Call for Action: Support San Francisco’s Soft-Story Retrofit Bond Measure

The EERI Northern California Chapter urges you to support San Francisco’s Proposition A, which represents a significant advance in promoting seismic safety and earthquake resilience in the City.

In February 2007 many of you helped the City of San Francisco to collect data on existing multi-unit residential wood-frame buildings.  The City’s Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) used this data, among other things, to identify 4,400 potential soft-story high-density housing buildings, a vulnerable subset of the buildings inventoried.  CAPSS made a strong recommendation for a program that would mandate retrofitting of these buildings. After initial support of a rather unsuccessful voluntary program, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced earlier this year that a mandatory ordinance would be written.  In a few weeks this ordinance will be introduced. Though this is good news, adoption of the ordinance by the City is contingent on development of measures of financial support for building owners.

Proposition A on the November ballot is such a measure.  It will provide a $46.15 million general obligation bond to fund retrofit of 125 City-subsidized, permanently affordable housing buildings and 31 single room occupancy buildings.  San Francisco’s ability to recover quickly from the next major earthquake depends on residents being able to shelter-in-place while their homes are being repaired.  The cost of retrofitting these buildings is much less than the cost of rebuilding them and providing temporary housing for displaced residents during the process.  The bond that will provide the funds for retrofitting these 156 buildings will be repaid over a 20-year period through a property tax increase estimated at $7.94 per $500,000.00 of assessed value.  The measure was placed on the ballot with the support of the Mayor and all 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, who recognize the serious consequences the entire City will experience if these homes are lost.

The Chapter fully endorses the ordinance and Proposition A.  This is an important milestone for implementation of retrofit programs in San Francisco, and it can serve as a model for other local governments that wish to develop their own retrofit programs.  We suggest you visit the “Vote Yes on A” website at to express your support and consider making a contribution to the campaign.  Your individual support can help reach the 2/3 vote required for the proposition to pass and ensure that San Francisco residents receive balanced information regarding this proposition.

L. Thomas Tobin
EERI NC Chapter

EERI Northern California Chapter | c/o EERI National | 499 14th Street Suite 320 | Oakland, CA 94612-1934 USA |