Seismic Retrofit News in San Francisco Bay Area

In the past few years, multiple cities in the Bay area adopted a mandatory seismic retrofit requirement for structural improvement. Here were some news highlight in the past few months:

1/ Seismic Retrofit Grants in Berkeley

Following San Francisco’s example, the city of Berkeley also adopted a mandatory seismic retrofit requirement for soft, weak, and open front buildings. This requirement applies only to wood frame buildings that have five or more units and were constructed before 1978. With the help of FEMA and Emergency Services Office, design and construction grants have been made available for property owners. Although these seismic retrofit grants do not cover all of the costs associated with the retrofit, it is still a great help to property owners going through this process. Property owners are able to receive reimbursement for design costs up to $5,000 and are also eligible to receive 30% or 40% reimbursement for the cost of construction.

If an owner applies for a design grant as well, they can receive up to 30% of the construction costs. If a building owner does not apply for a design grant, they could be reimbursed with up to 40% of the costs of construction.

Seismic Retrofit Grants in The Bay Area

Unfortunately there are no grants available yet for buildings containing less than 5 units. However, the city of Berkeley is not ruling out the possibility of grants becoming available for smaller buildings in the future. In conclusion, your city council members are not happy that you must incur the costs of retrofitting. It is, however, very important that unsafe buildings are retrofitted to avoid the damages that a large earthquake could bring.

It is a priority of Penhall Company Seismic Retrofit Services to provide quality service at a reasonable price. We retrofit with a purpose – we have been first responders after the devastating effects of earthquakes in California. We believe every life matters. Our daily goal is to make people safer one retrofit at a time.

More information can be found on the City of Berkeley’s Retrofit Grants website.

2/ Deadlines for San Francisco Seismic Retrofit

Procrastination is an ailment that we all can occasionally fall victim to. Whether it is writing a school paper, paying your taxes or seismically retrofitting your building, eventually these things must get done. However, some procrastination has graver consequences than others, none more so than delaying the compliance of the San Francisco mandatory seismic retrofit mandate of soft story buildings, where losing lives and property are the real repercussion.The deadline for submitting engineering plans for approval for seismic retrofitting in San Francisco is rapidly approaching. September 15th is only a few months away yet there are nearly 2,000 buildings in the city that have no proposed engineering plans submitted SFDBI (San Francisco Department of Building and Inspection).  It is important to remember that this a mandatory ordinance, so eventually procrastination transform into action .Understandably, nobody really likes to be told what to do. This is especially true when you are the property owner and you realize it may cost you thousands of dollars to complete a retrofit. However, the safety of your building and those who reside in it cannot be short changed. So if this mandatory ordinance is causing you stress, the best way to handle that is to address it head on. Pull that band aid and call the professionals at Penhall Company, a reliable design-build firm that can handle your seismic retrofit from concept to completion. Penhall Company was established in 1957 and for 60 years has been setting that standard of excellence in the construction industry.

Penhall Company Seismic Service offers customers all the the benefits of a larger company, while still providing the close personal attention of a small firm. Our team of professional engineers and project managers work side by side to help you through the seismic retrofitting process. Penhall Company Seismic Services aims to make this process as easy on you as possible.The deadline is rapidly approaching so the time to act is now.  If you received a notice to comply and do not submit your plans by September 15th, your building will soon display a large sign that reads “Earthquake Warning”. If that is not enough of a deterrent, owners will then be asked to appear and explain to the city why they have not complied. Finally, fines will be issued if owners do not bring their buildings up to proper code. In short, this mandate is not going away so it is recommended that you are proactive in complying with it.  For more information on the Mandatory Soft Story Program in San Francisco visit their website at

Still Unsure What Your Retrofit Project Needs? Call Us Now for A Free Consultation!

3/ News: Private School – Earthquake Retrofitting in the Bay Area

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *