This morning’s quake is a rockin’ reminder of the city’s required seismic retrofit program

A building at 326 26th Avenue that is out of compliance (as of 1/4/18) with the city’s Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program

If you weren’t jolted awake by the magnitude 4.4 earthquake at 2:39am this morning, then we want to know the secret to your deep sleep! The morning’s quake rumbled and rolled for several seconds; its epicenter was in Berkeley near the Claremont Hotel. While 4.4 is a far cry from the devastation of 1989, it’s a strong reminder of how important seismic reinforcements can be.

If you’ve walked around the neighborhood recently, you may have noticed alarming “EARTHQUAKE WARNING!” signs posted on some buildings. The city has posted these violation notices on structures that are out of compliance with the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program (MSSP).

The program was created in 2013 to “ensure the safety and resilience of San Francisco’s housing stock through the retrofit of older, wood-framed, multi-family buildings with a soft-story condition.” Response was strong, with 99% of property owners responding and taking action on the mandate.

The ordinance applies to wood-frame buildings of three or more stories or two stories over a basement or underfloor area that have any portion extending above grade, and containing five or more residential dwelling units where the permit to construct was applied for prior to January 1, 1978, and where the building has not yet been seismically strengthened.

Seismic strengthening requires modifications to a building that will make it more resistant to seismic activity, ground motion, or soil failure due to earthquakes (Wikipedia).

In 2016 and 2017, this required some Richmond District buildings to shutter retail tenants temporarily and restrict access to tenant garages so that foundation bolting and other strengthening work could be completed.

The first deadline for retrofit completion for Tier 1 buildings (any building containing educational, assembly, or residential care facility uses) was on September 15, 2017. The next will be in Sept 2018 for Tier 2 buildings (any building containing 15 or more dwelling units).

All of the buildings currently in violation in the Richmond District are Tier 3 structures, which just means they don’t fit exactly into the definitions of Tier 1 or 2.

The deadline for Tier 3 properties to submit their plans for retrofit was September 15, 2017, and as of today, 22 properties in District 1 (out of 202 city-wide) have failed to meet that deadline. These are the ones that may have notices posted on the front of their buildings. Once plans are submitted, they have until September 2019 to complete their retrofit work.

If you’re a property owner and need more information on the program, click here to learn more.
If you’re a tenant in one of the buildings that requires retrofitting, click here to learn more.

Sarah B.

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