State Allocation Board opens seismic funding eligibility

The State Allocation Board adopted new criteria for the seismic mitigation program Wednesday that will provide access to about $200 million in earthquake retrofit bonds.

The board voted to expand the amount of building types that may qualify for seismic funds. They also voted to lower the ground shaking intensity factor, or the GSI index, which is used to measure the predicted degree to which the ground would shake during an earthquake. The GSI factor was lowered from 1.70 to 1.68.

The move is expected to open the programs eligibility to 48 additional school facility projects at an estimated cost to the state of about $167 million.

The remaining $33 million, the board also agreed, to allocate to a new category of projects ones that had been declared an imminent threat in the advent of an earthquake. Under the proposal, which would come back to the board next month, calls for the Division of the State Architect to make the declaration although such a term is not currently in use to allow districts access to support for special circumstances.

The seismic mitigation program was created in 2006 when California voters approved a $199.5 million earmark in Proposition 1D, a multifold school construction bond. But the original criteria for funding eligibility were made so restrictive that it limited the qualifying pool to just 25 buildings.

Out of those 25 sites, only one school has gone through the approval process with the DSA and Office of Public School Construction and actually qualified for the funds. Three others have submitted applications to the DSA.

It is believed that the remaining 21 districts did not step forward because they did not feel they had discretionary matching funds or because they wished to wait until they could coordinate the seismic project along with other planned modernization projects.

But supplying matching funds is not the only perceived financial barrier. It is also believed that some districts feel they cannot afford the ancillary costs involved in a seismic upgrade, such as structural engineer reports and interim student housing while a building is being fixed or replaced.

The vote Wednesday did not provide supplemental funds for interim housing and structural engineer reports, which would have increased expected costs by $14 million.

Buildings that now qualify for the seismic funds will be placed on the Office of Public School Construction unfunded list.

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