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Officials Using 'Scarlet Letters' To Force Quake Retrofitting

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- There's a new shame campaign in San Francisco to force building owners to make their buildings safer In the event of an earthquake.

San Francisco's 2016 version of the scarlet letter isn't written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the Department of Building Inspection.

Says dozens of buildings citywide were slapped with a sign that reads "earthquake warning".

Tom Hui, director of the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection said, "The earthquake can come at anytime, even tonight or tomorrow."

The notices are the second round issued by the department for building owners to retrofit those soft story buildings with garage space on the ground floor and housing above.

"Right now we are looking at only 40 percent compliance," Hui said.

The city initiative to get all buildings compliant gained steam in 2013 and many building owners have procrastinated for years.

While the signs lack the nuance of Hawthorne's masterpiece, they are still meant to shame.

For Hui, the rush to get buildings shored up comes from a memory when he was 27 years old of soft story buildings on soft land collapsing in the Marina during 1989's Loma Prieta quake.

The goal is to get owners inside the building department with a plan to withstand the next shaker.

This round of scarlet letters though is waiting to be delivered September 15, 2017.


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