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Mandatory seismic retrofit for San Francisco

San Francisco’s soft-story wood frame buildings are to have mandatory upgrades, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced last week.

He has instructed the Department of Building Inspection to draft legislation which will make the requirement to retrofit soft-storey wood frame buildings law.

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 (CAPSS) that focuses on soft-story wood-frame buildings in San Francisco.

CAPSS is also studying other types of potentially vulnerable buildings and will be issuing further reports over the next 18 months.

Newsom is also developing retrofit incentives for San Francisco building owners and a feasible financing program – such as the possible repurposing of existing unreinforced masonry building bond monies – to help finance the retrofits.

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