May 29, 2023
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1999 Final Report: Fiscal Oversight of School Districts by County Superintendent of Schools
Background | Findings | Recommendations

The San Mateo County Hall of Justice sustained limited structural damage as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. A number of the connectors securing the exterior wall panels failed, allowing the panels to tilt away from the structural frame of the building. The County immediately reattached the panels and then determined what additional requirements were needed to upgrade the overall safety of the Hall of Justice. A study by structural engineers concluded that neither the original panel connections nor the basic building structure were adequate by today's standards. That is, the building would not withstand a design base earthquake (approximately equivalent to a Richter magnitude 6 or 7+) without sustaining extensive permanent structural damage. The engineers analyzed the building using a design base model because it is the code requirement for earthquake life safety. Additionally, it was determined that any retrofit work on the Hall of Justice would involve areas that contain lead paint and asbestos. The County decided that all lead paint and asbestos should be removed when any retrofit work is undertaken, not just the local area of the retrofit work. Seismic and lead/asbestos abatement work has been completed on the fourth floor and will commence on the sixth floor in the Fall of 1999, with a completion date of Spring 2000. Work on the other floors is not scheduled as of October 1999.


The engineering study determined that only the fourth through eighth floors required structural retrofit work. The retrofit method selected employs the installation of new panel connectors, interior steel "V" bracing, and the use of damping, an elastic material installed to mitigate inter-story drift. Story drift is the displacement of one level relative to the level above or below. The tubular steel braces are temporarily set with spacers in anticipation of later installation of the visco-elastic damper material. However, the damping material will be not installed until all the steel braces have been placed on all five floors in order to ensure correct performance. As a result, the work thus far and in the foreseeable future does not meet design-intent building safety. Risk to the large number of employees and visitors in the Hall of Justice will not be reduced to the project's achievable level until all the floors have been upgraded.

The Grand Jury found that no plan currently exists for scheduling of additional work, for the temporary redeployment of staff, or for a time line for such work.


Recommendation 33

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the County Board of Supervisors direct the Director of Public Works to prepare a comprehensive time-phased plan for completion of the seismic retrofit and lead/asbestos abatement of the County Hall of Justice. Urgency should be placed on the development and implementation of this plan, including a detailed time-phased series of actions and the designation of personnel responsible for each action and associated deadlines. The plan should include details on office and employee relocation. The County Board of Supervisors should give high priority to implementation and funding of this program.

Recommendation 34

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the San Mateo County 2000 Grand Jury monitors the progress of this program.


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