Hundreds of Buildings Behind on Quake Retrofits, Though Few Show Gas Leak Risk

Out of about 5,000 buildings slated for mandatory retrofit, 16% still need strengthening.

lomaprieta-marina.jpg

A collapsed facade of a soft-story building near Beach and Divisadero streets in San Francisco, damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by J.K. Nakata, United States Geological Survey.

UPDATE 12/20/2021 12:37 p.m. This post has been updated to reference additional coverage of the gas line audit.

UPDATE 12/17/2021 3:15 p.m. Scroll to the end of this article to find a list of buildings that are overdue for completing retrofits.

This article is adapted from an episode of our podcast “Civic.” Click the audio player below to hear the full story.

Following April revelations that poorly executed seismic retrofits could cause dangerous gas leaks after an earthquake at an unknown number of residences, officials said Wednesday that a subsequent audit found only 75 buildings faced that risk.

That’s just a handful of the 5,000 soft-story buildings, each with at least five dwelling units, that the city has required to be strengthened because their ground floors are vulnerable to collapse in a quake. Meanwhile, though the majority of buildings have been retrofitted, work is overdue at more than 700 properties, potentially endangering thousands of residents in a temblor.

The 75 identified buildings, which may have gas lines encased in concrete foundations without protective sleeves, would likely either be fixed or confirmed not to pose a safety risk by the end of 2022, said city and PG&E staffers. City representatives and PG&E staff members explained these requirements at Wednesday’s meeting of the Building Inspection Commission, which oversees the Department of Building Inspection. The findings landed with little fanfare — in stark contrast to the uproar that led to this moment. Mission Local broke the story about the gas lines in two April reports that spurred the Board of Supervisors to openly grill the building department staff and request the audit.

Mission Local later reported that some plumbing and gas experts were critical of the building department’s audit methodology. It was premature to call the thousands of buildings safe without first inspecting them, they said.

Only one commissioner, J.R. Eppler, asked about the retrofit program’s overall success. Sept. 15 was the deadline to finish the retrofits, and Eppler noted that work was not complete at 16% of soft-story buildings.

“What are the steps being undertaken in order to ensure that they very, very promptly become compliant?” Eppler asked the building department’s policy director, Jeff Buckley.

Buckley did not offer specific enforcement steps.    

“We can come back to you as a commission and kind of talk about the enforcement process on a kind of go-forward basis, if that’s something that you would like,” Buckley said.

Department spokesperson Patrick Hannan said it would take weeks to compile a list of retrofit cases which the department had subjected to the city’s various enforcement mechanisms. These include notices of violation, financial penalties, summoning the owner to a hearing, abatement orders that limit what business activity can take place at the building, placing a lien on the property and suing the owner.

The timelines for the retrofits and for enforcement have been staggered by tiers, with the buildings that pose the greatest risks coming first. All Tier 1 buildings, which can contain schools and care facilities, have been retrofitted. Eighty-nine percent of Tier 2 buildings, which have at least 15 dwelling units, have been retrofitted. Tier 3 includes all other buildings aside from those with businesses or in liquefaction zones, which are subject to extreme shaking during a quake. Retrofits are finished at 87% of Tier 3 buildings, and 72% of the remaining ones, which constitute Tier 4.

The riskier tiers have better compliance in part because, with their earlier deadlines, the Department of Building Inspection has spent more time enforcing the mandate, Hannan said.

About 90% of Tier 4 buildings that overshot the program’s retrofit deadline have requested or obtained permits to do the work, city figures show. “And, as the permits are generally good for a year, they still have time to complete the work,” Hannan said, adding that after 12 months, “we’ll enforce on them and expect to see similar results over time that we’ve seen with the other tiers.”

Building department representatives have long been optimistic about getting building owners to do the work. In 2019, when about 1,200 buildings were out of compliance, the Public Press asked Bill Strawn, the department’s then-public relations chief, if the problems that led to that delinquency were intractable.

“I think hope always springs eternal, that human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me,” Strawn said. “So I would think that we should be able to figure this out.”

A segment from our radio show and podcast, “Civic.” Listen at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 102.5 FM in San Francisco, or online at ksfp.fm, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher

List: buildings overdue for retrofits

The following soft-story buildings are overdue for completing mandatory seismic retrofits as of Dec. 17, 2021. A building can fall into one of four retrofit tiers. Lower-tier buildings pose greater potential risk and faced earlier retrofit deadlines.

Street NameAddressRetrofit Tier
3RD AVE4143
 12093
3RD ST23424
 39004
 44083
 62603
4TH AVE2163
5TH AVE1914
5TH ST3724
6TH AVE1103
 3203
 7592
 7893
6TH ST2014
 2263
 4804
7TH AVE873
8TH AVE2663
 3483
 12853
9TH AVE1362
 14924
9TH ST1504
10TH AVE12543
 14212
11TH AVE12633
 13823
12TH AVE1743
 2624
 4044
14TH AVE5773
14TH ST854
 1854
 2473
 3204
 3612
 4663
 4703
 7603
 8194
15TH AVE24054
15TH ST14054
 14743
 18284
16TH AVE12493
 12533
16TH ST13394
 28744
 30324
 31074
 31334
 33503
 37003
17TH ST23303
 33314
 34743
 35543
18TH ST12974
 22114
 33514
 34604
 34753
 34844
 36654
 38243
 39473
19TH AVE12313
 17003
19TH ST32673
 34183
20TH AVE3014
 3023
20TH ST34213
 36543
 36593
 36723
 36884
 38213
21ST AVE1903
21ST ST29543
 31243
 31724
 33213
22ND AVE7903
 23003
22ND ST33644
 34494
23RD ST22444
 26313
 30113
 30193
 30253
 32413
 36013
 43003
24TH AVE5313
24TH ST24253
 29614
 31824
 38644
 39864
 39914
 41183
25TH AVE3954
 5343
 6493
25TH ST34652
 34703
26TH AVE1953
 5603
 8803
26TH ST32123
 34753
 36404
 38603
27TH AVE2343
 3193
27TH ST2884
29TH ST1563
 4073
30TH AVE3223
30TH ST2924
 3133
 4713
32ND AVE3602
33RD AVE6673
 6954
38TH AVE6953
39TH AVE14003
41ST AVE6003
43RD AVE4642
 25954
47TH AVE16913
48TH AVE8003
ALABAMA ST12874
ALTA ST403
 503
ANZA ST43403
ARGUELLO BLVD3453
 3633
 5953
ASHBURY ST4453
 8113
 8163
 9053
 9643
 10003
BAKER ST3604
 7004
 8443
BALBOA ST46453
BARTLETT ST1553
 3242
BAY ST6533
 7143
 8383
 9103
 22854
BEACH ST21954
BELVEDERE ST4813
 5533
BRADY ST653
BROADWAY5344
 5504
 8354
 12602
BRODERICK ST113
 4123
 5353
 5453
 7183
 9143
 31552
BRYANT ST5184
 24263
 24293
 24503
 26893
 27743
 28004
BUENA VISTA EAST AVE1353
BUENA VISTA TR1013
BUENA VISTA WEST AVE9093
BURNETT AVE8253
BUSH ST16284
CALIFORNIA ST13063
 13203
 14304
 14764
 14773
 16502
 28014
 29083
 31512
 37153
 41053
 43404
 49504
 50203
CAPP ST5573
 8304
 9492
 10763
CASTRO ST5773
 6423
 6483
CENTRAL AVE7002
CESAR CHAVEZ ST33413
 33513
 34564
 41552
CHATTANOOGA ST1593
 1653
CHENERY ST844
CHERRY ST4013
CHESTNUT ST9703
 12073
 15553
 16703
 16854
 21204
 23814
 24504
 24904
CHURCH ST2354
 12263
 17814
CLAREMONT BLVD3344
CLAY ST10503
 12163
 13353
 14854
 16453
 27514
 33003
CLAYTON ST5443
 10383
CLEMENT ST13452
CLINTON PK1323
 1384
COLE ST1303
 2993
 4243
 8333
 10603
COLLINGWOOD ST4903
COLLINS ST2054
COLUMBUS AVE3014
 5014
 13213
CONNECTICUT ST2503
COOK ST1403
CORBETT AVE2973
 3112
 6073
 6462
 7253
CORBETT ST4453
DAY ST1193
DEARBORN ST604
DIAMOND ST633
 683
 6503
DIVISADERO ST3004
 7383
 9243
 18424
 19014
 26213
DOLORES ST2333
 3723
 4754
 5474
 9213
 9663
 10003
 13483
DOWNEY ST1503
 2794
DUBOCE AVE1404
 1563
 1833
 1913
 2253
 2493
 5513
EDDY ST9393
 16524
 19004
 19484
ELGIN PK803
EMERY LN24
EUREKA ST1044
FAIR OAKS ST1674
FELL ST8233
 8673
 8743
 10012
 16002
 18523
 20503
FILBERT ST5253
 5403
 16743
 18143
 18434
 22944
 23503
FILLMORE ST7334
 7452
 8374
 19084
 25303
 28474
 35152
 35754
FLORENCE ST13
FLORENTINE AVE104
FOLSOM ST10404
 19064
 24203
 24853
 27002
 28083
 28474
 28863
 32233
FRANCISCO ST2754
 4834
 11253
 23904
 24304
FRANKLIN ST18403
 24203
FREDERICK ST3033
 5453
FULTON ST10963
 11003
 12313
 12904
 17533
 18503
 18513
 23903
GARDENSIDE DR1202
GEARY BLVD28284
 28824
 50294
 61304
 63404
 73333
GENEVA AVE10254
 15204
GLENDALE ST103
GOLDEN GATE AVE15113
 16103
 17433
 28453
GRAND VIEW AVE5053
GRANT AVE13274
 13454
 13504
 15254
 15394
 16012
GRAYSTONE TR1203
 3103
GREAT HWY17984
 24442
GREEN ST4753
 8023
 16653
 22643
GREENWICH ST6954
 8244
 14054
 14253
 27402
GROVE ST4652
 12403
 12703
 13293
 14724
 16783
 16903
 1234-12384
GUERRERO ST1223
 5503
 7014
 7713
 7793
 8513
 10004
 11353
 12953
HAIGHT ST4014
 4134
 13663
 14574
 15014
 16854
HAMILTON ST3003
HAMPSHIRE ST15453
HARRIET ST313
HARRISON ST24004
HAYES ST5524
 5604
 8293
 11333
 11673
 11733
 12203
 13874
 13944
 15343
 15883
 19374
 19743
 21014
HENRY ST1453
HERMANN ST1383
HILL ST693
HOLLOWAY AVE1424
HOUSTON ST313
HOWARD ST10404
 10684
 15223
HYDE ST9654
 10104
 10113
 10294
 11024
 11273
 12503
 14004
 15014
 15513
 16373
 17303
 17353
 17483
 25603
IRVING ST2263
 4504
 5364
 10014
 39374
JACKSON ST9124
 11523
 11803
 12303
 13154
 14034
 14813
 15243
 15503
 18173
 22413
 22513
 22753
 22854
 23804
 28984
JASPER PL1143
JERSEY ST5013
JOHN ST373
JONES ST21004
JUDAH ST3013
 24153
 42324
KEARNY ST11513
LA PLAYA ST12704
LAFAYETTE ST483
LAGUNA ST1002
 4053
 5004
 20153
 33264
LAKE ST5013
 22013
 22553
LANDERS ST533
LARKIN ST12344
 14304
 15164
 15323
 24013
 26323
LEAVENWORTH ST10402
 10592
 11243
 14304
 14453
 16203
 17173
 17204
 22233
LEESE ST313
LEROY PL73
LEXINGTON ST1414
 1954
LIBERTY ST303
 343
 2113
LINCOLN WY153
 18453
LINDA ST1723
LOMBARD ST5593
 8193
 22302
 25244
 25252
LYON ST28443
MALLORCA WY14
MARKET ST21602
 22134
 22564
 22604
 23004
MASON ST11253
 11423
 12004
 13194
 13513
 14014
 19524
 22584
MASONIC AVE6504
 8293
 11574
 13173
MCALLISTER ST13223
 16043
 16703
 17123
 18363
MINNA ST5693
 6113
 6473
MISSION ST15514
 21144
 22304
 22504
 26194
 26974
 27334
 27454
 27664
 29704
 37984
 39104
 39224
 42604
 47174
 47284
 49014
 55304
 57173
MOSS ST533
NATOMA ST5663
 5683
 6263
 7123
 7704
NOE ST5183
OAK ST2302
 5283
 6063
 6513
 7064
 8603
 9573
 9854
 11014
 12853
 13593
 19513
OCTAVIA ST2014
 4454
 5084
 5354
 5503
 18082
 24053
 31104
 31273
 32013
OFARRELL ST8512
PACIFIC AVE13243
 14064
 15004
 19013
PAGE ST1404
 6002
 7514
 11033
 13333
 13643
 14563
 14583
 14743
 18713
PARKER AVE23
 784
 5202
PARNASSUS AVE3012
PIERCE ST3424
 3494
 35544
PINE ST9772
 12203
 17772
 21583
 28013
 30003
 30013
POLK ST14354
 17414
PORTOLA DR6674
 6814
 6914
POST ST10864
 25393
 25433
POWELL ST10014
 10252
 12014
 13004
 14164
 15014
 15443
 16144
 16153
 20504
 22313
PROSPER ST153
QUINT ST25123
RANDOLPH ST7002
RED ROCK WY53
RICHARDSON AVE12
RICHLAND AVE1054
RIPLEY ST1234
RONDEL PL583
ROSE ST2003
RUSS ST1553
SACRAMENTO ST13482
 14553
 15754
 16564
 17502
 18702
 19503
 23153
 23293
 30003
 31223
 34343
 34604
 37804
SAN BRUNO AVE27504
 27704
 29083
 29514
 31803
 33343
SAN CARLOS ST334
SAN JOSE AVE2214
 2853
 2893
 31853
SANCHEZ ST183
 2093
 2313
SCOTT ST5303
 5563
 6353
 8413
 23553
 38004
SHOTWELL ST1074
 5683
 8463
SHRADER ST4004
 4103
SOUTH PARK ST222
 1022
 1044
SOUTH VAN NESS AVE3593
 4604
 9243
 14093
 14153
STANYAN ST3693
 11353
 11683
STATES ST253
STEINER ST10284
STEVENSON ST13074
STOCKTON ST13004
 13164
 13504
SUMNER ST544
SUTTER ST15702
 22753
 27503
SYCAMORE ST514
TARAVAL ST8164
 31003
TAYLOR ST15343
 16442
 21504
 21544
 22274
TEHAMA ST4154
 4364
TENNESSEE ST7123
TERRA VISTA AVE713
TIFFANY AVE403
 1223
TREAT AVE11014
TURK BLVD21993
 22003
 22103
 22203
 22303
TURK ST18603
 19003
UNION ST3873
 4234
 10113
 10673
 10743
 11203
 11454
 13954
 15104
 24853
UPPER TR4002
VALENCIA ST2244
 3004
 3014
 4434
 5354
 6594
 8664
 9804
 9964
VALLEJO ST3574
 5113
 9013
 16004
VALPARAISO ST553
VAN NESS AVE21284
 28502
 29353
 30253
WALLER ST8454
 14363
 16574
WALTER ST494
WARREN DR4704
WASHINGTON ST10553
 10673
 13814
 15753
 23803
 28453
 30992
WEBSTER ST5614
WEST PORTAL AVE2584
WHITNEY ST453
WOOD ST1463
WOODWARD ST143
WOOLSEY ST1953
Source: DataSF, Soft-Story Properties

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