City considers making building owners do seismic upgrades

The Public Press developed this map showing areas in red where buildings are highly susceptible to earthquake damage.

City Hall sources have confirmed the basic details of a San Francisco Public Press report from Friday afternoon that the Board of Supervisors will consider requiring the owners of soft-story buildings of three stories or more to seismically retrofit them by 2020 – at the expense of building owners, something sure to rouse controversy.

The legislation was developed and introduced by the Mayor's Office and it's being sponsored by the board's two most prolific and effective supervisors, Board President David Chiu and Sup. Scott Wiener, which is probably a signal that city officials know this one is going to be “challenging,” as one source told us.

Details are still being hammered out before the measure is introduced at tomorrow's board meeting, including some of the financing options that would be open to property owners. But after voters in 2010 narrowly rejected Measure A, a bond that would have provided low-cost loans for the seismic retrofits, property owners could be forced to dig deep to ensure their buildings don't collapse in an earthquake.

Wiener confirmed that the legislation would be mandate on building owners without public money attached: "It would be a mandate that they within a certain time frame do an earthquake retrofit," Wiener told the Guardian.

As the Public Press reported, the legislation would apply to all wood-framed buildings of three stories or more built before 1978, with smaller buildings and single-family homes exempted. In the most recent print edition of the Public Press, extensive coverage of the city's earthquake vulnerabilities estimated that about 58,000 San Franciscans live in the nearly 3,000 soft-story buildings deemed dangerous places to be when the next big earthquake hits.

Wiener said city officials have been deeply involved with negotiations with various effected groups, including building owners and their tenants, who could face displacement as the work is done or higher rents if landlords pass through those costs. Wiener said the legislation is bound to evolve as talks and hearings continue: "There are a lot of variables and the introduction is really just a preliminary step."


provide the funds to do the work, or at least provide low-cost or no-cost loans to do so.

As it stand, such a requirement would lead to more property sales, mergers, demolishments, Ellis Act evictions, TIC creations and condo conversions.

Way to go, assholes. This is what earthquake insurance is for,

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

"Way to go, assholes. This is what earthquake insurance is for"

Right. Who cares if people die as long as the landlord gets his money.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

for the most part... but the perfidious and berzerk want tenants crushed in the rubble *too*.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

But it's not, nor never was, a long-term housing solution. That said, a tenant who pays a viable rent and causes no trouble, should enjoy a long tenancy if they choose. It is the parasites that want something for nothing that are being driven out of SF, and good riddance. Nobody owes them anything, and they should pay their own way.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:35 am

The city doesn't appear to want to pay for it though.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:26 am

The owners are responsible for keeping their properties safe for human habitation. I would love to have the city pay for it. Let's nationalize these buildings, then they'll be owned by the public, and then I as a member of the public will be more than happy to pay for it. Till then... you own, you pay.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

Yes - then WE can all pay for these debatable "seismic improvements." Or rather - everyone but Greg since he doesn't really pay taxes anyway.

You should consider slavery Greg - you seem aimless enough to qualify and Lucretia could definitely use someone to wax Lucretia's luxury car on a daily basis. Wouldn't you like to be close to Lucretia on a daily basis? You would thank Lucretia. Lucretia would treat her new pet well.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

Actually, without seismic upgrades, many buildings are not eligible for earthquake insurance—companies won't take on that risk.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

Putting in shear walls and tie downs is not cheap. Bolting exposed foundations isn't a huge expense but with the type of faults we have in California bolting isn't much of a help.

Without a pass through this kind of mandate could put a lot of property owners in deep debt and benefit a whole host of contractors.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

San Francisco already has the oldest housing stock in the nation. In most other cities, these Edwardians rot-buckets would have been demolished already.

I suspect that Steven thinks this is a good thing but he is not thinking it thru. If buildings become too pricey to remodel, the older buildings may just be allowed to rot, decay and wither on the vine, so a demo permit can be obtained. Or they just fall down.

We've already seen this with SRO's in SF. When the city started mandating insane fire reg's on them requiring six-figure re-do's, guess that happened? A lot of them "mysteriously" burned down.

It's called irony.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

arson for profit.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

I was saying it is understandable and predictable.

Politics is about reality, not perfection.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

than an lapse in ethics. People sometimes die in profit-motivated arsons.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

in that regard, and ensured that the occupants were all out before torching the building.

Again, I'm not vindicating their response to being lumbered with excessive costs of remediation, but only commenting on the practical upshot of burdening SRO's with uneconomic liabilities.

SRO's could Ellis, of course, but change of use for a building of that size is harder to swing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

restricted to San Francisco, where, according to your account, the criminal landlords "ensured that the occupants were all out before torching the building."

"According to the Insurance Information Institute, arsonists destroyed nearly $900 million in insured property and killed 295 civilians nationwide in 2007."

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

building, and in fact that makes little economic sense outside of rent control or, for commercial buildings, for insurance fraud.

How many tenants and homeless people started fires nationwide, I wonder?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

LOL. Arson is never the answer. Besides the fact it's illegal and dangerous investigators, both those of the SFFD and the insurance companies, are very skilled these days in "sniffing" out combustibles.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

But again, just to be clear, I wasn't advocating arson as an affirmative business strategy. I was merely noting that the last time Sf mandated expensive safety codes on SF SRO's, the incidence of fires in SRO's increased. I feel sure it was just a coincidence, of course. But it helps to bear in mind that policies have real world implications that are not always what was intended.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

Being that seismic retrofitting is such a broad term. Some parts of retrofitting are cheap (foundation bolting being one, relatively cheap option), others a lot more invasive and expensive. There are going to be a lot of problems if the city mandates expensive items like shear walls. This will lead to a flurry of selling to corporations and holding companies which have the money to comply with these new rules while decimating the mom and pop owners who do not.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

Our Edwardian is rot-free because it was built with massive chunks old growth coast redwood that have lasted 105 years and will last 105 more with proper, minimal maintenance. We get to walk out our back door into a garden with exotic greenery and the sounds of singing birds.

It may be a condo alright, but it ain't condolicious craptacular.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

cesspit of drug addicts, pimps, pushers, prostitutes and petty criminals.

16th and Mission? Sounds idyllic.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:09 am

Yeah, we live in the middle of a dense urban mixed ethnicity and income neighborhood in the City because if its idylls.

That said, I like being in the garden on a late spring day, the wind bearing the squeals of the kids playing at Marshall School during recess and the faint groan of the BART train on the rails as it slows to pull into 16th Street Station.

Of course, the four fifths of a billion $ SFPD and DPW could not be bothered to keep our streets clean and that is because they hate the children of color who attend Marshall and enjoy the fact that they have to walk through shit and over passed out junkies on their way to schoo.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:13 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:44 am

Of course unsafe buildings should be seismically updated. And those living in the building should expect to share the expense.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

even if they are not mandated. So I imagine that tenants might oppose this, as the resultant rent increases might even drive out tenants.

In fact, landlords might actually want to do this, just to get the passthru's and the rent increases.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

"Without a pass through this kind of mandate could put a lot of property owners in deep debt..."

It's okay, if you can't afford it, you don't deserve to live here. Let someone even wealthier and (naturally) more deserving take over your property. What, you think you have some constitutional right to live wherever you like? Please.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Not their tenants - who honestly I could give two shits about. Tenants who support this may want to think twice - this kind of construction is very unpleasant to live through and if the costs are passed through will add quite a bit to their monthly rents. Which is why, now that I think about it, this could be just the thing we've been looking for to "encourage" a few recalcitrant renters to find something more to their liking :-)

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

being crushed to death in earthquakes, *after* *which* property owners can get a bailout from the government.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

It's about owners being forced to do very expensive and highly invasive construction to satisfy the city. What is your answer lil' lilz?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

he has no truck with capitalism anyway and would like to see all commercial activity ran by the government. So he would support any policy that inpoverished property and business owners so that the city could step in and buy them for a song.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

If you can't afford the costs, MOVE your pampered ass. That's what you've been telling the tenants, right? (That we have no god-given right to live in the city? Well, neither do you!) What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

And those properties will be snapped up by off-shore holding companies and hedge funds and you'll see how much you enjoy dealing with THOSE kind of absentee landlords!!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

Sf gets away with this crap because most SF LL's are mom-and-pop operations. But the big property companies from back east plays the city like a violin.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

uneconomic to one owner, it is most likely uneconomic to any other owner either. So it gets to the point where a building is not viable for that use for any owner, and so the use has to change.

You cannot get a quart out of a pint pot.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

or Beijing Holdings much less sympathetic to his pleas for "a couple extra days" to pay his rent than was Mamasan Kim - that's for sure.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

buildings would be lost and would be rebuilt no longer subject to RC.

Luckily (for people like you anyway) a LL cannot invoke an earthquake quite as easily as he can invoke a fire or a major refit, especially if the city makes other options impossible.

Ellis, earthquake and fires - the three enemies of subsidized tenants. And oh to be a tenant paying a full rent, who fears none of these things.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

live in properties owned or regulated by the SFHA or HUD, not by the rent board, which regulates unsubsidized private rentals, where tenants pay a regulated full rent.

There will be a test on word definitions later in the week. You should study harder as you keep making the same mistakes.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

with Section 8 or public projects, but also the more insidious cases where a municipality seeks to push the cost of that subsidy onto the owners of the building.

Which of course directly leads to Ellis evictions.

Fires, like Ellis evictions, have a mysterious habit of only happening where a tenant pays an artificially reduced rent. Funny that, huh?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

This year's second graders need your desk for their class next year. If you are held back (again), their classroom will be overcrowded.

Billy Madison troll.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

What matters is whether a LL gets a ROI that justifies continuing to provide homes for people like you, or whether he gets Mister Ellis to pay you a housecall.

Your choice, whatever your preferred terminology.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

Landlords do not invoke the Ellis Act to allow the units to lie fallow. They invoke the Ellis Act to OMI or convert. There are limits on the number of OMI and conversions, so, yeah, invoke the Ellis Act and see how far it gets you.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

costs 4.5K per tenant plus some legal costs, but the building immediately becomes more valuable by at least 100K per unit as TIC's. No brainer.

That said, it has been estimated that there are 10,000 rental units in SF that are deliberately left vacany by LL's rather than deal with rent control.

And, ironically, the Ellis Act came about because Santa Monica tried to make that illegal.

You really are clueless, marcos. But at least you got one thing right - the law does not compel LL's to continue to be in the rental business. Your vindication of the Ellis Act there is refreshing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

If TIC's can't convert to condo because there are so many units in the lottery pool, then your economic logic #fails. Nobody wants to get into the TIC game now that everyone knows how risky and dangerous it is.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

then you must have no explanation for the spike in ellis evictions which Tim claims is destroying the heart of this city. Rent control destroys the very people it is designed to help. Ironic, huh?

But then, as you acknowledge, no LL is "compelled" to stay in the rental business, thanks to Mr. Ellis - someone who people like you made famous. How does that feel, asswipe?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

Stopping this legislation at the Board or winning a referendum will draw a line--here and no further--where the TIC brand will be so tarnished thanks to the whining of TIC advocates that the market will collapse on this risky form of ownership.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

being no good for anyone - particularly those who can avail themselves only of this type of home ownership in SF.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

"Collapsing markets" for purchasing risky and dangerous TIC's will result in fewer evictions as the lure of "easy" condo conversion proves illusory.

That is why defeating this legislation is so important. The TIC commune members have done a bang up job in shouting from the rooftops the downsides of TIC ownership. They should do more of that so that we can catch it on video and air 30 second spots.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:44 am

On my block, I'd say that hald the buildings are now TIC's. 15 years ago, they were all rentals. Some of those buildings have sincre condo converted but most have not and, in some cases, can not because they were Ellis'ed.

None have been foreclosed upon or even been subject to a short sale. And half the cars on my block are expensive European models.

The crisis is in your head. TIC's in SF are flourishing because there is a demand from tenants who want to own. Those who complained at that meeting were a self-selected group with a motive. But most TIC owners just quietly get on with their lives in their new home. Why would you hate that?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:16 am

It sure looks to me like TIC commune/collective shareholders' hair is on fire in despair before the Supervisors' Committee....if that does not reflect the crisis that the risky and dangerous TIC's are in now, I don't know what would.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:46 am

If TIC's are a problem for their owners, then we should help them especially given that, instead of the fix costing the city money, it will make money for the city. Everyone wins.

If TIC's are not a problem for their owners, then why do you care what happens to them either way? It's quite simply no concern of yours.

Any TIC owner in an Ellis'ed building can never condo anyway, and will forever be TIC's. They cannot be helped either way.

Either there is no problem. Or there is a problem but it can be fixed. Eventually, I suspect that all TIC's will be condo'ed. Because, eventually, rent control will go away.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:12 am

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