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Soft Story Finance Options

Multifamily building owners gathered at Fort Mason on Oct. 23 to learn more about their financing options to allow them to comply with new city rules for certain buildings with “soft stories.” The event was co-hosted by the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program as a workshop to learn about public and private financing options.

As reported this summer in the Marina Times (see “It’s here: Mandatory seismic retrofit for ‘soft story’ buildings,” June 2013), San Francisco has enacted a law called the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for Soft Story Wood Frame Buildings. As the name suggests, it deals with strengthening these multifamily buildings so they better withstand earthquakes. It covers buildings built before 1978 that have living space for five or more units and at least two floors above a weak or “soft” story, usually used for parking or commercial space. An estimated 55,000 San Francisco residents are in such buildings, as are about 7,000 businesses.

Building owners learned about a variety of private financing options. And the city will have its own public financing option through its Green Finance Program. Details will be available in coming months.

Owners of such properties who are looking for guidance on what they need to do, how they can finance it, and how they go about getting the work done, can contact the Department of Building Inspection at 415-558-6699 or softstory@sfgov.org or visit the San Francisco Apartment Association at www.sfaa.org.

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