Retrofitting ordinance nears approval

An unreinforced masonry structure in Downtown Gilroy.

The City of Gilroy is inching closer to approving a new set of
seismic safety guidelines that could make it easier for downtown
property owners to retrofit and reopen their buildings.
The City of Gilroy is inching closer to approving a new set of seismic safety guidelines that could make it easier for downtown property owners to retrofit and reopen their buildings.

The new ordinance – introduced May 2 and expected to be approved May 16 – would allow building owners to reopen unreinforced masonry structures after purchasing mandatory life safety retrofits instead of full, more expensive ones, according to the city.

Mandatory retrofitting will include securing walls to roofs and bracing parapets or any items that could fall and cause injury during an earthquake.

The Gilroy City Council directed city staff Feb. 7 to draft the ordinance.

Under the previous ordinance, building owners were scheduled to be fined $10,000 per month for failing to begin the retrofitting process. In December, the city extended the deadline for beginning the retrofit process to June 30, 2011.

Under the new ordinance, the penalty for failing to complete a limited engineering analysis and building permit application within a year of the ordinance’s passage could be set at $500 a month. Fines rise to $1,000 a month in the second year of the ordinance but are capped at $15,000 total.

Property owners also wouldn’t have to pay for any additional retrofitting for 10 years – unless there was a change in use, or intensification of use in the building or if additions and modifications exceed 50 percent of the building’s value, according to Kristi Abrams, city community development director.

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