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San Francisco Soft Story Screening Forms Are Being Mailed This Week

On Monday, September 9th, I attended a meeting organized by the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California and the City and County of San Francisco Department of Building Inspection regarding the Wood-Frame Seismic Retrofit Program. As September 15, 2013, six thousand building owners will receive a letter and screening form from the Department of Building Inspection. The purpose of this Screening Form is to verify whether notified buildings are subject to the Wood-Frame Seismic Retrofit Program or are exempt. If the building is exempt, the screening form will aid to secure this exemption. All who have received this form must complete the appropriate sections and return all three pages via email or U.S. mail even if they believe they are exempt. However, in most cases the form must be completed by a licensed design professional.

     The only case the owner can fill this form out on their own is if the building has already been retrofitted given the criteria of a voluntary strengthening (AB-094) that was adopted in 2009. This work needed to be completed in accordance with the AB-094 prior to June 18, 2013. If another retrofit was completed in the last 15 years per SFBC Section 3402B (now found in SFBC Section 1604.11), the owner can fill out an optional evaluation form, pay $374 and provide documentation that work was completed. However, the DBI will verify if the work meets this ordinance design criteria and may still deem further structural work necessary.

     Although the deadline is not until September 15, 2014 the City and County of San Francisco Department of Building and Safety urges building owners to begin working on the form without delay. This is because, depending on your building, the property records may need to be researched and a licensed design professional hired to screen the property and complete the form on your behalf.
This retrofit program focuses on the structural elements of seismic force-resisting system in certain “target stories” that the San Francisco Building Code deems “critically vulnerable” stories. A target story is briefly defined as follows:

• A basement story or underfloor area that extends above grade at any point.
• Any story above grade plane whose wall configuration is substantially different from the wall configuration of the story above, except that a story is not a Target Story if it is the topmost story or if the difference in configuration is primarily due to the story above being a penthouse, an attic with a pitched roof, or a setback story.

A licensed architect or civil or structural engineer would need to visit the building and complete your screening form as it requires a better understanding of ordinance, scope, code language, and construction type, than is typically possessed by a building owner or a contractor.

Enginious Structures, Inc. can assist you in the screening of your building and completing the form for you. This will clarify whether or not you are exempt from any further action. The form requires a design professional to answer the following questions.

• Is the building wood-frame construction?
• Was the building permitted prior to January 1, 1978?
• Is the building three or more stories, or two stories over a basement or under floor area that extends above the grade? (Please, keep in mind that the definition of “stories” that the Department of Building Inspection utilizes may not be what you are familiar with.)
• Does the building contain five or more dwelling units?

If we find that the answer is yes to any of the department questions but you still believe your building is exempt you can file the optional evaluation form as discussed above. We can assist you in this process as well.

     Our fee for the site visit is determined by the size of building, and number of buildings we are inspecting for the building owner. Please call us for pricing. depending on the building size. However, if the building needs further evaluation and you hire us to do this evaluation and design a retrofit if necessary we will deduct the evaluation cost from our design fee; so the cost of the screening is essentially zero.
If your building is not exempt your building will be assigned a risk category as referred to in my previous post. You will be notified in due course about the engineering evaluation and seismic retrofit your building needs to undergo to be compliant with the requirements of this ordinance.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about soft story retrofitting or your building, feel free to give me a call at (510)272-9999 or e-mail me at info@test.enginious-structures.com.

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