District to vote to approve further projects despite concerns
By Brian Villalba
The LACCD Board of Trustees will vote today to approve the DLR Group for architectural design despite the fact that DLR Group has produced two buildings at ELAC that the California Division of State Architect did not certify as safe, E1 and G1.
The Administration and Student Services buildings at East Los Angeles College are potentially unsafe because the Division of State Architect did not certify them. Because the buildings are not certified, ELAC and members of the Board of Trustees are liable for the safety of the buildings during an earthquake.
A PowerPoint document from Los Angeles Community College District presentation last spring says that board members carry personal liability for buildings that do not receive certification.
DLR Group is an architectural design firm that was awarded 34 projects from the Measure A/AA and J Initiative program. Measure A/AA and J Initiative were the bond initiatives that provided the funding for all of the construction at ELAC during the last few years.
DLR Group totaled more than $29 million in revenue from the measure according to the LACCD.
Once the California DSA is notified that a newly constructed building is going to be occupied, they inspect it. They determine if the building is safe to occupy and certify. ELAC’s E1 and G1 buildings were not certified.
The policy of the DSA is to allow 90 days for the architect of record, ELAC and DLR Group to correct the issues. If the issue has not been resolved after the 90 day period, the liability for the lack of certification of the building transfers to ELAC and the Board of Trustee members.
DLR Group continues to be considered for future projects for the LACCD. This is in violation of LACCD rules that require the Board of Trustees to provide no new work opportunities, and to withhold payment to those whom are involved in projects that go past the 90 day period without certification.
The primary reason for this rule is to protect the LACCD and ELAC from liability for buildings that DSA determines uncertifiable. According to the California State Auditor, the DSA has had trouble enforcing the compliance with regulations.
“There is no way the building isn’t compliant with the Field Act if there are people in it.” Vice President of Plant Facilities Tom Furukawa said.
The Field Act was created to found the DSA and to regulate the construction of schools so they can withstand earthquakes and protect the students in California schools.
According to the CSA, as of December 2010 there were about 16,400 uncertified projects in the State.
Compliance with the California Field Act is important because no building that was certified to be compliant with the Field Act has ever collapsed from an earthquake.
According to a CSA report on the DSA, “the division has failed to effectively document its determinations about the risk level of uncertified projects or to use these determinations to guide its approach to following up on those projects.
Without well-documented decisions and a meaningful classification system, the division risks miscommunicating the true risks associated with uncertified projects.”
The Administration Building was estimated to cost just more than $6 million to complete. The end cost was just more than $15 million.
According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, the costs of compliance range between 3 and 4 percent of the total cost of the building.
The Administration building cost increase was more than 100 percent over the estimate. One of the penalties for a building that does not receive certification is that payment is supposed to be stopped by the LACCD.
DLR Group continues to be considered for future proposals even though they have produced uncertified buildings for ELAC.