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Feb 3 / Dave Schumaker

Buildings in San Francisco Unsafe in Next Quake

Damage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Source: National Archives

Well this isn’t a fun thing to read when you first wake up.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association will be releasing a report today that details the seismic threat facing San Francisco. They say that up to 30,000 buildings in San Francisco could be damaged beyond repair. That’s a quarter of the buildings in this city!

The draft city study argues that San Francisco could avoid $1.5 billion in damage and the displacement of tens of thousands of residents if it forced owners of 2,800 of the weakest residential buildings – known as soft-story buildings – to retrofit.

The large, wood-frame structures make up only 10 percent of the residential units that are believed to be unsafe, but they are the most vulnerable to severe earthquakes.

Other dangerous building types and retrofit strategies will be studied by the city in the coming months, and future reports are expected. The studies are a first endeavor to understand the health, safety and economic risk posed by the city’s buildings during a major earthquake.

A Chronicle report in June highlighted the city’s lack of a strategy for fixing the soft-story problem despite the fact that the danger had been known for decades. At that time, Mayor Gavin Newsom said he did not feel it was necessary to require owners to shore up their buildings as other Bay Area cities have done. Last month, Newsom said he would be willing to reconsider after reviewing more data.

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