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Earthquake: New program offers money to help homeowners retrofit

An unbolted cripple wall home that collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake.
An unbolted cripple wall home that collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake.

A new program launches today to help homeowners around L.A. get ready for the next big quake.

The Governor’s Office along with the California Earthquake Authority will be giving out grants of up to $3,000 to retrofit single-family, wood frame houses built before 1979.

Some of these home, especially those built before the 1940s, are sitting on their foundations with nothing bur gravity keeping them in place.

That means if a big quake strikes, they could slide off and collapse.

Janiele Maffei with the California Earthquake Authority says that’s exactly what happened to a number of homes during last summer’s quake in Napa.

"I would say that the majority of the significant damage in Napa were to these older homes that had cripple walls that were not properly retrofitted or perhaps not retrofitted at all.”

She estimates that around L.A., as many as 1 in 10 single family homes built before the 1940's share this vulnerability.

To address this, the California Earthquake Authority and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services created the California Residential Mitigation Program, or CRMP.

CRMP is funded by money collected from insurance premiums paid to the California Earthquake Authority, which is a state created company that offers quake insurance to homeowners.

The retrofit program, known as Earthquake Brace and Bolt, will offer funds to help 575 homeowners in 26 zip codes shore up their structures.

Residents in parts of L.A., Pasadena and Santa Monica are able to apply, as are some homeowners in San Francisco, Oakland and San Leandro.

"Those cities were chosen because we looked at the areas with the greatest potential for damage with respect to shaking," explained Sheri Aguirre with CRMP.

CEA's Maffei says there are plans to expand the retrofit grant program to more areas later in the year.

Last year, the CEA tested out a pilot program to gauge interest in financial aid for this sort of retrofit.

However, of ten candidates selected around L.A., only eight completed the work. Ten homes in the Bay Area were also chosen and only two finished the retrofits.

"We are not quite sure just exactly why people drop out, sometimes it's for personal reasons, sometimes perhaps financial."

Retrofits of this kind can end up costing thousands more than the $3,000 grant covers, and in such cases homeowners would need to pay the difference out of their own pockets.

Interested homeowners can see if they qualify and apply for the grants at the Earthquake Bolt and Brace site between January 15 and February 15.