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Mayor Lee & Supervisors Sign City's Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program For Soft Story Buildings
New Ordinance Requires Retrofit on All Soft Story Multifamily Buildings; Highlights City’s Preparedness & Resiliency Efforts on 107th Anniversary of 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire
Posted Date: 4/19/2013
Mayor Edwin M. Lee joined the Board of Supervisors and City Officials to mark the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire at the yearly commemoration at Lotta’s Fountain in downtown San Francisco, and signed into law the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings, that will seismically strengthen thousands of buildings in San Francisco.

“In order to be a truly resilient City, we must protect our residents and make sure their homes are safe after a major seismic event,” said Mayor Lee. “This mandatory seismic retrofit program will protect San Franciscans, protect our housing stock and ensure San Francisco can rapidly recover from the next earthquake. Today, we renew our commitment to making sure that disasters such as the 1906 Earthquake and Fire do not devastate our City again.” 

Seismologists predict that a significant Bay Area earthquake – two to three times as strong as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake – is likely to occur within the next thirty years.

San Francisco has come a long way since 1989, voters have approved several General Obligation Bonds to retrofit City facilities, and today nearly 200 buildings and facilities have been seismically improved. Through the 2010 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond, the City’s emergency water system that helps fight fires is now being upgraded, neighborhood fire stations are being improved, and later today a new Public Safety Building is set for its construction topping out. These efforts ensure that public safety agencies can provide uninterrupted emergency services during and after a disaster. Also, in large part, the City is more prepared due to investment in critical infrastructure including projects like rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital, the Veteran’s Memorial Building and Doyle Drive and critical seismic upgrades to the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power system.

The City’s Ten-Year Capital Plan for Fiscal Year 2014-23 continues to make large investments in seismic safety. This includes $2 billion to relocate critical functions out of the vulnerable Hall of Justice such as a new detention facility, Medical Examiner’s Office, Crime Lab, SFPD traffic division and seismic upgrades to public health buildings, Animal Shelter, and police and fire stations. In addition, the Capital Plan invests $7 billion on the Sewer System Improvement Program as well as several hundred million dollars for seismic projects at SFO and along the waterfront. 

The City’s improvements to critical infrastructure, however, point to the need to protect residents and their homes. San Francisco must start work as quickly as possible securing homes. Over 55,000 San Franciscans live in these wood frame soft story buildings built before 1978 having five or more units and at least two floors over a weak story that also house 7,000 businesses and employ 2,000 San Franciscans. The new Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings will take place over the next seven years, starting with a mandatory notice and evaluation period beginning in the late Fall. From there buildings shown to have a soft story condition will be classified into four tiers with phased requirements for completing the work. 

The new ordinance also carries with it the support of the banking industry who have stepped forward to offer finance packages to building owners. Also with the support of Supervisors David Chiu, Scott Weiner and Jane Kim, the program contains provisions to help tenants navigate the City’s existing passthrough hardship process. These steps will ensure that residents stay in their homes and owners are able to successfully meet the new requirement. 

This Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings is part of the City’s larger effort to protect San Francisco. The Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP) is the City’s latest planning effort and is a 30-year plan to reduce many of the City’s most dangerous risks in a future earthquake. 

For more information and updates on this new program and the ESIP, go to: www.sfcapss.org.