Santa Monicans living in older homes can register for a $3,000 state grant through Nov. 13 to retrofit their houses to withstand an earthquake.
Residents who own and live in a single-family home can qualify for the Earthquake Brace + Bolt grant if their house’s foundation and crawlspace are not already reinforced. Houses built before 1980 are likely to buckle or slide off their foundations, said Janiele Maffei, chief mitigation officer at the California Earthquake Authority.
“Before about 1980, we didn’t know as much about how houses performed in earthquakes,” she said. “This retrofit will provide (homeowners) with the same benefits of the current (seismic) code.”
Homeowners can use the grant to drill bolts into their concrete foundations to keep their houses from sliding during a quake. Old houses lack anchor bolts and even ones built during the 1960s and 1970s don’t have enough of them. The grant will additionally fund plywood reinforcements to the cripple walls of crawl spaces.
Residents will be able to use the grant to hire a contractor or do the work themselves. The Earthquake Brace + Bolt program supplies a list of qualified contractors by zip code, and Maffei said the average cost of such a retrofit in California is $5,300, or closer to $3,000 for the many homes that only need bolting.
“A lot of people are nervous about construction on their homes … but it’s a very simple retrofit,” she said. “The costs are less than $3,000 if you do them yourself, and once you have a contractor on board, it’s only a two to three day (project). You don’t have to move out, and the benefits are so clear when we see pictures of houses that have come off their foundations.”
A 2014 earthquake in Napa left many older homes that slid off their foundations or collapsed uninhabitable if homeowners couldn’t pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to lift their sunken houses and build new foundations, Maffei said. Some houses in Santa Monica shifted off their foundations during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, according to the City’s Building and Safety Division.
“For a family, ensuring their home is retrofitted is the best way to prevent injuries, loss of life, and damage to the contents of their homes,” said Lindsay Call, the City of Santa Monica’s chief resiliency officer. “We highly encourage residents and businesses to take retrofitting seriously, and, if they can take advantage of these grants, to use them.”
While single-family homes are exempt from the City’s March 2017 retrofit law, which requires about 2,000 vulnerable multi-unit and commercial buildings to be made seismically safe by 2024, Call said residents should retrofit their homes to withstand shaking, as well as bolt or secure household items that could fall over and develop a plan for what their household will do during and after a quake.
Homeowners can check if they qualify for the grant and find contractors on Earthquake Brace + Bolt’s website, www.earthquakebracebolt.com.