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Earthquake fault runs through Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills' shopping district, California geologists say

Rong-Gong Lin Ii and Raoul Rañoa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

LOS ANGELES -- New data from state geologists show that an earthquake fault runs below Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills' shopping district, heightening the known seismic risk in an area famous for Cartier, Gucci, Prada and other luxury brands.

The California Geological Survey's final map has the Santa Monica fault zone cutting through the so-called Golden Triangle, running between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.

The new map is a change from a draft version released last year that showed the fault zone ending on the western edge of Beverly Hills, near the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. Based on more information, the state now says the fault zone extends a mile farther northeast, through Beverly Hills' central district and into the city's civic center area.

The Santa Monica is one of several faults running through highly populated areas of Southern California to generate interest and concern from seismic experts and government officials. The fault zone cuts through the heart of the Westside, straddling or paralleling Santa Monica Boulevard through Century City and Westwood before veering due west, with segments running into Brentwood, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.

It's capable of producing a major magnitude 7 earthquake. Experts believe the most recent earthquake on the Santa Monica fault occurred 1,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Over the last few years, the state has stepped up drawing official so-called Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zones across California, a required first step before seismic safety laws can apply to areas.

Areas with fault zones face limits on development. Owners of properties in these zones are obligated to hire geologists to ensure that new buildings or major renovation projects aren't located directly on an active fault line.

The Beverly Hills shopping district has some of the priciest retail real estate in the nation, but the area is already fairly developed out with a mix of shops and mid-rise office buildings. It's unclear whether there are any major developments that haven't yet been approved by local governments that are on the drawing board in the fault zone.

"We're all afraid of earthquakes," said Norbert Wabnig, who runs the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. "To know that there's (a fault line) close to us, that's even scarier."

Buildings directly on top of faults can suffer major damage and destruction, as one side of the building moves away from the other.

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