Ordinance requiring seismic evaluations of SF private schools awaits mayor’s signature

Mike Koozmin/s.f. examiner file photoPrivate schools including St. Finn Barr Catholic School will have three years to come into compliance with seismic evaluation requirements under a law awaiting Mayor Ed Lee's signature.

Mayor Ed Lee is expected to sign legislation within the next week that will make San Francisco the first city in California to require private schools to be evaluated for earthquake safety.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the ordinance requiring The City's 120 private schools to undergo seismic evaluations within three years. The legislation, which will not require seismic retrofits, was first introduced to the board in February and amended numerous times after dozens of private-school leaders expressed concerns over the cost of evaluations and potential subsequent retrofits.

The City convened an interagency working group that first met mid-August to facilitate priority permit processing with city departments — such as building, fire and public works — to assist schools that opt to voluntarily retrofit their buildings.

“It's obviously a priority of the mayor to make sure we're doing all we can to protect our citizens against an earthquake in any circumstance,” said Patrick Otellini, director of earthquake safety for San Francisco.

The legislation was created after a December report, “Earthquake Risk and San Francisco's Schools,” found that at least one-third of private-school buildings “have characteristics that indicate they might perform poorly in future earthquakes.”

Although The City escaped damage in the magnitude-6.0 earthquake near Napa on Aug. 24, the event is further evidence that San Francisco must prepare itself for future quakes, Otellini emphasized.

“It's a very big wake-up call to see the kind of damage we can expect in a moderate earthquake,” said Otellini.

The South Napa earthquake has also prompted earthquake officials to accelerate legislation that would require inspections of older, taller buildings possibly at risk for facade failure during a temblor in The City. The Facade Maintenance and Inspection Ordinance is expected to be introduced to the Board of Supervisors near the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17.

Separately, a Sept. 15 deadline for building owners or agents required to submit screening forms to show if a structure will require a seismic retrofit per The City's soft-story ordinance has been extended to Oct. 3.

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