Top management with the Division of the State Architect – the chief regulator of school construction – for years did nothing about nearly 1,100 building projects that its own supervisors had red-flagged. Safety defects were logged and then filed away without follow-up from the state. — Corey G. Johnson, California Watch
In the wake of the arrest of AI Weiwei, his objections and criticism regarding school construction safety in China were not taken lightly by anyone including the Chinese people and the Chinese government.
A similar case is unfolding in the State of California. California Watch is covering a multitude of reports regarding lax and or missing inspections, missing safety certificates, unethical conflicts of interest and at least one state inspector having a felony conviction in a construction safety case.
The California Watch report breaks down the overall state of affairs in three categories: 'lax oversight,' 'troubled inspectors' and 'repair money blocked.'
Lax Oversight: At least 20,000 projects in the State of California have not received their final safety certifications making that six out of ten schools having at least one certified building project.
"As the state architect’s office relaxed its oversight, the office became closely aligned with the industry it regulates. Government officials became members of a lobbying group for school construction firms; mingled at conferences, golf tournaments and dinners; and briefed the lobbying group’s clients at monthly meetings. The state even told its employees that taxpayers would foot the bill for their membership dues." --Lax oversight of school construction raises doubts about earthquake safety, California Watch
Troubled Inspectors: In addition to the inspector previously convicted of a felony charge, whom pleaded no contest to conspiracy to obstruct justice, nearly 300 other inspectors have been cited by the state for 'work-related deficiencies.' Under the Field Act, California law requires a special certification in order to inspect school and community college building. These inspectors, who work for the Division of the State Architect, are paid between $70 to $100 dollars an hour.
Acting State Architect Howard Smith has said in an interview that there is room for improvement but is generally effective.
Repair Money Blocked: Stringent thresholds have left many of the state's 7500 buildings unable to claim a piece of a $200 million fund created in order to repair and certify the State's troubled buildings. The report shows that, out of all of the schools in California, only about 3 dozen schools qualified for the funding. What is especially worse is that only two of the schools have received any funding-- "San Ramon Valley High School received $3.6 million to build a new gym, and Piedmont High School was awarded $1 million for two renovation projects."
"The Schwarzenegger administration eventually settled on areas that could expect ground movement of at least 1.7g – far more powerful, Zoback said, than the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 and the Northridge quake in 1994. The administration also restricted the types of buildings that could qualify for money." -- Restrictive rules keep schools from state’s seismic repair fund, California Watch
To read the full reports, click here to view the extensive collection of articles, publications and an interactive map of all of the schools in question.