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Jones Continues on Seismic Commission

August 18, 2005|By Charles Cooper

La Cañada resident Lucy Jones is looking forward to a new term on the state Seismic Safety Commission, after her reappointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jones, probably the most easily recognizable expert on California seismology, directs the United States Geological Survey office in Pasadena, located adjacent to the Caltech Seismology Lab.

Jones has served on the commission since 2002, and was recently given a new four-year term. She chaired the study group the past year.

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"I think we had a pretty good year," Jones said in an interview this week. The commission concentrated its efforts on schools, hospitals and masonry unreinforced buildings.

Schools remain an issue despite the pioneering legislation passed in the 1930s after the Long Beach Earthquake, the Field Act.

"Some of the Field Act work on schools was done nearly 50 years ago," she said. "The state of the art has advanced."

A particular concern is charter schools operating in privately constructed buildings that may not meet current standards, she said.

Masonry unreinforced buildings have been the poster children of seismic reform since the 1930s, but the battle isn't over, Jones said.

"The San Simeon quake in 2003 showed there's a lot [of masonry buildings] still out there," she said. "Pasadena doesn't have any, and La Cañada never did."

Jones said the commission sponsored legislation to require that owners of unreinforced masonry buildings put a sign on them, so tenants and visitors can be informed of the possible risk.

The state is also pursuing long-range efforts to ensure that all hospitals meet current seismic standards. The effort is a costly one for the institutions, she said. Jones said the state is going through a relatively quiet seismic period right now, though California has had thee earthquakes greater than 5 points, with the usual number two a year.

She said the seismic activity in the desert areas below Los Angeles don't mean much. "We haven't found any linkage between them," she said.

Studies are continuing on the San Andreas Fault, and seismologists are preparing for big events next April. On the hundredth anniversary of "the big one," the San Francisco quake of April 18, 1906, seismic groups will gather in the bay city for discussions and panels. Despite the opportunity of having so many experts on the scene, everyone is hoping the centennial is not an earth-shaking event.

The Crescenta-Cañada Valley is well represented on the state commission. In addition to Jones, La Cañada resident Don Manning, former LA fire chief, and La Crescenta resident Andrew Adelman, general manager of the LA building and safety department, are members.

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