“Gath/Buresh Report: What Went So Wrong?” is a comprehensive and critical analysis of the severely flawed seismic assessment undertaken in 2011 by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which claimed to identify a dozen active faults threatening the Century City and Western Beverly Hills areas of Los Angeles County. The 2011 report was prompted by MTA’s desire to move one of its proposed stations for the subway extension project from its planned Santa Monica Boulevard site to a privately owned property located at Constellation Boulevard in Century City. The 2011 MTA Report cast a shadow of active faults across many campuses within the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD).
The Gath/Buresh Report was prepared at the direction of the BHUSD as part of ongoing site specific seismic investigations at Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) and El Rodeo(K-8) School and as part of the overall assessment of seismic risk across the entire District and the Westside Community. This Report debunks the unsupported conclusions of the MTA 2011 report.
The Gath/Buresh Report was prompted by the MTA’s Century City Fault Investigation Report in 2011 that published an active fault map showing active strands of the West Beverly Hills Lineament fault zone hitting the BHHS campus and active strands of the Santa Monica fault zone hitting the El Rodeo campus. Despite subsequent investigations which strongly suggest MTA’s conclusions are in error, MTA is intractable in its insistence that its 2011 map and report remain essentially correct. If true, the MTA scenario would pose a significant seismic risk to all of the BHUSD schools and to dozens of communities located along the combined fault system.
The California Geologic Survey (CGS) is currently in the process of completing Alquist-Priolo mapping in precisely this area. The fact that BHUSD and many other property owners required to conduct substantial site investigations solely as the result of the 2011 MTA Report have not encountered active faults as predicted by MTA has been summarily dismissed by MTA as either sloppy technique or not looking in the right place. This is not the way the process is supposed to work.
The safety of all of our residents is paramount. Earthquake faults and the very real risk they pose, cannot be thrown around as political footballs. The BHUSD is required to do this under CGS oversight – while the conclusions it must disprove were done with no outside oversight. The Gath/Buresh report identifies many procedural and analytical weaknesses in the MTA report which led to an active fault map and report so at odds with subsequent investigations. Among the significant findings in this Report are the following:
- The MTA’s fault investigation was riddled with technical errors that produced serious and substantial conclusions that creates the risk of serious public injury.
- The MTA’s investigation was driven by predetermined and unproven concepts designed to reach a specific outcome that produced a flawed fault map wrongfully depicting WBHL as an active fault zone.
- Multiple subsequent investigations have consistently refuted the MTA fault map.
- The MTA active fault map is seriously flawed, yet MTA has never retracted or modified its active fault map based on its investigation that has been proven to be unreliable.
- The fact is there is no evidence of active faulting in this area of Century City and Beverly Hills and plenty of evidence to show that any faults that have been found have been inactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
- MTA’s interpretation avoids the identification of faults under the Constellation station location, while finding fault at Santa Monica Boulevard to support the route change to Constellation. MTA did extensive investigation, albeit flawed, of the Santa Monica station site, however, the Constellation site has been practically ignored.
We should all share an interest in obtaining the most accurate understanding of the area possible and the belief that the safety of our children is paramount. No property owner – public or private – should ever again be required to undertake expensive and unnecessary testing to disprove erroneous and un-reviewed seismic conclusions. It is well past time for MTA to acknowledge that its prior fault assessment work is severely flawed and that decisions made by using that work are likely also flawed. What is needed is a completely new and comprehensive analysis of the fault hazard issue, incorporating all of the actual data from all of the studies, and leaving behind the prior model-driven paradigms and interpretations. When hypotheses become models, and when models drive interpretations, and when interpretations become data, one must proceed carefully, because, as we have seen, things can go terribly wrong.