Press Release


Mayor Newsom Announces Executive Directive Establishing The Earthquake Safety Implementation Committee (ESIC)

Directive Implements Recommendations of the Community Action Plan on Seismic Safety (CAPSS), a Multi-Year Effort by the Department of Building Inspection

1/7/2011- Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced an Executive Directive establishing the Earthquake Safety Implementation Committee (ESIC) under the direction of the City Administrator’s Office, and tasks the committee to implement a number of policy recommendations from a forthcoming report from the Community Action Plan on Seismic Safety (CAPSS), a nine year effort to catalogue the specific seismic risks San Francisco faces and suggestions on how to mitigate this loss of life and property damage.

“In San Francisco we live with the very real prospect of a major earthquake, and this new effort to raise awareness and retrofit buildings will protect life and property across the City,” said Mayor Newsom. “I issued this Executive Directive and these recommendations to ensure the progress we’ve made these last seven years seismically upgrading and retrofitting our buildings continues.”

The CAPSS report, lead by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) in partnership with engineers and seismic experts from around the country, focuses on the science behind earthquakes and structural damage. The project ended on December 31, 2010, and the draft reports paint a vivid picture of the loss of life and structural damage San Francisco faces, and a robust set of policy recommendations to mitigate these impacts. Specifically, ESIC will coordinate with DBI to create implementation plans and timelines for the CAPSS recommendations, task other departments with implementation assignments, perform community outreach to build political support for a comprehensive, long-term earthquake mitigation strategy, and clarify, through stakeholder meetings and further research, the costs associated with the CAPSS recommendations.

The urgency for this project can be found all throughout the pages of the CAPSS reports. In what seismologists refer to as the “expected” earthquake (7.2 magnitude), San Francisco would experience, at worst case, an estimated 300 fatalities, 7,000 injuries requiring medical attention, 27,000 buildings being condemned, 2,700 additional buildings destroyed by fire, 85,000 housing units lost, and up to $30 billion in property damage.

USGS scientists have forecast 63% likelihood of one or more 6.7 magnitude or larger earthquakes striking the Bay Area in the next 30 years. Using GPS to measure strain accumulating along the San Andreas fault, scientists report that enough strain has re-accumulated along the Peninsula segment of the San Andreas already to produce a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Clearly, time is of the essence, hence the need to create an implementation plan for the CAPSS report sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, ESIC will need to partner with public sector and private stakeholders to devise a variety of financial instruments to pay for retrofits, both through the legislative process and through public-private partnerships with the financial and mortgage sectors. This will require the committee to build consensus around timelines for retrofit inspection and retrofit, taking into account the CAPSS recommended time frames and community feedback on feasibility and desire to perform the work.

ESIC will include the following entities or designees: the Controller, the Office of Public Finance, the Director of DBI, the President of the Building Inspection Commission, the Fire Chief, and the Director of the Department of Emergency Management, and any other members that the City Administrator deems necessary to complete its objective.

Other Efforts on Seismic Safety

Mayor Newsom has forwarded a number of seismic safety-related initiatives over the years. Specifically, last year the Board of Supervisors passed a voluntary soft story retrofit ordinance sponsored by the Mayor. This new law provides a basket of incentives for private homeowners who choose to voluntarily complete code upgrades on their soft story structures. Additionally, the Mayor sponsored a general obligation bond on the November 2010 ballot to provide for retrofits of up to 156 of the City’s most vulnerable soft story buildings which house some of the City’s most vulnerable citizens. Despite widespread support and 162,266 votes in favor, Proposition A only garnered 63.24%, just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a bond measure.

Mayor Newsom also implemented a new Emergency Operations Plan, which was approved in January 2005 after having last been updated in 1996. A comprehensive Emergency Response Plan was added in 2007. The plan is regularly updated. The Mayor has also championed 72hours.org, an emergency preparedness tool which now average 19,000 views a month and won a Webby Award for best government website in 2006.

Since 1989, almost 200 buildings and facilities have been seismically retrofitted to improve the performance of public buildings and safety of the public. These improvements include facilities that house our first responders (fire, police, health) and will allow the City to continue to provide uninterrupted emergency services and vital resources such as water and electricity to those in need after a disaster or earthquake.

Two large projects that are currently being upgraded are San Francisco General Hospital and facilities identified under the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond passed by voters in June 2010 including the retrofit of the City’s high pressure water fire fighting system, neighborhood fire stations, and the construction of a new Public Safety Building. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is also well underway with a $4.6 billion seismic upgrade and retrofit of the City’s Hetch Hetchy regional water delivery system.

San Francisco also recently launched the San Francisco Building Occupancy Resumption Program (SF-BORP), a first of its kind program for public buildings in California. SF-BORP will pre-certify structural inspectors, create secure building drawings, identify a structural system, and develop and inspection plan for city-owned buildings; thereby allowing engineers to quickly determine whether a building can be restored for occupancy so that the City can continue to operate and provide key emergency services in an event of a major earthquake.