Earthquake retrofitting program on track in aftermath of Loma Prieta

30 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, contractors and the city of San Francisco are working to make sure buildings are prepared for the next "big one."

"We've been extremely busy," says George Mak, director of general contractor SGDM, LLC. Mak says most of the work his team does is on soft story buildings, which are multi-level structures with a large opening (usually a garage) on the ground floor. "The whole Idea is to connect and make sure forces generated by the earthquake transfer to the ground and dissipate," says Mak. "We do what we can to fulfill the current requirement."

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection oversees the city's mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program. "We have, from single family homes to high rises, roughly 200,000 buildings in this town," says Director Tom Hui. The program required upgrades to be complete by September 15. So far, Hui says about 95 percent of building owners have complied. Those who failed to meet the deadline will receive a warning, then a court warning. "You may lose your property," warned Hui.

Still, both the city and contractors warn that retrofitting a property doesn't make it earthquake proof. "No matter how much work or money we spend on this type of work," George Mak says, "it depends on the size of the earthquake and where the epicenter is."

More on the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program:
DBI Seismic Safety Outreach Program: