ABAG Retrofit Success Stories

Follow the example of these home, apartment, and condo owners who are making their homes and rental properties better able to "Stand Up to Earthquakes." Don't sit back and wait for the next earthquake to destroy your home.

Loma Prieta Retrofit Success

In 1989, at the corner of Center and Elm Streets in downtown Santa Cruz, architect Michael O'Hearn unwittingly created a laboratory for the study of seismic retrofit design. On that corner, at 214 and 210 Elm Street, were two identical Victorian style homes. The twin homes were built by the same builder, with identical materials and using the same construction techniques. When O'Hearn bought them in 1984, he started by retrofitting #210. Unfortunately he had not yet retrofited #214 before the Loma Prieta earthquake hit on Oct. 17, 1989.

The Home at 214 Elm Street "came apart in four sections," O'Hearn said. However, 210 Elm Street, with its plywood shear panels and bolted foundation, suffered only minor damage. "The one we had retrofitted (210 Elm St.) cost us $5,000 to repair. The other one (214 Elm St.) cost us $260,000 to repair. The whole building had to be jacked up, repaired, and slid back on a new foundation."

O'Hearn offers this advice: "It's a lot cheaper to retrofit a house now than to repair it after an earthquake." (210 Elm Street, Santa Cruz)
The above story is based on an article prepared by APA - The Engineered Wood Association © 1997 and used with permission.
Northridge APARTMENT Retrofit Success
"One 200-unit apartment complex heavily damaged in the 1971 San Fernando earthquake was repaired and strengthened for $17,500 per unit; in 1994, the same buildings were "green tagged" [remained habitable] and cosmetic repairs cost only $500 per unit." Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Northern California Chapter Quake '06 Soft-Story Fact Sheet

Northridge HOME Retrofit Success

"A family spent $3200 in 1993 retrofitting their home built in 1911. None of their neighbors did any work. When the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit, this home was the only one on both sides fo the street for two blocks that was not damaged." James Russell, Codes Consultant
Peninsula Elderly Care Facility Uses ABAG Finance Authority
In March 1999, the ABAG Finance Authority issued $23 million in Revenue Certificates of Participation for Channing House, a nonprofit corporation which owns an 11-story building in Palo Alto, California. The building contains 232 Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) apartment units and seven rooms for skilled nursing services with 21 beds. The 232 RCFE units consist of 32 assisted-living units, 98 studio units, 89 one-bedroom units, and 12 two-bedroom units. By going through the Authority, the interest rate was only 5.25%. The funds are being spent for seismic strengthening of the building, as well as for installation of an additional freight elevator. The seismic retrofit designed by Rinne-Peterson involves putting the building on seismic isolators that reduce the earthquake forces transmitted up into the building. This retrofit design was chosen to minimize the construction disruption to the elderly occupants of the building.


Peninsula Tuck-Under Parking Strengthened

The apartment complex we own was built in 1962. It has two sets of buildings with tuck-under parking. One set of buildings was retrofitted in the latter part of 2000, and the second set was retrofitted at the beginning of 2001. A. DeMascole, Consulting Engineer, San Francisco designed the seismic retrofit and Anderson-Niswander Construction of Redwood City, a company that specializes in seismic construction, did all of the seismic upgrade work. The retrofitting was completed with minimal disruption to the residents living in the building. The fact that this complex has been retrofitted has proved to be an effective marketing tool as well as an important upgrade to many residents already living in the buildings. - Owner, Mid-Peninsula Apartment Complex

  East Bay Family Does Work Themselves
We decided to do our own work under the house because of the type of person I am. I'd rather do the work myself - whether it's paint or foundation work - or retrofit. And I've got a good helper; my wife! - Ron Kramer

We decided to do the retrofit, first of all, for safety - to protect ourselves. But also because we've been in our home so long. If we should lose our home in a major earthquake, I think it would be devastating because this home is who we are. ...There may be damage, but at least the house will be repairable and all the work and the years and the time that we've put into our house will still be here for us. - Chris Kramer

Peninsula Family Hires a Contractor

Both of us have been through two natural disasters - a major hurricane ... and a flood ... It makes natural disasters seem very real. ...If you think it's tough to get a contractor these days, imagine a situation where you have 10,000 homes that need repair. You never know when and at what time it's going to hit. ...Its not possible to simply run and leave the house if there's a baby or small child in a crib. - Bertil Chappuis and Carmen Munoz

Fixed-Income Mobile Homeowners Retrofit with Financial Assisance
[The contractor] said it would cost $1800. We said, we can't afford that now. So then came the application from the government [Department of Insurance]. We tried for the money. I think that [the contractor] did a good job because now everything is level. Nothing squeaks [when we dance]! I know what's important - it's to have these things fixed. We wish that everybody had the chance that we did [to get help with funding], or, if they afford it, they should do it! We sleep better now. - Jorge and Ramona Robles

ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, is the regional planning and services agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

This page was last updated 10/28/03 by jbp.