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Martinez Mayor's Message

Oct 05, 2014 12:03PM ● Published by Jennifer Neys

by Rob Schroder, Mayor

Just over a month ago, Mother Nature reminded us we live in earthquake country. The 6.0 quake woke me up out of a sound sleep, but did very little damage to my family’s home, other than a few broken wine glasses, open drawers and crooked pictures on the wall.

Our neighbors to the north were not so lucky. Napa, American Canyon and Vallejo suffered major damage to many buildings and homes. Many sustained injuries, but fortunately, no one perished from the tremblor.

In Martinez, merchants lost glassware, bottled drinks and a few broken windows. A few homes lost their chimneys, and a few older homes were knocked off their foundations. There were no reported injuries.  One unreinforced masonry building looked to have sustained some cracking in its brick façade and another lost some decorative tile. Overall, we dodged a catastrophy that could have caused injuries  or changed the look of our quaint  and historic downtown forever.

In 2009, the Martinez City Council passed an Un-Reinforced Masonry (URM) Retrofit ordinance. It required building owners of URM buildings to brace their buildings to current building codes to save lives in the event of an earthquake. The bracing would not necessarily save the URM buildings from damage, but it would save precious lives. The ordinance was modeled after the ordinance instituted in Walnut Creek after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The ordinance provided for a stepped process, starting with identified URM building owners advising the city as to the current condition of their buildings with respect to earthquake bracing.

In 2009, 60 buildings were identified as being URM. Of those, only a handlful had been braced to the level required by the ordinance. The ordinance, as originally written, required those buildings not yet retrofitted to submit engineering and construction drawings to the city by August 15, 2012, with construction to be completed by August 15, 2015.

Because of the recession and hardship it would cause businesses and property owners, the city did not agressively enforce that date. In October of 2013, the city council extended the deadline by an additional two years to August 15, 2014.   A major earthquake struck on August 24, nine days after the amended deadline to submit bracing plans to the city.

As of the date of the quake, 36 of the 60 identified buildngs had completed the retrofitting, with one additional building 90% complete.. Five buildings had been issued permits to start work, two had already submitted plans, and seven more had engaged engineers to develop those plans. A total of nine had not responded at all to the many phone and mail inquiries from the city.

Within two weeks of the quake, all but one of the property owners has contacted the city and advised they have engaged engineers to work up plans to be submitted to the city for approval. We are optimistic that bracing work on all buildings will be complete by the deadline of August 15, 2015.

The quake was a reminder that another big one could be devastating for all of us. It caused me to stop procrastinating about being ready for a disaster and start preparing my family for what to do immediately after a quake and how to sustain ourselves for what could be several days or weeks following a major earthquake.

The Central Unites States Earthquake Consortium has a great website that outlines plans for how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do after it has hit. Rather than listing all of those tips here, view them at www.cusec.org.

We are preparing the city for the next big one, but each and every resident needs to be prepared as well.

 

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