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Loma Prieta quake four years later: $100 million still needed

STANFORD -- Four years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, university officials are trying to come up with two- thirds of the $158 million they still need to repair and brace campus buildings, President Gerhard Casper told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Oct. 14.

"It is quite shocking that we should be in this sorry state," Casper said, explaining that efforts to repair still-closed buildings have been complicated by difficulties in dealing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"FEMA has been excruciatingly difficult and bureaucratic in the way in which they have dealt with us," he said, but Stanford is not alone. Other entities in California have suffered the same fate, and even government buildings in San Francisco are still in limbo. "The extent of the problem is really extraordinary," Casper said.

Responding to letters received from faculty in French and Italian, who lost their office and classroom space in Language Corner, and geologists, who were forced out of Geology Corner, Casper sought to "reassure every member of the senate and every member of the faculty that we have not forgotten the earthquake damage."

Casper said that the most urgent need is to repair the west wing of Green Library, a project expected to cost $35 million. Green West, built in 1919 as Stanford's Main Library, was used before the earthquake as an annex to new Green Library, housing technical services and the Department of Special Collections (including University Archives and rare book collections).

Also high on the repair list, Casper said, are Language Corner, at a cost of $11.5 million, and Geology Corner, at $10.6 million. The Stanford Museum will cost about $29 million to repair and improve, of which $20 million has been committed by donors.

Several other buildings also are damaged, and others that are not damaged will be strengthened in the next seven years in compliance with a county ordinance on unreinforced masonry buildings.

About $62 million is available in reserves, gifts and commitments from FEMA - although "no commitment from FEMA is ever really firm," Casper said. That leaves a gap of almost $100 million for the reconstruction and bracing projects.

Fund raising will be one of the avenues for closing that gap, Casper said.

"We are now developing a strategy with advice from senior alumni and friends of Stanford," he said.

"The bad news is that construction on any of the main projects is not likely to begin very soon."

Casper said repairs would start "the minute we feel comfortable about either having raised the money or being able to raise the money or having found the right balance between indebtedness and new sources of money."

Working with FEMA

From the beginning, Stanford facilities officials expected the Federal Emergency Management Agency would help to cover the cost of reopening quake-damaged buildings. The agency was created and funded by Congress to help public and private entities - local governments, public schools, individual homeowners and non-profit institutions - recover from natural disasters.

By law, FEMA is supposed to fund 75 percent of what it assesses the damage to be. For Stanford and other non-profit institutions and government agencies, the money would be in the form of grants.

Stanford has asked the agency to underwrite minimum repairs that would enable the university to reopen buildings, consistent with county building codes. The university would pay for any improvements, such as adding air conditioning to the museum.

The agency, on the other hand, has been saying that its obligation is only to put buildings back to what it calls their pre- earthquake condition. That could be achieved, FEMA officials said earlier, by injecting epoxy-grouting into the visible cracks in buildings, a solution that the top county building official says does not meet minimum building codes.

Casper told the senate that "in recent weeks we may have reached some consensus with FEMA" in resolving several of the major outstanding issues. "I am beginning to be moderately optimistic," he said.

Delaying the process, Casper said, is the "extreme complexity of this agency."

Casper cited a recent report from the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee supporting Stanford and other Northern California entities: "The committee is concerned with FEMA's lack of progress in settling claims from the Loma Prieta earthquake. It is the hope of the committee that FEMA will move expeditiously to resolve these claims so that the buildings can be repaired and reoccupied."

So far, FEMA has reimbursed the university about $12 million for initial cleanup, modulars, small repairs on 135 buildings and part of the bill for repairing the Graduate School of Business.

Building roundup

The Oct. 17, 1989, earthquake damaged 242 buildings at Stanford, more than 20 of them seriously.

Structures repaired in the past four years include Memorial Church (done entirely with private donations); the Graduate School of Business; Quad Buildings 300, 310 and 370; and the east and west entry portals in the Quad. Damaged student residences are now reoccupied, except for Cooksey House, which is slated for reconstruction. (Synergy House was bulldozed and Delta Tau Delta, slated for demolition, was burned down by an arsonist.)

In addition to the back Quad corners, Green West and the museum, closed structures include Building 30, Terman Annex Engineering Lab in Building 500 and Hanna House (the provost's residence).

The Anatomy/Health Research and Policy building behind the museum is closed and eventually may be razed. The third floor of the Knoll and the Art Gallery Bookstore also are closed, as is Tower House on Escondido Road.

Old Chemistry and the south and east wings of Encina Hall were condemned and closed before the quake. No restoration plans are under consideration.

In the past two to three years, university officials have completed several projects on the list of 40 unreinforced masonry buildings not damaged in the earthquake. Occupants of Building 1 moved back in last spring.

Now in the design phase, and due for bracing in 1994, are Buildings 20, 80, 530 and 610.

Building 10, where Casper's office is located, is midway down the list of 32 remaining seismic bracing projects. If not done in time, Casper joked at the senate, "in the next earthquake, Building 10 will collapse on the provost and me and other people working there."

Self-insurance; preparation

Following Casper's presentation, biological sciences Professor Robert Simoni asked about the university's earthquake self-insurance program.

Casper responded that "self-insurance in this particular area was a euphemism for no insurance." But given the choice between no insurance and paying premiums, "no insurance was a better choice. The premiums would have been so overwhelming, they would have been a tremendous burden on the operating budget."

Stanford carried earthquake insurance between 1980 and 1985, when insurance companies canceled the policy. University officials then began setting aside an earthquake reserve - dubbed self-insurance - which had reached only $3.4 million by 1989.

Casper said that he and Provost Condoleezza Rice have been "dismayed" about the state of reserve funds to deal with natural disasters and deferred maintenance, which have been depleted in recent budget cuts.

Economist John Shoven, who is dean of humanities and sciences, told the senate that "given the terms I've seen, it was a sensible decision" to go without insurance. He said the policy would specify a $100 million deductible and the premium would cost $5 million annually.

"We haven't settled with FEMA," Shoven said. "We probably wouldn't have settled with a private insurance company either. We are stuck with the risk we have, we need to be prudent about it, but I don't think it was a mistake" to go without insurance.

Simoni agreed that it was not a mistake, but wondered what would happen "if we're hit with another $100 million damage repair bill."

Saying it is "so wonderful to have an economist in the senate," Casper yielded again to Shoven.

"Probably the must prudent thing we can do to prepare for the next quake," Shoven said, "is to move as fast as we can toward upgrading buildings rather than building a fund to fix the buildings that weren't adequately prepared.

"Obviously, we won't be able to get to a zero-damage state, but I think we can get to a much better state within a few years," he said.

Casper pointed out to the senate that Shoven "is in a building that has just been seismically braced" - Building 1.

To wide laughter, Shoven thanked Casper for the work that was done.

Casper concluded the discussion by saying that "if another earthquake hits us, that would be an act of God, and only God knows how we are going to cope with it."



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