San Francisco’s Proposed Mandatory Facade Inspection Ordinance

facade

The city is considering a new ordinance that would require regular facade inspection for older buildings.

There is currently no requirement in the San Francisco Building Code for regular facade inspections and maintenance.  On October 24, 2014, Mayor Ed Lee introduced a proposed ordinance that would amend Chapter 16 of the San Francisco Building Code to create such inspections.  The legislation was introduced at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the purpose of reducing the risk of injury or death caused by failing building facades in an earthquake.  The San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission also had a hearing to consider the ordinance and has recommended some minor revisions.  The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Mark Farrell, Eric Mar, Katy Tang, Scott Wiener, London Breed and Normal Yee.  The fate of the legislation now rests with the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors.

The pending legislation would add a chapter to the building code requiring an initial inspection of facades followed by periodic inspections, maintenance and repair of the facades of buildings that are five or more stories and that are Construction Types I, II, III and IV (see sfdbi.org for more information on construction types).

The definition of “facade” includes “all areas on the exterior of the building except for horizontal roof areas, specifically: all exterior walls, windows, balconies, cornices, parapets, and other appurtenances.  It also includes interior walls and appurtenances where such area has been converted from exterior areas by enclosing the area under a roof, skylight or other covering.”

Additional facade elements to be inspected include attached equipment such as communications equipment, pipes and duct work; decorative elements such as urns, friezes, balustrades, and attached artwork; signs; fire escapes; flag poles, vertical extensions such as vents; light and other fixtures; hanging air conditioners and other devices; and other elements that could pose a safety hazard if dislodged.

Once the law is enacted, the date of the initial inspections will depend on the date the building received it s Certificate of Final Completion.  Buildings constructed prior to 1910 must be inspected prior to December 31, 2018.

There may be an initial inspection waiver for buildings constructed after January 1, 2002.  Those buildings that underwent a significant facade inspection and maintenance, restoration or replacement in the 10 years preceding the date of the required initial inspection may obtain a waiver on a case-by-case basis. Once the initial inspection is complete, the law requires periodic inspections every 10 years. These two kinds of buildings must begin periodic inspections either 30 years from the initial construction date or 20 years from the date of waiver of initial inspection.

There are certain qualifications an architect or engineer must possess in order to do the inspections.  After the inspection, the inspector will prepare a report that must identify any unsafe conditions.  Within 60 days of receipt of the report, DBI will issue maintenance requirements.

Because the law is not yet in its final form, there may be changes to the final legislation.  Stay tuned for more information.

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