New Fire Dormitories on Shaky Ground?

During discussions about constructing a new fire station in 2006 and 2007, questions were raised several times about whether the existing dormitories could just be replaced with new modulars. Below are the Official questions and answers regarding the fire dorm housing, released by the City in May 2007.

City Staff said that replacing the dorms with new modulars was not possible because the soils had been found to be unstable in an earthquake and would have to be remediated at a large expense, with excavation and recompaction of 4-8 feet.

The dormitories are considered an "Essential Services Building" and are held to higher standards in construction.

Soils Studies

In an October 2006 report to the City, the contracted engineering firm said that the City Hall/Fire Station site is more stable ground than the West Rd site, but that the western portion was potenially weaker. (see excerpt below) In design plans for a new Fire Station, the Station was placed close to Hacienda Rd to be on the stable eastern portion of the site. The current dormitory site was to be used for parking.

During questioning of the firm's Principal Engineer in March 2010, he said there is currently insufficient data to know what, if anything, needs to be done with the soil to install the modulars, he said to check and qualify the stability of the site where the building will be under design seismic conditions, and slope analysis.

He said a boring as close as possible to the building be done, and laboratory analysis to determine soil composition and stability.

He repeated the qualifying word used in his report "may". There "may" need to be overexcavation and compaction.

While the soils at city hall site are better than the Hacienda and West site, more study still needs to be done.

Council Awards Bid

The City Council awarded the Dormitory Replacement Project at the February 11, 2010 City Council meeting.

There was no mention in the report of why the soils became stable, when they hadn't been before.

Four of the Five Council Members, who were on the Council when replacing the dormitories was considered economically unfeasible due to the soils remediation needed, did not ask any questions regarding the soils or what happened that now it was alright to replace the dormitories without remediating the soils.

The Bid Specifications do require that the structure meet the "Essential Services Building" requirements. (excerpt below)

However, the Bid Specifications (excerpt below) state that no soils studies were done in relation to the project. No mention was made of the 2006 study excerpted above.

Trouble Ahead?

As of April 2010, the City had no plans to do the borings suggested by the soils engineer.

In contrast, the City requires applicants seeking approval for home projects to do soils studies prior to plan approval.

The 2007 Official City Questions and Answers said there is liability in not remediating the soil, and that an engineer wouldn't sign off on the project without it.
Why wasn't the prior soils report information put in the Bid Specifications, or made available?
Does the contractor installing the Dormitories become liable for the underlying soils?

In August 2009, a lawsuit against the City by a Fire Department Paramedic employee was settled for $375,000.(story here)
What is the potential liability if there is a future firefigher injury in the dormitory during an earthquake?

The Firefighters absolutely deserve new living quarters.

Are corners being cut to provide them?