Several Biola apartments at risk for collapse in earthquake

Biola’s apartments may be unsafe in a strong earthquake.

Katie Nelson, Writer

A recent earthquake safety study performed by engineering firm Saiful Bouquet has shown that three of Biola’s student apartments on Rosecrans Avenue are at high risk for major damage in the event of a severe earthquake. Lido Mirada, Beachcomber and Rosecrans 4 were all deemed high risk out of the possibilities of high, medium and low, according to Brian Phillips, senior director of facilities services. The discovery came after a seismic study was performed on all residence halls.

Biola hired Saiful Bouquet to perform an inspection of the campus several years ago, Phillips explained. In addition to the initial inspection, Phillips decided to do a more thorough testing of residence halls and apartments.

“We just decided it would be a good idea to have a seismic engineer do a thorough inspection on our campus and have an emergency inspection plan in place, in case of a large earthquake,” he said.

The seismic retrofit engineer who performed the study, Robert Randall of Saiful Bouquet, declined to comment on the matter, citing contractor-client privilege.


The issue stems mainly from the structure of the apartments, which all feature tuck-under parking garages, meaning that the garages are built into the structure with living units settled on top of them. This design can cause the apartments above them to have weaker foundations, according to Phillips. These weaker foundations could cause part or all of a building to not be fully stable if severely disturbed, possibly affecting the more than 100 inhabitants of the three buildings combined.

“There are some issues with the apartments on Rosecrans that we will have to address,” said Greg Balsano, vice president of university services. “In the right kind of earthquake, that area would be weak and could collapse; not the whole building, but the apartment above [the parking garage].”


Apartments built prior to 1975 are generally most in need of reinforcement building materials due to the incorporation of building safety codes in the 1960s, according to a report by the Seismic Retrofitting & Structural Engineers Association. In a recent search, the apartments on Rosecrans Avenue were reported as built in the 1950s.

The label “high risk” is based generally on how close a building is to active faults, according to Bob Glasgow, a structural engineer at Los Angeles-based, seismic engineering firm Miyamoto International. A map by the State of California Department of Conservation shows that the Whittier Fault runs near Biola, making it a potential target for major damage should a large earthquake strike.

Glasgow mentioned that buildings located in seismic areas like Los Angeles County are often at risk, especially if the building is older.

In order to protect a building, seismic retrofitting is often the best option, according to Glasgow. This is the process of stabilizing a building with tuck-under parking using structural anchors, among other methods.

“There are several ways to address the issue,” he said. “In some cases, there might be a case where we could actually put a shear wall element on each end of the building to tie the whole thing together across the front. That’s a pretty cost-effective way to embrace the tuck-under parking level.”

Phillips clarified that there is no law requiring a high-risk building to be retrofitted. However, after the massive earthquake in Northridge in 1994, many building owners began retrofitting as a means of prevention.

The three Biola apartments at high risk are going to be retrofitted over the summer, Balsano said. Facilities Services has not yet chosen an engineer.

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