St. Anne’s Catholic School is the first of the four Catholic schools in San Francisco that will be seismic retrofitted by the end this year. These projects came in response to an ordinance that was passed in 2014. This ordinance required that all private school buildings must be evaluated in compliance with a “life-safety” standard. In other words, it must be determined as strong enough to allow for everyone in the building to safely exit the building in the case of an earthquake. This ordinance does not “require” the actual retrofit- just the evaluation, but it is a top priority of school officials to complete the retrofit in its entirety. It was signed into law in 2014 by Mayor Ed Lee. The Archdiocese of San Francisco is passionate about the seismic retrofit project for the safety of their students, present and future.
They feel that the seismic retrofit projects are of the utmost importance if these schools are to continue educating children for years to come. Although St. Anne’s was not damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, nor did it experience damage in any other quakes, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t at risk. Had the Loma Prieta quake “zigged instead of zagged” the outcome would have been much different due to the difference between the wooden floors and the concrete walls .
St. Anne’s is very fortunate to be funding this retrofit largely with money that has been accruing from their endowment as well as through loans and funds raised by alumni and parents. It is estimated that the other 24 schools recommended to retrofit will be completed within five to eight years, after they have raised funds and completed the engineering and construction process. To avoid disrupting the student’s and faculty, most of the retrofit work will be done during summer breaks. Many of San Francisco’s Catholic schools were built following the tragic 1906 earthquake in San Francisco- making some of them nearly 90 years old. The city of San Francisco has more private schools than any other majority city in California- many of which are within historic buildings. Private schools and public schools have different seismic safety requirements per the Field Act. Any building constructed after 1978 is at significantly higher risk, so these retrofits are certainly necessary.