Dec 122017

Palo Alto City Council may require seismic retrofits

According to a recent story in the Palo Alto Weekly, hundreds of Palo Alto property owners could be forced to firm up the shaky foundations of their buildings under a proposal that the City Council will be considering in the coming months.

The city is embarking on a dramatic expansion of its Seismic Hazards and Identification Program, which was adopted in 1986 and created reporting requirements and retrofit incentives for owners of buildings deemed particularly vulnerable. The existing program focuses on the buildings that building officials deem to be particularly vulnerable: those constructed of unreinforced masonry; those built before 1935 and containing 100 or more occupants; and those that went up before 1976 and have 300 or more occupants. (Ed. note: None of these would apply to Barron Square)…

Now, Palo Alto is looking to add some teeth to the ordinance and to add four new buildings categories to the three that currently fall under its purview. The biggest addition to the list will be soft-story wood-frame buildings, a category that fared particularly poorly after the October 1989 earthquake in San Francisco and the 1994 tremor in Northridge. These multistory buildings typically have a ground-floor level that is weaker, has fewer partitions and is more flexible than the stories above it, making it more likely to collapse during an earthquake (Ed. note: Typically apartments built over garages or carports).

While it doesn’t appear that the new categories would include Barron Square we will be keeping an eye on City Council actions.


As you may know the Barron Square HOA carries Earthquake Insurance for the buildings and property. As noted in the 2018 budget package sent to you, the total valuation for Barron Square is $28,740,000 with a 15% deductible (minimum $25,000 per building for a single event). For the past several years the Board has chosen to pay a higher premium for the lower deductible rate. The small increase in your HOA dues for the premium is offset by a lower cost for your personal insurance.

If you assume a TOTAL loss of all buildings then the maximum deductible would be about $4,311,000 and this would be paid for by a special assessment of all owners in accordance with the assessment table in the CC&Rs (ranging from 1.25% to 1.79%). This means that an individual owner could be liable for between $54K and $77K.  THIS IS THE AMOUNT YOU NEED TO COVER WITH YOUR PERSONAL EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE, plus personal property and loss of use expenses.

California calculations!

 Posted by at 1:56 AM