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Deadline passes for SLO's retrofit permits

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July 1. That was the day 99 building owners in San Luis Obispo should have applied for a permit to seismically retrofit their unreinforced masonry buildings. Almost one week later, seven still had not.

Claire Clark, the city's seismic coordinator, isn't too worried: "This was a pretty good turnout," she said. Dawdling building owners could face penalties that range from fines to court action, Clark said, "but we're not at that step yet."

After the deadly 2003 San Simeon earthquake, the city of San Luis Obispo stepped up its schedule to upgrade all its seismically unsafe buildings. The year 2017 was kept as the final date when all work must be complete, but several interim deadlines were added.

First was July 1, the date owners needed to have applied for a retrofit permit. Next, owners need to have those permits in hand by Jan. 1, 2006.

That's the most important deadline, said Clarke: "That's where you'll see enforcement outside of me calling and bugging them."

The next deadline comes a year later: If a building has no retrofitting done by Jan. 1, 2007, then it must be fully strengthened by 2010. But if a building has reached what's called Level A by that 2007 deadline, then its owners can take until 2012 to reach what's called Level B.

Level A means that parapets have been removed or braced and the walls have been anchored to both the roof and floor. Level B means that a building's walls and front have been reinforced with steel frames.

In an interview with New Times last year, Mayor Dave Romero called it a "carrot and stick" approach: "There's still folks that are going to be hurt [financially]. But as prudent stewards of the community, we simply had to pass something."

As for the seven who missed this first deadline, Clark said she's working with each one to encourage them to file. Clarke has a background as a lawyer and as a second grade teacher and she likened the work she does now to talking to a student's parents about an action they need to take with their child.

So who's harder to work with, second graders or building owners?

Clark paused before she answered: "Second graders or their parents?" she countered, laughing. "Every one I've worked with has been delightful. I have the greatest regard for the [owners] who have come in to work on this."

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