This article was posted on Friday, Sep 01, 2017

Although earthquake retrofits are considered “new construction” as defined by Prop 13, they are excluded from reassessment.

Northern California’s wildfires, the earthquake in Napa, and the recent storms and flooding in Sacramento and Santa Clara counties all remind us that natural disasters can happen at any time, and that it’s never too late to prepare. This year, as President of the Bay Area Assessors’ Association, I, along with my colleagues, have already begun discussions on how we can coordinate and assist each other in times of emergency response and recovery. But, we know we cannot do it alone.  Here are a few ways you can be better prepared for an emergency.

Create an Emergency Plan

When disaster strikes, the first thing that comes to mind is “where are my loved ones, and are they okay?” That is why one of the most important actions you can take for your family and friends is to have a plan in place. In addition to storing supplies, food, and water, you may also want to plan on how to communicate in a disaster. There are many resources to get you started: is “San Francisco’s hub for emergency preparedness,” where you can find easy to follow steps to be prepared. Our Fire Department runs a neighborhood emergency training you can sign up for called NERT,,

and social media sites like Facebook have “I’m Safe Check-In” features that can help provide quick information to your loved ones. 

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Protect Your Home

We live in an active earthquake zone, and our city has seen its share of devastating earthquakes (1906 Earthquake and fires, 1989 Loma Prieta). To be prepared, don’t forget to think about your home!

For starters, make sure you understand your existing insurance coverage. If you would like additional insurance, the California Earthquake Authority is a publicly-managed not-for-profit organization that provides residential earthquake insurance to property owners in California.

Second, think about strengthening your building to better withstand earthquakes.

In 2013, the City passed a Mandatory Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance that requires owners of soft-story buildings with five or more units to seismically retrofit them. But even if your building is not covered under the law, it is never a bad idea to look into ways to secure it. Not only could the improvements save lives but, especially in this real estate market, they could also save your investment! For more information about the mandatory requirement, visit the Department of Building Inspection’s website at 

Tax Savings with Seismic Retrofit

Remember, there are programs that can help. For example, construction done to seismically strengthen buildings may be eligible for exclusion from reassessment.

In my last column, I discussed how new construction generally impacts property taxes. Under Prop 13, the market value of the incremental alterations or additions to your property would be added to your total property assessment. However, the California Revenue and Taxation Code provides an exemption for seismic retrofit. In cases where more than seismic work is being done, our office will review the case and be sure to exclude the retrofit component.

Just remember to work with your contractor or engineer to keep clear records of the retrofit work and costs, and submit a completed exclusion form to our office within 30 days of completing the construction.

To learn more about this exclusion, visit sfassessor. org/tax-savings/exclusions/earthquake-retrofit.


Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News.  For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at or call (415) 647-2419.