The San Luis Obispo City Council is hoping to encourage downtown building owners to retrofit for earthquake safety sooner rather than later.
On a 4-1 vote with Mother's Tavern owner and councilmember Paul Brown dissenting the council decided on Jan. 9 to support the Chamber of Commerce's system for ranking the hazardousness of 67 nonretrofitted unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings. That risk assessment would be used to determine the timetable for retrofitting.
After the December 2003 San Simeon quake in which two women died in a historic Paso Robles building the SLO City Council adopted accelerated deadlines for retrofitting. The 2004 rules also allowed building owners to make improvements in two stages, Level A and Level B. Level A requires walls to be attached at the roof and at the foundation to stabilize the "box," and is considered to result in 80 percent of the needed structural strengthening.
Buildings that are strengthened to Level A by July 1, 2007, have a deadline of July 1, 2012 for completing retrofitting compared to a 2010 deadline if Level A work is not completed by this July 1.
With so many buildings remaining to be retrofitted, the council and the Chamber of Commerce are concerned that the downtown area will be disrupted and congested by all the construction as the 2010 deadline approaches.
The council directed city staff to come up with recommendations for implementing the risk-ranking system while allowing flexibility for building owners, especially for nonprofit organizations. The SLO Mission and Mission College Prep are ranked in the top five of the most hazardous buildings.
The city's earthquake safety program is designed to protect people, rather than the buildings themselves, by strengthening the structures enough to allow people time to exit during an earthquake.