Earthquake Retrofit Programs

House With Missing ChimneyClass Teaches Participants How to Protect Homes Against Earthquakes

The City of San Leandro includes earthquake safety as one of the top priorities in its public safety mission. There are currently two retrofit programs in effect within the city. One program addresses the seismic strengthening of older un-reinforced masonry buildings, while the other program addresses the strengthening of older wood-frame homes.

Un-reinforced Masonry Building Retrofit Program

The retrofitting of un-reinforced masonry buildings throughout the city is nearly complete, thanks to the diligence and commitment of San Leandro building owners. This retrofit work has improved the earthquake resistance of these buildings thus enhancing the safety of the occupants.

Earthquake Home Strengthening Program

The seismic strengthening of older wood frame homes throughout the city is progressing with the help of the Earthquake Home Strengthening Program. This is a comprehensive, residential seismic strengthening program that provides property owners with simple and cost-effective methods for strengthening their wood-frame houses for earthquake survival. San Leandro's Earthquake Home Strengthening Program includes six fundamental elements, each of which is described below:

  1. Earthquake Home Strengthening Workshops - This popular workshop series, provided to homeowners on a bi-annual basis, reviews common residential construction weaknesses and introduces the average citizen to basic repair techniques that can significantly improve a home's performance in earthquakes. The course is offered through the City's Building and Safety Services Division and consists of four evening sessions for homeowners who wish to learn how to "do-it-yourself" or who wish to learn how to get the best service if they hire a contractor.
  2. San Leandro Earthquake Retrofit Handbook - Called 3 Easy Low Cost Ways to Make Your Home Earthquake Survivable, this 16-page booklet provides residents with information about earthquake risks in the community and contains step-by-step instructions for evaluating and strengthening a wood-frame house against earthquakes (anchor-bolting, plywood shear-paneling, nailing, blocking, etc.), strapping a water heater to a wall and preventing the collapse of a brick chimney. It also contains information about the City's over-the-counter permit process for earthquake home strengthening, references to other resources in the community and answers to frequently asked questions.
  3. A Prescribed Retrofit Standard and Plan Set and Information Booklet (PDF) - Improving upon a concept that originated with the City of Santa Barbara, San Leandro developed a recommended standard for regulating the quality of home retrofit procedures undertaken in the San Leandro community. This standard, published as a Prescriptive Plan Set for Strengthening Wood-frame Houses for Earthquakes, provides San Leandro homeowners or their contractors with a simple and rapid procedure for obtaining a permit to bolt and brace a typical home foundation system. The Prescriptive Standards are similar to those published in the Uniform Code for Building Conservation and are based on standards which were developed by the "Residential Retrofit and Repair Committee" of the California Building Officials. This committee consisted of structural engineers, building officials and architects, and was organized and supported by both the California Seismic Safety Commission and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. The Prescriptive Plan Set (PDF) and Information Booklet (PDF) - free to any San Leandro resident - is actually a blueprint showing the seismic retrofit details needed for typical wood-frame houses in San Leandro neighborhoods. Once the easy-to-use Plan Set is filled out, the homeowner can take it to the City's One-Stop Permit Center, get a few tips from the plan review engineer (if appropriate), pay a fixed home-retrofit permit fee and be ready to start work.
  4. Homeowner's List of Earthquake Contractors - Because of potential liability, municipal agencies generally will not certify or recommend private contractors for residents. For homeowners concerned about earthquakes, however, this lack of local guidance adds yet another obstacle in the way of home strengthening. In San Leandro, residents interested in finding qualified contractors to bid on their home-retrofit job can obtain a Homeowner's List of Earthquake Contractors from the Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG) website. ABAG maintains a list of contractors that have attended the ABAG One Day Workshop on Seismic Retrofit of Wood Frame Buildings.
  5. Tool-Lending Library - As an incentive to "do-it-yourselfers" who want to strengthen their own homes but lack the necessary tools, the City maintains a Tool Lending Library. This resource, administered by the City's Building and Safety Services Division, allows residents who use the Prescriptive Home-Strengthening Plan Set to borrow, free of charge, most of the tools they may need to complete the retrofit job.
  6. Limited Financial Assistance -Low-income residents may be eligible for grants specifically designated for home earthquake strengthening through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's block grant program. For more information, please call 510-577-6004.

Trailblazing the Way for Other Communities

By taking similar steps, communities across the country are duplicating San Leandro's efforts to establish their own community-based, home seismic retrofitting programs. San Leandro's program is one of the most extensive of its kind. With the help of private industry, it encourages all homeowners to protect their investments, their families and their futures.

For more information call 510-577-3405.