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Swanson’s seismic retrofit bill becomes law

By Josh Richman
Monday, June 20th, 2011 at 4:24 pm in Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Sandre Swanson.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that lets local officials use public financing to help private property owners pay for seismic improvements.

AB 184, the Seismic Safety Financing Act, will make retrofits easier to achieve and more affordable by offering a financing option that removes much of the upfront expense, according to its author, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda.

Unreinforced masonry buildings present a big seismic hazard, and this bill’s state Senate floor analysis noted the Association of Bay Area Governments’ estimate that 26,000 of Oakland’s 163,000 housing units will become uninhabitable when the Hayward Fault has a major earthquake.

“Because commercial loans for earthquake improvements can be expensive, local officials want to accelerate retrofit work on vulnerable buildings by loaning money to private property owners at below-market rates,” the analysis said. “This bill provides local officials with another tool to help property owners pay for structural upgrades that save lives, protect rescue workers, and reduce economic disruption after a major earthquake.”

ABAG supported Swanson’s bill, as did the City of Oakland and the California Association of Realtors. The Assembly passed it on a 49-10 vote in April; the state Senate approved it on a 26-10 vote June 6.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed Swanson’s earlier incarnation of this bill last September, saying he didn’t support expanding contractual assessment programs – now used for energy and water efficiency improvements – to include seismic retrofits.

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