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LA seeks census of buildings vulnerable in earthquake
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles officials hope to follow San Francisco's lead in upgrading so-called "soft-story" buildings, those with bottom floors that are susceptible to collapse during an earthquake. Legislation, however, could be years away.

Officials were expected to provide details about a proposed census of LA's soft-story structures at Tuesday's Buildings at Risk conference.

Also this week, LA officials are meeting with San Francisco's earthquake team to get advice on how to proceed in addressing the risks associated with these buildings.

Los Angeles is considering legislation similar to that passed in San Francisco last spring, which requires owners of soft-story apartments to make the structures safer. Such buildings generally have parking on the first floor supported by weak columns.

Estimates show more than 60,000 Los Angeles residents could be left homeless in an earthquake, unless thousands of apartments with weak first floors are reinforced, the Times said.

City officials are now studying the cost and feasibility of such a census, pushed by Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, which could involve thousands of buildings.

Advocates of new quake safety rules in San Francisco faced heavy opposition from property owners and tenants groups, but they were able to make the case that inaction would be more costly in the long run. Still, it took 24 years for regulations to be passed after they were proposed following the destructive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The Times said that instead of forcing owners to strengthen every floor of an apartment — the costly "Maserati" approach — San Francisco pursued the "Toyota" method — keeping the retrofitting confined to the ground story, costing $60,000 to $130,000 per building.

Tenant advocates were unhappy with paying increased rents to help pay for the retrofitting. But they dropped their opposition when they received promises that low-income individuals, like those on food stamps, would be exempt from the higher rents.