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Details and Cost of Retrofitting SF’s Soft Story Buildings (old post)

San Francisco recently signed into law an ordinance making retrofitting of thousands of seismically unsafe buildings mandatory.  This ordinance applies to wood-frame buildings built before 1978, which are at least three stories tall and have at least five residential units. These apartments are unsafe because an earthquake shakes the bottom floor that supports the weight of the apartments above, causing buildings to collapse and pancake. The retrofitting involves adding new walls or steel braces to strengthen the ground story. The cost of this structural work is estimated at $60,000 to $130,000 per building.

Previous efforts at mandatory retrofitting have largely failed because property owners have objected to the costs.  Property owners of the approximately 3,000 wood-frame soft-story buildings have 4-7 years to complete the retrofitting after receiving an inspection notice from the city. Those with a shorter time-frame are buildings that have a particularly high potential for loss of life, such as buildings that house a nightclub, senior citizens or students, or buildings with 15 or more units.

Property owners must pay for the work out of their own pockets or get a loan; however, they can fully pass on the costs of the seismic retrofitting to their tenants — even those protected by rent control — over a period of 20 years. Those who refuse to comply with the rules could be taken to court by the city attorney’s office.  The many fiscal concerns for low-income tenants and owners are further discussed in the L.A. Times article below.

For more information, see the article below:


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