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Enforcement of the Field Act: A modern timeline

  • The Division of the State Architect, the chief regulator of building standards for schools, forwards to prosecutors one case in 1994 of a violation of the Field Act. It is the only such case sent to local district attorneys or the state attorney general’s office during the 1990s. Before this, the state had routinely contacted local and state prosecutors if recalcitrant contractors balked at the Field Act.
  • The dramatic decline in the number of schools with Field Act certification begins under Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who favors privatization of many government services. During his term, the state architect’s office is reduced by more than half – from nearly 400 employees to 189. Now, the office has about 300 employees.
  • Because of the increase in school building projects, the state architect’s office begins prioritizing in-office construction plan reviews above all else – including field oversight of building inspectors hired by school districts.
  • The Wilson administration and the Legislature shift nearly $6.5 million from the state architect’s office budget to other uses.
  • The state architect’s office institutes “Close-O-Rama,” authorizing its staff to approve projects under the Field Act, regardless of missing sworn affidavits from architects and engineers or documents proving the installation of fire alarms.
  • California embarks on a massive school construction program with the passage of Proposition 1A, a bond act providing $6.7 billion for K-12 school construction. The state architect’s office fails to keep pace with the school building boom as the number of uncertified projects under the Field Act grows.
  • In response to concerns that public school buildings are not up to contemporary seismic safety standards, the Legislature approves AB 300, requiring the Department of General Services to conduct a seismic safety inventory of all K-12 school buildings. The final report is released in 2002.
  • By the end of the Wilson administration, more than 7,200 school projects are rejected for Field Act certification by the state architect’s office. From then on, the number of uncertified projects skyrockets.
  • Over the course of his term (1999-2003), Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature borrow $35 million from the state architect’s office. The money is paid back by 2003.
  • Voters approve Proposition 39, which makes it easier to pass local school construction bonds by lowering the two-thirds voting requirement down to 55 percent.
  • Voters approve Proposition 47, authorizing $11.4 billion more in school construction bonds.
  • The findings from the AB 300 legislation are released. The report finds 9,659 school buildings in need of detailed structural evaluations. Among them are 7,537 school buildings deemed “likely not to perform well” in an earthquake.
  • Voters approve Proposition 55, allocating $10 billion in bonds for more K-12 school construction.
  • Voters approve Proposition 1D, which allocates $10.4 billion more for public school and college construction projects. The bond measure includes about $200 million for seismic repairs – dramatically short of the $4.7 billion recommended. Fearing a demand from school districts that the state would be unable to meet, the administration of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger creates tough qualifications for the seismic repair money. To date, 77 buildings have qualified and only two schools have received funds. The schools receiving funds are San Ramon Valley High School and Piedmont High School, both in the East Bay.
  • Amid a state budget shortfall, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature borrow $60 million from the state architect’s office. To date, $10 million has been repaid.
  • California Watch begins its investigation in September. By December, the state architect’s office discovers about 20,000 projects that do not meet Field Act standards. An additional 59,000 projects are pending review. The executive staff orders its managers to change the status of school projects that were rejected for safety reasons, to a less alarming status.
  • Schwarzenegger’s office asks Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, to sponsor legislation to disband the Field Act and transfer power over seismic safety to local building officials. Runner ultimately drops his bill after an earthquake strikes Imperial County.
  • Adopting a course favored by the lobbying group Coalition for Adequate School Housing, the state architect’s office proposes eliminating the requirement for contractors to sign “verified reports,” removing a level of accountability.
  • In August, the California Building Standards Commission approves emergency rules to enable mass approval of 20,000 uncertified schools, regardless of whether key documents were lost and without conducting an on-site review to verify safety.
  • In January, California Watch asks about a policy that eliminates the need for building contractors to submit reports verifying their work met state standards. After reporters question the policy, the state architect’s office reverses itself. Once again, the reports are required to be completed by building contractors.

Source: California Watch research

Filed under: K–12, Public Safety


Comments are closed for this story.
anonme's picture
Really it is very unnecessary to ask about the policy that eliminates the Contractors to sign reports verifying that they met state standards. Is it really necessary for the ceramic tile flooring contractor to verify his work is to state standards. This is a little excessive but since there was such a fight to keep that form going, we have unnecessary work to do thank you to the people that have no clue what your meddling does to my workload.

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