Three out of four of San Marino's public schools may have unresolved earthquake safety issues that could result in hazards for students in the event of a large temblor, according to state data.
The data show that seismic safety hazards in San Marino schools may not have been corrected or resolved as required by law. An interactive California Watch map that shows earthquake safety concerns for San Marino public schools can be found here.
"All SMUSD building projects were certified by the Division of the State Architect, who is responsible for the safety of public school buildings," said Assistant Superintendent Julie Boucher via e-mail. "All of our building [sic] were built in compliance with the State of California’s seismic safety standards and they are Field Act Compliant."
But the state data continue to show that SMUSD schools have possible seismic safety concerns:
Carver Elementary seemed to have the most pressing issue. A closeout letter from the Division of the State Architects shows one of its projects failed to meet earthquake certification standards as of February 2010.
The DSA tracker site, which provides the public with the certification status of school projects that occurred from 1998 onward, shows that the same project at Carver was originally given a Letter 4 designation, meaning that it had unresolved seismic safety issues and that the building in question should not be occupied.
That status was later downgraded to a Letter 2 in 2006.
Boucher was unavailable for comment on the closeout letter Patch received this week because the SMUSD is on spring break.
State data also show that Carver lies within a quarter mile of a U.S. Geological Survey fault line and is inside a fault zone, as seen on this map.
Huntington Middle School, meanwhile, had eight projects on a list of buildings that are not expected to withstand future earthquakes and urgently need further structural evaluation to gauge needed repairs—the most of any school in the district. That list, called an AB 300 list, is kept by the state Department of General Services, which was required to conduct a collapse risk inventory of the state’s K-12 buildings under Assembly Bill 300, passed in 1999.
The state architect's website shows that an HMS project was downgraded from a Letter 4 to a Letter 2 in 2004. The school lies within a quarter mile of an AP fault zone, shown on this map.
San Marino High School has two projects on the AB 300 list.
The state architect's tracker website shows that SMHS had a building project that was closed without certification and given a Letter 4 in August 2002.
SMHS is also inside an AP fault zone and is within a quarter mile of a USGS fault line, shown here.
Valentine Elementary had no schools on the AB 300 list or any uncertified schools, but it is within a quarter mile of an AP fault zone as seen on this interactive map.
When San Marino Patch contacted the San Marino Unified School District last week, Assistant Superintendent Julie Boucher insisted all of the district's buildings adhere to current standards. When asked via phone message for documents that show the current safety status of certain building projects in question, Boucher called back and referred Patch to the DSA's Web site that tracks aspects--including seismic safety--of public school projects.
When Patch later spoke on the phone directly with Boucher, Patch informed her that information on older building projects cannot be accessed on the DSA tracker site so Patch needed the district to provide the actual documents. Patch then sent her an e-mail with the project information needed for her to look for the documents and reiterated that those projects were not on the DSA site.
"The District’s seismic upgrades of all buildings was addressed during our Bond Projects construction and modernization (1998-2006)," Boucher replied via e-mail Friday afternoon. "The OPSC and DSA websites both show the SMUSD projects completed during this time."
The site for the Office of Public School Contruction (OPSC), which mostly shows the financial breakdown for projects, did not provide information on any of the projects in question. Again, the building projects Patch asked Boucher about could not be accessed on the DSA site, since they were pre-1998.
San Marino Patch is requesting documents from the DSA and will continue to request documents from the school district when they return from spring break next week to verify the most current status of these projects. DSA said the most current, accurate information is found in documents that may not yet have been processed into the DSA online tracker system. Some requested documents can take at least two weeks to receive, DSA told Patch. If DSA is still using a document they said they will allow someone to review it, but that would need to take place at a DSA regional office, in this case, the Los Angeles Regional Office.
A 19-month California Watch investigation, which was released Thursday, uncovered holes in the state's enforcement of seismic safety regulations for public schools.
California began regulating school architecture for seismic safety in 1933 with the Field Act, but data taken from the Division of the State Architect’s Office shows 20,000 school projects statewide never got final safety certifications. In the crunch to get schools built within the last few decades, state architects have been lax on enforcement, California Watch reported.
A separate inventory completed nine years ago found 7,500 seismically risky school buildings in the state. Yet, California Watch reports that only two schools have been able to access a $200 million fund for upgrades.
Find out more about Patch's involvement in gathering public school earthquake safety information here.
Find out how to get involved in your local schools' seismic safety here.
This story was produced using data provided to Patch by California Watch, the state's largest investigative reporting team and part of the Center for Investigative Reporting.