Voluntary soft-story retrofit legislation advances to full Board of Supervisors 

A virtually-useless proposed strategy to encourage property owners to voluntarily seismically reinforce vulnerable homes will be voted on by the full Board of Supervisors.

Legislation authored by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office would provide property owners with a break on city permit fees if they voluntarily seismically retrofit their soft-story buildings.

The legislation advanced Monday without objection to the Board of Supervisors during a committee hearing.

Soft-story buildings, which are common in San Francisco, contain housing units built above a structurally weaker garage or store that is vulnerable to collapse in an earthquake.

San Francisco Chief Economist Ted Egan told supervisors Monday that the program would reduce seismic reinforcement costs on a soft-story property by 2.7 percent and would “create one or two retrofits a year voluntarily” in addition to the 40 that already take place on average.

“The incentive offers a marginal benefit to private property owners,” Egan said.

Newsom has also proposed mandating the retrofits of unsafe soft-story buildings. The legislation that advanced Monday would allow property owners who voluntarily seismically retrofit their properties to bypass more stringent future mandatory retrofit laws.

Property owners can pass on seismic reinforcement costs to tenants, according to Egan.

Supervisors David Chiu and Eric Mar said they supported the legislation but said other programs are needed to protect San Francisco’s tenants from earthquakes.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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