Newsom Wants Mandatory Seismic Upgrades Throughout SF

The projections are shocking. If another quake like the 1906 temblor hit the City by the Bay, one out of four buildings will collapse, according to the city Department of Building Inspections.

However, Mayor Gavin Newsom says he wants to create a plan to limit that to one out of every 30.

He directed the Department of Building Inspection to craft legislation that would require mandatory upgrades to San Francisco's soft-story wood frame buildings.

A soft-story building is one that typically has large openings on the ground floor such as multiple garage doors or large storefront windows. The buildings are found throughout San Francisco.

"Although there is no such thing as an earthquake-proof building, engineers agree that proper seismic retrofitting can give buildings a fighting chance against a sizeable earthquake," said Newsom. "Now we must act decisively to protect our homes and workplaces."

The plan for mandatory soft story upgrades coincides with a report about to be released by the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety that focuses on one type of soft-story wood-frame buildings in San Francisco and their location, evaluates a range of vulnerability factors, and will propose retrofit options and costs. 

Newsom ordered the report last July.

In addition, Newsom is developing retrofit incentives for San Francisco building owners and a feasible financing program – such as the possible repurposing of existing un-reinforced masonry building bond monies – to help facilitate these retrofits under what everyone recognizes are difficult market conditions.

Some homeowners have criticized such ideas, saying it would be tough to pay for retrofitting, because they could not pass on the costs to renters.

Landlords have said rent control would prevent them from raising rent in many cases.

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