Structural Issue Increases Earthquake Damage Risk for San Francisco Apartments

San Francisco–Tens of thousands of San Francisco homes and businesses could fall in the next large earthquake–a problem that building and city officials haven’t dealt with for decades, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A large number of the buildings in question are classic San Francisco apartment buildings, which contain a business on the first floor or a home built over a garage.Because there is a glass window, garage door or other space on the ground floor instead of a wall, the wood frames of the “soft-story” buildings are especially susceptible to earthquakes.San Francisco has more soft-story buildings than any other Bay Area city. Because the buildings–which are home to most of the city’s affordable rental units–are in neighborhoods built on lagoons, lakes, sections of the bay and creeks that were filled in with dirt, which is considered to be unstable soil, the city’s homes are particularly at risk. Many of the homes were built in the past several decades and, as a result, missed the impact of the big earthquakes.Seismically stabilizing the buildings would cost as little as $20,000 per five-unit apartment building; however, city officials have been slow to respond to retrofitting the soft-story structures, according to the Chronicle.