Senator Corbett Introduces Legislation to Improve the Safety of School Construction, Protect Kids from Earthquakes

March 5, 2012
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Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (D-San Leandro) has introduced legislation that would examine the shortcomings of the state’s oversight of school construction and recommend changes in procedures and law to ensure new school facilities meet seismic safety standards before being put to use.

Senate Bill 1271 follows up on a December 2011 state audit that found there are significant gaps in the state’s oversight of school construction and seismic safety projects, and that the Division of the State Architect has been inconsistent and ineffective in enforcing the Field Act.

The California Field Act mandates seismic safety standards for the design, construction and renovation of all K-12 public school and community college buildings in the state. The state Legislature passed the Field Act within 30 days of a devastating 1933 earthquake in Long Beach that destroyed or made unusable 230 school buildings in Southern California.

“The audit made clear that the Division of the State Architect has failed to do its job to ensure all new public school facilities are meeting seismic safety standards,” Corbett said. “That is a cause for great concern, in a state known for earthquakes. We must do everything necessary to protect California’s school children and ensure they spend their days in seismically safe facilities.”

“I look forward to working with the state’s new architect to address the past issues of poor oversight,” Corbett added. “This bill establishes a process for a top-to-bottom review to make sure we fully understand what has gone wrong and how to correct it.”

California has more than 15,000 fault lines and experiences more than 37,000 earthquakes, on average, each year. One of the state’s most notorious and potentially dangerous fault lines, the Hayward Fault, runs through Corbett’s East Bay Senate district and the highly populated cities of San Jose, Fremont, Hayward, San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley.

SB 1271 establishes a task force to analyze the findings of the audit, set standards and best practices to improve the state architect’s operation and consider changes in the law to better protect school children from earthquakes.

Corbett is the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery.