High Rises In The News

Though the residents of Manhattan across the continent or those living in Chicago on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan would laugh at the thought that the Inland Empire is home to high rise buildings, and dismiss most of the structures in this region as falling below the standard for mid-rises, by local standards there are a smattering of tall buildings scattered about 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County.
The county seat, San Bernardino, accounts for the most tall buildings in the county and claims the title of having the greatest number of overall stories, as well, along with four of the six tallest structures, although not the actual tallest building. Loma Linda, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario and Victorville have a few tall buildings, and in Upland, where in recent years some three story residential units have sprung up, a seven-story building is to grace the skyline near the 210 Freeway in the not-too-distant future.
In recent weeks and days there have been developments with regard to existing and proposed high rises that merit public attention.
In April, the Redlands Planning Commission made a recommendation that Village Partners Ventures LLC be allowed to transform the largely vacant 11.15-acre Redlands Mall, which formerly hosted the Harris’ department store, into a melange of mixed-uses including residential, retail, office professional quarters, restaurants, recreational facilities and a six-story parking structure around a pedestrian plaza and swimming pool, with multi-story residential buildings of three, four and five vertical levels.
In September, the grassroots group Friends of Redlands, working in conjunction with Redlands for Responsible Growth Management, began gathering signatures to force a vote on what the allowable height limit on Redlands buildings is to be. The proposed Friends of Redlands’ initiative calls for disallowing buildings taller than two stories next to single-story homes without the consent of the owner of the single-story home, limiting the height of buildings downtown, which involves the University of Redlands Transit Villages Area, to no more than 50 feet, and the permitting of buildings to a height of no more than 62 feet – tantamount to four stories – in the New York Street/ESRI Transit Village Area. The initiative would further require that the city council unanimously approve making any density intensifications on projects, and it would layer greater parking provision requirements on developers seeking project approvals. To qualify the initiative for the ballot in 2022, the petitioners needed ten percent of Redlands’ 42,000 voters to affix their signatures to the ballot application. To force the election to be held this year, within 109 days of the requisite number of signatures being verified, Friends of Upland needs 15 percent of the city’s voters – 6,409 – to sign the petition.
On Monday, June 7, 2021, representatives with Friends of Redlands and Redlands for Responsible Growth Management, including 95-year-old former Redlands Mayor Bill Cunningham, wheeled into Redlands City Hall three huge boxes containing petitions calling for a special election to stop tall and dense development to which 7,715 signatures were affixed. Those petitions were turned over to City Clerk Jeanne Donaldson.
One of the activists opposing development in Redlands, John Berry, told the Sentinel, “stopping hi-rise development is a huge — and visceral! — issue throughout Southern California. Since we started collecting signatures in September, we have heard from many residents from many SoCal cities who have expressed their frustrations and battles with developers and city councils ruining their cities. Only because of Redlands’ Bill Cunningham fighting these battles since 1978 did Redlands ever become the city we love. Without him, Redlands would have become just another SoCal condo canyon city. Many people who’ve signed told us they moved to Redlands for its charm and small-town feel.”
Donaldson is to count and verify the signatures to determine if the referendum on high rises will take place this year or next year.
Meanwhile, the City of Redlands, which for years has been seeking an economical way to deal with the overcrowded quarters in its police and fire departments, has arranged to purchase, for $500,000, an option on the Redlands Federal Bank Building built in 1981.
Reportedly, the option will lock in the city’s opportunity to purchase the tallest building currently in Redlands, located at 300 East State Street downtown, for $16 million. The half million dollars paid to secure the option will go toward the purchase if the acquisition is made before the option’s expiration. The building is large enough to house both the fire department administration and all of the police department, as well as parts or all of some other city departments.
In nearby Loma Linda, officials with the Loma Linda University Medical Center are striving toward securing the certificate of occupancy for the six additional stories that have been constructed on the existing medical center building, originally built with 11 floors in 1967. The current project has been ongoing since 2016. It is anticipated patients will be accepted into the new hospital quarters by September 2021, if all issues with regard to occupancy permits are resolved in a timely manner.
Existing facilities housed in the current medical center structure’s round towers will be moved into the six new floors. This means an expansive new operating room suite and a significant increase in the number of intensive-care beds. Brand new and state-of-the-art cardiovascular labs, including ones providing all needed equipment and facilities for heart surgeries, will be housed in the expansion area, along with other surgical, perioperative and pre-operative suites.
Paralleling the expansion of the project is an upgrading of the hospital’s seismic system, carried out by Turner Construction Company of New York City. The building foundation is now set upon 126 base isolators, huge springs which will allow the building to sway in what is predicated to be a 10.4 Richter Scale earthquake without buckling, collapsing or sustaining structural damage that would compromise the building’s integrity. The most intensive earthquake on record was one in Chile in 1960 that reached 9.4 on the Richter Scale.
At 17 total stories, of which 16 are above ground to a height of 267 feet, the Loma Linda University Medical Center building is now the tallest hospital in earthquake-prone California, and San Bernardino County’s tallest building.
In the City of San Bernardino, six-story City Hall remains vacant after nearly five years. It is unclear whether city officials there will seek to reclaim it by engaging in a seismic hardening of the facility or raze it.
In the early 1970s, San Bernardino officials committed to building a new City Hall in Downtown San Bernardino, on property reclaimed from a longstanding historic section of the city, where nearly a score of buildings had been demolished to undertake an urban renewal effort that was to include government-sponsored capital improvements entailing a new civic center.
César Pelli, a highly accomplished Argentine American architect who emigrated to the United States in 1952, married Diana Balmori, a landscape and urban designer, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1964, was commissioned to design the edifice. Pelli was one of the world’s leading architects, particular with regard to designing majestic buildings as well as some of the world’s tallest structures, including the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which were for a time the world’s highest buildings, as well as the World Financial Center complex in downtown Manhattan, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, the Sao Paulo Corporate Towers, Xuzhou Central Plaza in Xuzhou, the Unicredit Building in Milan, and scores of others around the world.
In the early morning of February 9, 1971, the San Fernando Earthquake, also known as the Sylmar Earthquake, occurred in the west foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The unanticipated thrust earthquake had a moment magnitude of 6.5 or 6.7 on the Richter Scale. The quake did damage to the San Fernando Valley and other densely populated areas north of central Los Angeles, causing several buildings to collapse. This demonstrated the inadequacy of the building standards that had been put into place in California following the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933. California lawmakers acted quickly to develop legislation related to seismic safety, tightening construction standards.
Already at that point, architects and engineers had introduced the concept of incorporating rollers into the foundation of high rise buildings, which would allow the foundation to roll or shift with a seismic disturbance. Two decades later, rollers would be replaced by massive vertical springs in the foundations of large buildings. But San Bernardino City Hall had neither of those features. What is more, the contractor on the San Bernardino City Hall project would utilize pillars composed primarily of concrete, nearly a dozen of them, to support the building.
Rather than hold off on the construction of the building until the State of California formulated new standards based on data available from the Symar quake, San Bernardino city officials, rather irresponsibly, rushed to complete the city hall project before those standards were mandated by law.
Some 43 years after the completion of the project, then San Bernardino City Manager Mark Scott was informed that it is anticipated that a 7.0 magnitude or greater earthquake is likely to occur in Southern California within the foreseeable future. If such an event were to emanate from a point proximate to San Bernardino, Scott was told, the concrete pillars supporting the six-story City Hall structure would would be likely to powderize, and the building would collapse. Out of what he said was an abundance of caution, Scott ordered the building to be cleared of city operations. It has remained vacant ever since.
In Upland, developer Jeff Burum is working toward the completion of a seven-story residential structure. That project is not likely to be completed prior to 2025.

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