Hertzberg Announces Details of the Resilient Homes Initiative

The measure, SB 254, will restructure the California Earthquake Authority to finance life-saving retrofits

April 8, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) today released the details of the Resilient Homes Initiative, an effort he announced earlier this year, on the 25th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake.

The legislature created the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) in 1996 to better prepare Californians against the widespread devastation that rocked the Los Angeles region during the Northridge quake. Since their Brace & Bolt program launched in 2014, the CEA has been able to retrofit over 4,000 homes in Los Angeles County alone. But the need is far greater. The Resilient Homes Initiative (SB 254) will make the necessary changes to the CEA’s financial structure to expand mitigation programs.

The Resilient Homes Initiative will enhance CEA’s existing claim-paying capacity by adding a new, lower cost alternative to reinsurance and other existing tools. CEA will in turn make annual payments in exchange for this new capacity, with the funds (estimated to be between $70-$100 million) being devoted to pre-earthquake retrofit and mitigation programs in “High Seismic Risk Zones.”

Simply put, the Initiative will increase funding to dramatically expand the existing Brace & Bolt program, and develop new programs to help households in high-risk areas to meet the urgent need to prepare for the next big earthquake.

Because of the restructured funding, the bill also empowers (but does not require) the CEA to collect small assessments on insurance premiums on policies covering property and risks in the same “High Seismic Risk Zones” only in the event that we encounter an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude and damage.

“We have to be forward-thinking about this so that we aren’t left in financial, and literal, ruin when the next big earthquake strikes,” said Majority Leader Hertzberg. “Expanding residential retrofits could be the difference between life and death, and could prevent California families from losing everything.”

“We know that California will be hit again someday by a powerful, damaging earthquake, and a home built prior to 1980 that has not been seismically retrofitted is like a ticking time bomb,” said Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority. “Taking aggressive steps now to strengthen these homes will help save homes and lives when that inevitable day arrives.”

“The work of building a more resilient city and state does not have an end goal — it’s a never-ending pursuit,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I support the work by Senator Hertzberg and the California Earthquake Authority to expand the successful brace and bolt program that has already helped thousands of Angelenos plan and prepare for inevitable earthquakes.”  

"California is already facing a major housing crisis,” said Lucy Jones, Founder & Chief Scientist of Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science & Society. “Many of the homes across the State were built to earlier building codes with significant weaknesses that we know will cause problems when a big earthquake occurs near them. The State needs to get those buildings upgraded before an earthquake makes so many homes uninhabitable that many people will be forced to leave."

The amended bill text will be available online later this evening on this website.