City officials have called a Thursday night session to address what could become a major problem in Berkeley—“soft story” apartment buildings.
With one in four Berkeley residents living in apartment buildings with ground floor parking or open commercial spaces, up to 95 percent of them could be rendered homeless by a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault.
The soft story seminar, with Mayor Tom Bates presiding, begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.
Among those scheduled to speak are:
• David Bonowitz, chair of the Existing Buildings Committee of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California.
• Jeanne Perkins, Earthquake and Hazards Program Manager for the Association of Bay Area Governments.
• Tom Tobin, of the city Seismic Technical Advisory Group.
• City Building Official Joan McQuarrie.
A 1996 survey identified many of the city’s soft story structures, designated because the ground floor is devoted to parking, open commercial spaces or both.
Because earthquake forces tend to concentrate on the ground floor, buildings with fewer internal walls and support tend to be more susceptible to powerful seismic waves.
A 2001 survey of a sampling of Berkeley’s soft story buildings found that most could be adequately retrofitted to reduce major damage.
The team estimated that 46 percent had severe or considerable vulnerability and were likely to be red-tagged after a major quake—requiring demolition or extensive repairs—and an additional 49 percent would be yellow-tagged, rendered uninhabitable pending lesser repairs.
City staff members will also present possible solutions, said city project manager Dan Lambert, who said the session is the first step in formulating a soft story program for the city.›