Loma Prieta Quake Anniversary: Staying Safe in San Francisco with Veritas’ Soft-Story Retrofits

October 18th, 2019

This week’s rumbles and the anniversary of the big 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake are timely reminders for earthquake preparedness, with these safety tips provided courtesy of our Red Cross partners. In an effort to enhance safety of its apartments from the prospect of earthquakes, Veritas is on its way to completing well over half the required soft-story retrofits set out by the City of San Francisco for all property owners.

Major legislation from the City of San Francisco in 2013 created categories and timelines for upgrading the “soft-story” of a building, which generally refers to a structure’s main level and often features large openings such as store-front glass or garage doors that weren’t designed to withstand the shear forces of an earthquake when first built many decades ago. Nearly 5,000 buildings across the city were identified as needing retrofit.

As a pro-active owner-operator in fulfilling these much-needed improvements, Veritas and its property manager GreenTree have completed nearly 50 retrofits with about 30 to go before the September 2020 deadline.

The work ranges typically from projects taking a few months and a few hundred-thousand dollars, to some costing nearly $1 million to retrofit. It’s significant work to preserve the great character of these classic buildings while bringing them up to modern safety standards. In essence, the ground level is strengthened with steel frames, structural plywood is added to ground floor walls and it is all tied in to the second story above. Once complete, the improvements are usually invisible to passers-by because because they are located within existing walls and structure.

Making these earthquake safety improvements can be disruptive, and we work hard to minimize the inconvenience. Residents often tell us how much they appreciate the work, knowing that their building has been brought to compliance.

How can you be prepared? The Bay Area is on several active fault-zones, as we are reminded frequently by occasional shakes. The Red Cross says:

  • In an earthquake, drop (to the ground), cover (under a table) and hold on!
  • Move as little as possible. Most injuries during earthquakes occur because of people moving around, falling and suffering mishaps.
  • Try to protect your head and torso.
  • If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on, and cover your head.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit.
  • If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case of aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
  • Be aware that smoke alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
  • If you smell gas, get out of the house and move as far away as possible.

For these tips, an Emergency Checklist and more, visit here.