ART OF TRANSIT: The view down to Fifth Street from the Bunker Hill Steps in downtown Los Angeles, via Metro’s Instagram account.
City of Los Angeles planning officials approved a 39-story tower in Century City without requiring a more comprehensive mapping of the Santa Monica Fault. Metro did such an investigation as part of the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension and found that parts the fault ran under Santa Monica Boulevard and, thus, a station should not be built under that street in the Century City area.
Experts say structures built on top of faults can be torn in two during a large earthquake as the ground splits. Los Angeles is sliced by multiple active fault lines. The Santa Monica fault, which runs about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Century City, is considered active by the state. Seismologists believe it is capable of producing an earthquake greater than magnitude 7.0.
But California has not yet drawn the fault on its regulatory map. As a result, the Century City property is not covered by the state’s building ban known as the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act.
The MTA’s study of Century City cost $4 million and was extensive. Geologists for the transit agency performed a kind of underground sonar, extracted 56 soil borings and performed 192 tests that push a sensor into the ground, said geologist Martin Hudson, an MTA consultant.
The seismic experts confirmed that this area of Century City is in the middle of a complex zone of earthquake faults. In addition to the Santa Monica fault, to the east is an extension of the Newport-Inglewood fault, which produced the devastating 1933 Long Beach earthquake.
Quake safety concerns prompted the MTA to move its proposed subway station south, to Constellation Boulevard, where officials said there was no evidence of earthquake faults.
To put it a different way, the state has published maps that show the general location of known earthquake faults. But it’s often up to cities and/or developers to map those faults more precisely — and some apparently do not. In the case of the subway, Metro did the work — although both the Beverly Hills school district and City Council has challenged the veracity of the Metro effort.
The Wall Street Journal puts it this way in a story on the controversy over whether proposed skyscrapers in Hollywood sit atop the Hollywood Fault:
Since 1972, California law has banned building directly on top of active earthquake faults capable of rupturing the surface. Such faults could rip buildings apart as the two sides of the fault slide past each other in a quake.
But state geologists, charged with mapping thousands of miles of active faults, still haven’t mapped them all—including the Hollywood fault—which has left L.A. city officials to rely on older and less-detailed maps to make decisions about development.
Of course, both stories need some perspective. Despite the many earthquake faults running under California — both known and unknown — the state has successfully weathered many earthquakes.
That said, there have been notable examples of horrific damage to both human life and property: the 1994 Northridge quake killed 60, the 1989 Loma Prieta quake killed 63 in the Bay Area, the 1971 Sylmar quake killed 65, the 1933 Long Beach quake killed 115 and the 1906 San Francisco quake killed approximately 3,000 people, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Thinking outside the rail on transit (PublicCEO.com)
Writer and long-time critic of rail transit and density, Joel Kotkin takes another stab at persuading the masses that we’re dumb for building transit. His argument this time: not enough people work in downtown L.A., transit won’t solve traffic jams and that transit really only works in cities in the eastern U.S.
Of course, his arguments are easy to counter: downtown L.A. remains the region’s number one job center (perhaps the tall buildings and crowds at Union Station and 7th/Metro Center and on buses are just a coincidence), transit doesn’t solve traffic jams in most major world cities (see: Moscow, New York, Chicago, London, etc.) and that the reason rail transit carries so many people in the eastern U.S. is that those cities have exponentially more miles of rail than cities west of the Mississippi River.
The money from the Wasserman Foundation should be enough to help pay for CicLAvia events over the next two years. That’s great news!