Unreinforced Masonry Buildings - What & Why

What’s Happening Now?

The City is working with stakeholders to determine financing and funding options for owners of unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs). The Office of Emergency Management is leading this effort, and is arranging meetings with community leaders, banking institutions, developers, real estate professionals, and historic preservation groups. Their work is ongoing.

On August 3, 2017, we released the URM Policy Committee's final recommendations

We have posted the updated list of URMs on the Project Documents page. We updated the list quarterly to reflect the results of appeals and demolitions. All building owners have the right to appeal the determination of URM building status. Owners can do this by hiring an engineer to perform an in-depth analysis of the building to determine if the building does not contain any URM bearing walls. This in-depth analysis is beyond the scope of what the City could do in our validation efforts.

Please see the Timeline for our future actions. 

Project Benefits

Public safety is the primary reason for requiring retrofits of URMs. However, there are also concerns about maintaining important buildings that are the heart of the historic and cultural character of many neighborhoods. Requiring retrofits for URMs means that more of these “character buildings” may be preserved after an earthquake. It may also result in less building demolition or vacancy. Retrofits can help lessen damage to these buildings, allowing businesses to reopen in a timely manner following a smaller earthquake; a City’s resiliency is key to recovery.

The End Result

Once the policy is adopted and legislation approved, we will develop a program to require owners to retrofit their URM buildings. We currently only require seismic upgrades when an owner is doing a large remodel to a building. The upgrades typically do not bring the URMs up to current code, but they do help stabilize the buildings enough to make them less vulnerable to collapse during earthquakes.

We anticipate that the program will have tools and incentives to help building owners. We would like to encourage owners to go beyond minimum code for seismic retrofit. Renovation beyond the code requirements increases the potential for buildings to be quickly occupied after an earthquake.