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Many California courthouse buildings are seismically unsafe, state study says

By in Press Enterprise on May 18, 2017

By Sean Emery

More than 140 courthouses across California are seismically unsafe, including one in Hemet, a study commissioned by state officials determined.

And fixing just the worst dozen would cost more than $300 million.

In a serious earthquake, 145 courthouses could face “substantial” structural damage, “extensive” non-structural damage and “substantial” risk to the life of those in the buildings, says the study, presented Wednesday to a committee with the Judicial Council, which sets policy for California courts.

Glendale Superior and Municipal Courthouse received a seismic risk rating of 44.2, the highest in the state and among a dozen facilities considered very high risk. The report used seismic-risk ratings developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

The most-troubled facility in Riverside County, at the high-risk level, was the Hemet Courthouse, with an 8.2 seismic rating. The worst in San Bernardino County, at the same level, was the Victorville Courthouse, which received a 4.3 rating.

The Hemet Courthouse, which handles civil cases, was built in 1969 and renovated twice. The cost to repair the 32,000-square-foot building would be between $11.5 million and $14.6 million, according to the report.

Plans are to close the facility when the new Mid-County Civil Courthouse is constructed in Menifee. When the project was announced in 2015, construction was scheduled to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2021.

However, Cathal Conneely, public information officer for the Judicial Council of California, said Wednesday that the project has been put on hold. While design work has continued, there is no funding to build it.

“During the fiscal crisis $1.4 billion was taken from the construction fund to pay for other state services and hasn’t been returned, so the fund is depleted,” Conneely wrote in an email.

He noted that there is a plan to conduct “Renovation Feasibility Studies” to determine what can be done with existing courthouses. While […]    

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