School Board will Vote Tonight on Study to See if Earthquake Faults Still Threaten San Rafael Elementary School

Published : Thursday, May 21, 2015 | 2:40 PM

The Pasadena Board of Education will vote at tonight’s meeting on a request from the District’s Facility Staff to hire engineers to conduct preliminary soil analysis which could lead to “trenching” and further research into the earthquake faults near San Rafael Elementary School. Ultimately, these tests could lead to reversing an earlier decision to close the school.

Earlier examinations – which were not nearly as thorough – concluded the school was too close to identified earthquake faults to be renovated under current state laws. The School Board had ordered the school to be closed and students transferred over neighborhood objections.

This new request initiates new fault examinations to determine the age of the earthquake-related the geology. If sufficiently ancient and proven to have shown no activity for 10,000 years or more, the school may actually qualify to be safely renovated. In that scenario, the School Board could reverse its decision to close San Rafael and proceed with expansion at the current location.

Of the request Thursday night is approved, Pasadena Unified will start preliminary testing this month to begin determining the exact age of the faults. The first phase of the process would cost $16,920.

In 2012 an extensive fault rupture investigation was conducted at the San Rafael School site in preparation for modernization projects under the Measure TT facilities bond. As part of the initial and more extensive testing, it was found that there appeared to be four active earthquake faults on the school property, with an approximately 90% probability for each one existing and being active (exhibiting evidence of seismic activity at some point within the past 11,700 years).

With this discovery the board was provided information that the Department of State Architect will not allow or approve plans to move forward with any modernization or upgrades on any school facility that is within 50 feet of any earthquake faults. It is important to note that the San Rafael Elementary School site meets Field Act standards, which are more stringent for K-12 public schools than for any other buildings, including homes and businesses.

In the wake of the discovery of faults, a 7-11 Surplus Property Advisory Committee was convened in 2014. The committee recognized the strong desire in the community to maintain a school on the San Rafael campus and recommended the continuation of seismic investigation to determine if the identified faults or anomalies are active or not. The preliminary tests that are about to begin are in line with the committee’s primary recommendation. These tests, which will likely lead to trenching on the school campus, will determine with 99% certainty whether or not the faults are active. Any trenching would be limited to the San Rafael campus and take place during the school’s summer recess. If determined to be inactive, the district would be able to proceed with the modernization of the school.

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