Jefferson Junior High School was one of 28 schools destroyed or damaged in the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. Archive photo.

Long Beach is working to prepare a database that will catalog the seismic safety of roughly 3,000 buildings, but the effort has been slower this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The project comes as a 4.6 magnitude earthquake based in El Monte rattled the region Sept. 18 and was felt in Long Beach and as far as Catalina.

The initial effort, which launched last year, was estimated to take about two years to complete, but city officials, including Mayor Robert Garcia who, in a city council meeting in July 2019, had urged staffers to work faster.

In an interview this week, Development Services Director Oscar Orci said the city had planned this year to begin building an inventory that would log the potential vulnerability of thousands of structures in the event of an earthquake.

However, the process is still in the planning phase because the COVID-19 closures and health orders make it difficult for engineers to enter some buildings, he said.

But the good news, Orci said, is that the city is wrapping up the first phase of the project that includes a comprehensive report of what other cities and counties have done for similar databases. The city council is expected to review the report later this year or early next year and then the city can start the inventory phase.

The project will take several months to complete and will include engineers mapping and inspecting up to 3,500 older buildings, including residential and commercial structures.

Orci said an extensive seismic safety database will help the city decide how to move forward in retrofitting some of the most vulnerable buildings.

“Our approach has been very careful, very methodical and very thorough,” he said.

Some California cities—including San Francisco, Santa Monica, Burbank, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills—have moved forward with mandatory retrofit ordinances. Los Angeles has had a mandatory retrofit ordinance since 2015 that covers more than 15,000 buildings.

Long Beach had a mandatory retrofit ordinance in late 1990s that covered more than 600 residential structures built before 1934. The effort, however, was problematic as many property owners did not do the necessary repairs and were subsequently sued by the city.

Based off the database, Long Beach could consider a new type of mandatory ordinance or some type of incentive program, but that will be up to the City Council, Orci said.

Long Beach is the site of Southern California’s deadliest earthquake, when in 1933 a 6.4 quake killed about 120 people and caused $40 million damage.

Last year, a Harvard University study found that a fault line that runs deep under the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, called the Wilmington blind-thrust, is active and could potentially cause a large-scale quake.

Source: City of Long Beach

The city in a news release on Thursday reminded residents that September is National Preparedness Month. The city offers several preparedness resources on its website, including an emergency planning guide and tips to develop a family communications plan.

Residents also are encouraged to sign-up for Alert Long Beach to receive emergency notifications.