The Coast News Group
Community Community News Oceanside

Building owners have another decade to retrofit

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside City Council voted to extend its deadline for the remaining 24 building owners to retrofit their structures and meet state mandated earthquake safety requirements on April 1.

Many of the unreinforced masonry buildings that are not up to code are located in the downtown area. Others include the Rosicrucian Fellowship building on Mission Avenue and Fire Station One, also in the downtown area, which is in the process of requesting proposals for engineering services to start the work.

Building owners must promptly post signage warning people the building does not meet state standards. They must also have the building inspected within eight years, and complete seismic retrofitting within 11 years.

City staff made a concerted effort to get owners up to speed last year by sending information letters, holding a stakeholder’s workshop, and presenting information at a planning commission meeting and city workshop.

During the September planning commission meeting, Rick Brown, a city chief building official, explained the inherent dangers the buildings pose.

“Without seismic activity or high wind forces they’re very durable, but shaken they tend to perform very poorly,” Brown said.

Building owners at the meeting expressed mindfulness, but said there is a slim possibility of a major earthquake occurring close to Oceanside.

Likewise the city has not been urgent in its efforts to ensure retrofitting. The largest earthquakes in the area have reached a 3.7 magnitude, which the buildings have endured.

There are alarming predictions, from the United States Geological Survey and California Department of Conservation, of a 99 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger shaking the region within 30 years.

The danger is unreinforced buildings aren’t likely to withstand a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. This can result in injury or death of people in or around the building, as well as pubic safety personnel responding to an emergency.

The criteria set to update buildings falls short of requirements for new construction, but is deemed safe enough for people to escape from the building and falling debris in the event of a major earthquake.

State retrofitting requirements were first mandated in 1995. Oceanside has extended the deadline to meet requirements several times. Within those 20 years 54 building owners have completed seismic retrofitting or had engineering studies done that have shown the building is sound.