In front of historic Alameda High School, wrapping around the corner on Oak Street, going almost the whole block up Central (taking a break for the entrance to Kofman auditorium), construction workers started putting in some kinds of posts about 6 feet inset from the sidewalk. Only these weren't little fence posts for some temporary chain-link fence. These were essentially I-Beams. Meant for a strong load. And they were very tall. Whatever they are doing, it's not pretty.
Alameda Patch's answer:
It took us a few days, but here's a fairly detailed explanation. You can see a good photo of the fence here, on the Alameda Historical Preservation Society website.
According to Robert Shemwell, chief business officer for the , the fence is designed to protect people from being hit by flying pieces of concrete and other debris in the event of a major earthquake. It's part of the temporary seismic shoring-up work going on at Historic Alameda High.
"The fence has a performance role," Shemwell told Alameda Patch. It's at the outside edge of a "barrier zone," or the distance that State of California engineers calculate debris could fall in case of an earthquake, even a 6.9 or 7.0 quake. The outward danger zone is equal to the height of the building, he said.
"The I-beam posts go down into the ground about 8 feet, cemented in, and they are what would hold back the force of any debris falling off the building," Shemwell said.
Because the fence had to be placed closer to the building wall that faces Oak Street, more seismic retrofitting will take place in that section, he said.
As for the appearance of the vinyl-coated, small-chain-link fence, "It could have been cheaper," Shemwell said. He said district officials consulted with members of the Alameda Historical Preservation Society and chose dark colors to make the fence as unobstrusive as possible.
Meanwhile, the retrofit work proceeds on various portions of the building — or, really, multiple buildings.
Portions of the 1926 building would most likely fail during a major quake, Shemwell said, but the central section, where Kofman Auditorium and a dozen classrooms are located, was retrofitted decades ago and is considered safe.
In the process of that earlier retrofit, workers actually separated the right and left wings of the building from the central, column-decorated section, Shemwell said. Although the wings are only 2 inches or less away from the central portion, they are connected only by building diaphragms, he said.
Retrofitting of the former library wing has been completed, and work on the adult school building and fencing should be finished within the next two weeks or so — before fall classes begin at Alameda High. The next step will be work on the area where the AUSD's administrative offices are housed, expected to start in early December. The district is before the work begins.
Shemwell noted that none of the current retrofitting will make the building usable for students — instead, it's designed to minimize hazards for those nearby in the event of a major quake, when the heavy concrete exterior walls would likely crumble and and fall away and floors and interior walls collapse. The present work focuses on tying walls and floors together to minimize damage.
"It's protecting people from the building," Shemwell said.
The total price tag for the current work, including fencing, will be about $800,000, Shemwell said.
That's a substantial price for work that doesn't provide usable space, but cheaper that the cost of moving AHS students further away from the old building and into portables, he said.
"The historic high school is a fine example of Classical architecture and a symbol of the city for many people," Shemwell said. "This work gives the community an opportunity to say what to do with this building."
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