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Frequently asked questions

  1. My school is near a seismic hazard, is on the AB 300 list or has uncertified projects. Does this mean it won’t withstand an earthquake?
  2. What are the different types of uncertified projects?
  3. Your story says there are at least 20,000 uncertified projects. Are these all included in the interactive map?
  4. The original AB 300 report says there are 9,659 buildings listed. Why are the numbers in your interactive database different?
  5. Why is my school showing up in the wrong location? How do I get that fixed?
  6. What is a landslide or landslide zone?
  7. I know there are liquefaction and landslide zones in my area. Why aren’t they showing up on the map?
My school is near a seismic hazard, is on the AB 300 list or has uncertified projects. Does this mean it won’t withstand an earthquake?

Earthquake damage is hard to predict. Generally, proximity to a seismic hazard does not necessarily mean that a building won’t withstand an earthquake, but it does mean that the structure must be constructed to resist greater seismic forces to ensure safety.

The AB 300 list represents school buildings that were built when the laws didn’t require a stronger design. These buildings generally are more vulnerable because of their age, structural design and location relative to active earthquake faults. Of the 9,659 buildings on the AB 300 list, about 7,500 were deemed by the state as potentially hazardous and in need of a detailed structural evaluation. If your school has buildings on the list, we recommend you talk with your school district officials to learn more about whether an evaluation has been done.

A school that has projects lacking Field Act certification either has known, unresolved safety issues (Letter 4) or is missing important documents that verify the safety of the construction (Letter 3). The Field Act earthquake safety building requirements were developed to help ensure that K-12 schools stood the best chance of withstanding an earthquake.

An uncertified project could include seismic safety problems or issues with other building requirements, including fire and life safety and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. If you want more information about a school’s uncertified project, we recommend you contact the Division of the State Architect or the actual school district and request records detailing the reasons why the project was rejected for approval.

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What are the different types of uncertified projects?

When a project nears completion, the state architect’s office is supposed to certify that the construction meets state safety guidelines. This certification comes in the form of a letter. Here are some common types of certification letters the office can issue:

Letter 4: Closeout Without Certification Due to Safety-Related Deficiencies. The state is supposed to issue these letters when a project has known, unresolved safety issues. The state had issued nearly 1,100 of these letters as of late 2010. But the state architect’s office began changing the status of hundreds of these building projects without visiting school sites.

Letter 3: Closeout Without Certification Due to Exceptions. If a project is missing documents that suggest safety problems, the state can issue one of these letters. California Watch found at least 20,000 schools that have been closed out without certification.

Letter 2: Certificate of Compliance Without Receipt of All Documents. This letter can be issued by the state, even if a project lacks some of the documentation typically required to close out a construction project.

Letter 1: Closeout with Certification. This letter is given to projects that meet state safety guidelines.

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Your story says there are at least 20,000 uncertified projects. Are these all included in the interactive map?

Not at this time.

Our interactive includes only projects that were at one point certified Letter 4. The state is supposed to issue these letters when a project has known, unresolved safety issues in construction. During the course of our reporting, we came across projects that had been changed to other letters (1, 2 or 3). Despite these changes by the state architect’s office, some of these projects nevertheless appeared to have unresolved questions about construction defects. As a result, we included all projects that had ever been certified Letter 4, regardless of their current status.

Also, the data provided by the state architect’s office had major problems and inaccuracies. The interactive map includes only the 785 Letter 4 projects that California Watch could match to an existing school site. For the most complete information, download the raw spreadsheet and contact your school district. Here is information on how to follow up with your district.

Learn more about how California Watch developed the interactive map.

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The original AB 300 report says there are 9,659 buildings listed. Why are the numbers in your interactive database different?

There are a few reasons.

First, our interactive database counts projects, not buildings, to be more consistent with the other data presented.

Second, the data provided by the state architect’s office had major problems and inaccuracies. The interactive map includes only the 2,829 AB 300 projects that California Watch could match to an existing school site. There are 1,466 projects we could not match. For the most complete information, download the raw spreadsheets and contact your school district. Here is information on how to follow up with your district.

After the AB 300 list was compiled in 2002, the Division of the State Architect began working to update the list in 2008. Some buildings were removed because there were duplicate entries, the school district could find no record of them, the buildings were never constructed, or the building had been demolished or sold. According to the state, this accounted for 717 buildings. California Watch did not include these entries in the database. Further, the process of finding reliable addresses for buildings on the AB 300 list was a massive undertaking. Even after calling 300 school districts, we could not identify all of the buildings listed.

Learn more about how California Watch developed the interactive map.

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Why is my school showing up in the wrong location? How do I get that fixed?

Schools have been placed on the map using coordinates provided by the California Geological Survey. California Watch has adjusted the location of some schools that had obviously been misplaced, but you might still find some location errors. If you find that your school is showing up in the wrong location, please e-mail seismic@cironline.org with the current address, and we will do our best to fix it promptly.

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What is a landslide or landslide zone?

A landslide is a movement of surface material down a slope, sometimes caused by an earthquake. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake generated thousands of landslides throughout the region.

Like an Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone and a liquefaction zone, a landslide zone places restrictions on building projects in the area. A site-specific study must be completed before a building permit is approved within this zone.

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I know there are liquefaction and landslide zones in my area. Why aren’t they showing up on the map?

Liquefaction zone data is available only for the Bay Area and parts of Southern California (including parts of Riverside, Orange, Ventura and Los Angeles counties).

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