Why S.F.'s Parking Requirements May Cause Your Building to Crumble in an Earthquake

1960s and 70s era Dingbat buildings, which are common in many California cities, may be hazardous to more than just your design sensibilities. Their much-loathed parking-oriented designs can make buildings especially vulnerable to earthquakes.

"The threat of earthquakes that could destroy the homes of thousands at any moment has always loomed over San Francisco," writes Aaron Bialick. "In a bid to to reduce that risk, the Board of Supervisors is expected next week to mandate seismic retrofits for nearly 3,000 wood-frame 'soft-story' buildings with five housing units or more that are potentially in danger of collapse."

"But what may be overlooked in the discussion about earthquake safety is how it ties in with city parking policy: Many of the apartment buildings with weak ground-floor structures, or 'soft-story' buildings, were built that way to make room for car parking." And San Francisco's residential parking requirement, which was set in 1960, may be to blame.

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, "said many buildings in American cities during the 1960s and 70s were built with ground floors completely devoted to parking, leaving little structural support, though they’re less common in SF, than, say, Los Angeles. For these buildings, he used the nickname 'dingbat.'”

“These types of buildings pose a serious threat, because there’s 58,000 San Franciscans that live in these buildings,” said Patrick Otellini, San Francisco’s director of earthquake safety. “If these buildings collapse, because it’s largely a rental [population], these are people that won’t come back to San Francisco.”

Full Story: How Car Parking Can Make Earthquakes More Dangerous in San Francisco


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