San Francisco Quake Preparedness Falters

San Francisco's Bay Area has lapsed in its efforts to modify buildings so that they remain stable during a major earthquake. While up to 3,000 concrete structures exist in the San Francisco area, the city lacks a list of their locations. Buildings made of concrete are among the most severely affected during an earthquake. Oakland's bay is filled with around 2,000 wood-frame apartments that run the risk of seismic collapses. Furthermore, no legislation exists to expedite renovation of such structures. Additionally, San Jose lacks a location list for the more than 1,000 apartment blocks that could be at risk.

Five years ago saw San Francisco make history by becoming California's first major city to demand property owners to rework wood-frame apartments at risk of collapsing during a quake. The push was intended to avoid a repeat of the events of 1906, where a quake leveled much of the city. In the time since then, such efforts have been stymied in San Francisco and neighboring areas but other Southern Californian communities have been playing catch up with seismic retrofitting.

The Bay Area contains roughly 18,000 wood-frame "soft-story" buildings whose upper floors risk collapsing to the floor. 16 people lost their lives when such a structure crumbled during the Northridge earthquake of '94. Arrietta Chakos, policy advisor for the Association of Bay Area Governments, claims that the Bay Area has become concerningly complacent about earthquakes measures.

Some Bay Area cities have confessed that their efforts have fallen behind while adding that they intend to get things back on track. Others have defended their actions, operating with a thoughtful and methodical approach after gathering political opinion. David Bonowitz, a structural engineer and consultant through Applied Technology Council, commented that a quick start to retrofitting is nowhere near the importance as whether or not retrofitting efforts are successfully finished. Bonowitz has been working with the city of San Francisco to help with seismic safety concerns.

Recently, Los Angeles and a handful of other Southern California cities have lead the way in quake safety. Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood demand that wood-frame apartments and concrete buildings must be retrofitted against tremors. Even steel-frame buildings within those last two cities must deal with retrofitting regulations. A recent study by the country's Geological Survey indicated that the Hayward fault of the East Bay may actually be more dangerous than the Bay Area's San Andreas fault.


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