The Golden Gate Bridge

Legislation and Public Policy

Here you will read about a series of acts passed by the legislators and changes in the building codes that were lobbied for by Structural Engineers.


Franklin High School (before)

The Field Act was passed one month after the Long Beach Earthquake in 1933. Alarmed over the extensive damage caused by the earthquake and heeding the counsel of the Structural Engineers Associations of Northern and Southern California , the legislature enacted stringent design regulations for public schools. The law originally only governed the construction of new buildings, but was extended to all school buildings by the Garrison Act in 1969. Since passage of the law, no Field Act school has collapsed in an earthquake.


Franklin High School (after)

Under the 1933 Civil Service Act , only state-employed engineers and architects could work on state projects. SEAONC mounted a vigorous campaign in opposition, contending not only that the act cut unfairly into the pool of work available for private enterprise consultants, but also the act also deprived the state of the chance to select from among the most talented and efficient design professionals. SEAONC eventually persuaded members of the Legislature to reconsider, and the act was repealed in 1949.

The California Hospital Act was passed soon after the 1971 San Fernando quake, providing for more stringent building standards, plan checking, and inspection for hospitals under the direction of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). The intent was to improve patient protection and maintain building/facility function after a disaster.


The Applied Technology Council (ATC) was established by SEAONC in October 1971 to encourage the use of current technological developments to structural engineering practice; in other words, to translate research into usable design information.

The Alquist-Priolo Studies Zone Act was passed in 1972, regulating building development within "special study zones along known active faults in California."

The 1986 "URM Law" requires certain jurisdictions to adopt a mitigation program. Ground shaking during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake primarily affected unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs or UMBs), causing chimneys throughout the region to topple and causing some brick buildings to suffer partial or complete collapse. Lessons learned from the 1989 temblor confirmed what structural engineers had been warning about all along: brick buildings constructed prior to 1933 that have not been strengthened with embedded steel bars will continue to be responsible for deaths and building damage in California earthquakes.

According to EERI In 1990, there were about 6800 URMs located in the 10 Bay Area counties. Thousands of these buildings still do not meet the minimum standards recommended by engineers, though most program deadlines have passed. Visit www.eeri.org more information.

SB 1953 amended the Alquist-Priolo Act to require hospitals to evaluate and rate all their general acute care hospital and buildings for seismic resistance. They employed standards that were developed by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to measure a building's ability to withstand an earthquake. By 2001 hospitals reported the findings of their evaluations. They showed that approximately 40 percent of California 's hospital buildings are at risk of collapse in a major earthquake. Plans then were submitted to the state indicating what the hospital administrators would do to bring buildings up to standard.