurdles to the cash, board members approved new rules that may make it too costly for some districts to apply for the funds. At issue is a board decision to allow districts to seek seismic money if they could prove catastrophic risk from ground shaking, earthquake faults, liquefaction or landslides. However, if a district chooses to apply based on fault, liquefaction or landslide dangers, it would need to pay upfront for a structural engineer's examination, a geologist's field study and a review from the state geologist's office – an expensive proposition to qualify for financial aid. It is more so for cash-strapped districts grappling with a budget crunch.

MAY 2011...From California Watch: The California State Allocation Board has voted to expand access to a $200 million fund created for urgent seismic repairs at public schools. The move came in response to complaints that restrictive rules enacted by the Schwarzenegger administration had blocked the funds from thousands of schools. The board approved new rules that will enable almost all occupied buildings with the potential for catastrophic collapse to apply for a slice of the bond fund. Before the change, schools had been required to prove their buildings were situated in areas that would experience an unusually high ground-shaking force during an earthquake; that effectively shut out most of the state from eligibility. Although more than 7,000 school buildings are now potentially eligible for the funding, there is very little money to go around. The state has estimated it could cost $4.7 billion to fix all of the potentially vulnerable buildings. APRIL 2011....from The San Jose Mercury-News: Californiaofficials say they will loosen the criteria for schools to gain access to millions in unspent seismic repair funds and make several other changes to the school building inspection process. Scott Harvey, acting chief of the Department of General Services, says the agency has sent letters to school superintendents alerting them to campus buildings that have been red-flagged with safety defects. Officials gave promised to speed the process for certifying school projects under the state's safety law.

Earlier...from California Watch: California regulators have routinely failed to enforce the state's earthquake safety law for public schools, allowing children and teachers to occupy buildings with structural flaws and potential safety hazards reported during construction. Top management with the Division of the State Architect – the chief regulator of school construction – for years did nothing about nearly 1,100 building projects that its own supervisors had red-flagged. Safety defects were logged and then filed away without followup from the state.

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