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News: Legislative Updates

SEAOC Legislative Committee Update - AB 1857 and AB 2681

Wednesday, February 28, 2018  

By Ryan Kersting, S.E., Chair of SEAOC Legislative Committee

The SEAOC Legislative Committee has had a very busy start to the 2018 California legislative session. Before diving into the specifics, it is worth starting with a little background.

The SEAOC Legislative Committee consists of voting members from each SEAOC region and is charged with monitoring legislation and regulations at the state level (and sometimes federal level) in order to provide recommendations to the SEAOC Board for the Board to consider what action and/or formal position SEAOC will take, if any, and what assistance might be requested from the SEAOC technical committees. (Any formal positions on statewide legislation are taken by the SEAOC Board, and not by any SEAOC technical committee, any regional board, or any regional committee.) The SEAOC Legislative Committee arrives at recommendations to the Board by considering input from the appropriate technical committee(s) and coordinating that input with additional non-technical, public policy, and/or political aspects of the issue under consideration. When a position is taken by the SEAOC Board, the SEAOC Legislative Committee is usually then also charged with disseminating, implementing, and advocating for that position. The SEAOC Legislative Committee also seeks collaboration with other professional organizations as much as possible.
At this point in the 2018 legislative cycle, the SEAOC Legislative Committee has been following a number of bills, most notably AB 1857 and AB 2681 which both represent significant opportunities for SEAOC to provide expert opinion regarding improving seismic safety as well as related opportunities for public outreach and education.

AB 1857 was introduced in January by Assembly Member Nazarian and is focused on changing the performance objective for the design of most new buildings from life safety to immediate occupancy (at least based on the language of the bill when it was introduced). Following the process described above and considering input from the SEAOC Seismology, Resilience, and Existing Buildings Committees, SEAOC issued a letter indicating a “support if amended” position. While this letter indicated general support for the concept of increasing the seismic performance objective of our codes and standards for new buildings, the letter requested a dialogue with the author and other interested parties to discuss the specifics of the bill in order for SEAOC to suggest appropriate amendments to improve the technical aspects as well as actual implementation. The SEAOC Legislative Committee has had timely collaboration on this bill with EERI, Dr. Lucy Jones, and others that has resulted in proposed amendments that we feel will significantly benefit the bill. We hope that many of our suggestions will be incorporated in the next version of the bill that we expect will be available by mid-March. The Legislative Committee is continuing to actively participate in additional conversations with Assembly Member Nazarian, his staff, and others as the bill’s language continues to evolve, including giving frequent updates to members of the SEAOC Board, who will ultimately take a final formal position for SEAOC on the bill.

AB 2681 was introduced in February, also by Assembly Member Nazarian, and proposes mandatory inventories and seismic performance evaluations of “potentially vulnerable” existing buildings. The bill is focused on “potentially vulnerable” buildings which meet at least one of a number of criteria, most of which are related to age or type of construction / structural system (soft- or weak-story, non-ductile concrete, pre-Northridge moment frames, etc.). Local agencies would be required to inventory buildings in their jurisdiction and notify owners of buildings that might fall within the “potentially vulnerable” criteria. If true, owners would then be required to obtain a seismic evaluation of their building that reports expected performance in terms of safety, repair cost, and recovery time. The bill does not mandate retrofit, just inventory and follow-up evaluation. The SEAOC Board and Legislative Committee have already been discussing this bill. In addition, SEAOC’s Existing Building and Resilience Committees have been asked to provide technical input. In particular, the SEAOC Board has engaged the Existing Buildings Committee to develop a list of what SEAOC would consider “potentially vulnerable” existing buildings. Once ready, this list will help SEAOC as it reviews statewide legislation such as AB 2681 and be better prepared to assist other related local efforts. SEAOC has not yet taken a position on this bill, and any position taken will follow the process described above. Stay tuned for more updates…

SEAOC members with interest in these or other bills are encouraged to contact their local members on the SEAOC Legislative Committee, SEAOC Legislative Committee chair Ryan Kersting, or SEAOC Executive Director Don Schinske.