San Francisco tries shaming for not retrofitting homes

Byby Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
San Francisco tries shaming for not retrofitting homes
The city of San Francisco plans to post signs on apartment buildings to publicly shame their owners into complying with a safety ordinance.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is getting tough when it comes to earthquake safety. The city has come up with a way to get the attention of building owners who haven't started seismic improvements and it includes some good old-fashioned public shaming.

A new law requires that many buildings be evaluated for seismic safety. In San Francisco 6,000 owners had the past year to respond to the city for a plan and most have. Regardless, the 10 percent of those who didn't, may be coming home to a large sign posted on their building in red letters and three languages that warns everyone the building is in violation of earthquake building codes. Is it over the top? The city says no.

"That's what we want it to do. We want people to pay attention to this because we want people to know that we're very serious about seismic safety in San Francisco," Patrick Otellini from the San Francisco Seismic Safety Department said.

The law targets wood frame apartments and hotels with weak first floors, often called soft story structures. It is the same type of building which crumbled in the Marina District during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, killing a couple and their baby.

San Francisco resident Nick Fong says a public shaming could send a strong message. He told ABC7 News, "I think it's fair because lives are at stake in the end. Bottom line, it's going to cost someone money."

Daniel Elghousan owns Frank's Polk Street shoe repair shop. He says he thinks the move by the city is too harsh and says a sign like that would kill business. Elghousan said, "You can do it different ways without scaring people away."

A seismic retrofit can cost big bucks -- up to $100,000 -- but the city says it's an investment in saving lives. A public shaming would be a small price to pay.