A dozen years after the San Simeon Earthquake prompted San Luis Obispo officials to move up deadlines for seismically strengthening 126 unreinforced masonry buildings mostly in the historic downtown area, only eight buildings still need to be retrofitted.
Of the eight buildings — all located downtown — six retrofitting projects are under construction or nearly complete, with two of those strengthened as part of the Chinatown project along Monterey Street.
Two buildings at 1119 and 1123 Garden St., including the current home of SLO Brewing Co., will be retrofitted as part of the Garden Street Terraces project, a commercial, residential and hotel development due to break ground this fall.
Of the 118 buildings brought into compliance, 10 were demolished, four were removed from the list because they were not unreinforced masonry and five were found to be exempt because they were residential instead of commercial. The remaining 99 buildings were retrofitted.
“It’s pretty impressive that they’ve been able to get compliance on this,” Chief Building Official Anne Schneider said. “This is a lot of buildings, and there are very few cities (in California) that are able to get compliance on this.”
She attributed the city’s success to local officials’ desire to work with the building owners and set up timelines.
In 1997, the city of San Luis Obispo adopted a deadline of 2017 for all of the unreinforced buildings to be seismically upgraded.
In response to the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake, in which two women died when fleeing a collapsing masonry building in Paso Robles, the council required that owners complete partial earthquake strengthening by July 2007 or face a 2010 deadline for full strengthening.
It eventually extended the deadlines of several buildings until 2015 because of planned developments at those locations. The three projects — Chinatown, Garden Street Terraces and the Naman project — all entered into agreements with the city that include annual inspections and continued progress with their permitting processes.
Retrofitting requires repairs that help the building remain standing in an earthquake long enough for the people inside to escape. The regulations do not guarantee a building will be habitable after a quake but are instead aimed at saving lives.
Besides the Garden Street buildings, the following buildings are still in the process of being strengthened:
- 736 Higuera St., the Carissa Building and the future home of SLO Brew;
In addition, the owners of the Springfield Baptist Church at 2747 Broad St. are no longer required to conduct a costly retrofit because the church has been converted to a private residence.