Budget cuts put Californians on shaky ground

TORRANCE - A state lawmaker from the Southland is calling on his colleagues to boost funding immediately to map known active earthquake faults --  a safety measure that would keep new construction from being built atop or too close to dangerous faults.

"Allowing buildings that house large numbers of people to be built on or near fault lines is not acceptable," state Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times.

His remarks came after The Times on Monday reported that at least 18 buildings were constructed on or near the Hollywood and Santa Monica faults over the last decade without the rigorous studies that would have been required had the state zoned the two faults. Both faults are well known and capable of producing disastrous earthquakes.

The state's efforts to map active earthquake faults have slowed to a crawl, with many dangerous faults still undocumented, The Times reported. Between 1974 and 1991, California aggressively mapped 534 maps. Then, a series of budget cuts slowed the effort dramatically. Only 23 have been drawn since 1991.

About 300 more maps need to be drawn, including some in heavily populated areas in Southern California. That represents about 2,000 miles of faults statewide.

The slow pace affects public safety. State law bans new construction on top of the fissures because previous quakes have shown that buildings can be severely damaged during violent shaking. If the faults aren't mapped, there's no requirement to enforce the state law at those locations.

"It boggles my mind," Lieu said. "Every day across California, local planning departments are making decisions, and we need to make sure that no future buildings are going to be built on fault lines simply because a map wasn't updated."

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