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State Offering Grants to Pasadena Homeowners for Earthquake Retrofit

Residents in six local ZIP codes eligible for assistance

Published on Sunday, February 23, 2020 | 9:28 pm
 
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David Beilfuss bought his classic 1925 California bungalow home on quiet, leafy Bridgen Road in northeast Pasadena in 2012, but when Beilfuss bought it, it had a classic vulnerability.

Like virtually all homes built in California before the state-enacted seismic construction codes in 1940, the Beilfuss house was particularly susceptible to sliding off its foundation, or worse, in the event of a major earthquake.

But that’s not the case anymore.

Last fall, Beilfuss and his wife had their home earthquake retrofitted, getting a $3,000 grant under the state-run Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) program to offset most of the $5,500 cost.

“Like many Californians, we are house-rich and cash-poor,” said Beilfuss, who Friday morning turned his now fully braced and bolted home into a showcase for the EBB program — allowing local politicos as well as earthquake and engineering experts to spotlight the $13.2 million that’s available statewide for more such grants this year.

Seismic retrofits bolt a house to its foundation and add bracing, if required, around the perimeter of the crawl space to solidify the structure for when the earth starts shaking.

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Glenn Pomeroy, chief executive officer of the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), said the process costs between $3,000 and $7,000 on average, and takes only a few days of construction.

“My wife and I knew that even with earthquake insurance we needed to do more to protect our family, our home, and our investment,” Beilfuss said. “It lowered our earthquake insurance by about 25 percent. But more important, it’s a whole lot of peace of mind.”

Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) and state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) were among those on hand Friday at a press conference on the Beilfuss front lawn. They were there to tout the benefits of “Brace + Bolt,” which provides homeowners in eligible ZIP Codes with $3,000 grants to help offset the costs of seismic retrofitting.

The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but is distributed by the state’s EBB program. EBB was created by the California Residential Mitigation Program in 2014.

Homeowners interested in having their homes retrofitted in 2020 — many area zip codes are eligible, including six in Pasadena — were encouraged by all those gathered Friday to apply at EarthquakeBraceBolt.com. In all, 355 ZIP Codes statewide fall under the EBB program.

Applications for the 2020 grants began being accepted on Feb. 19, and the application period closes on March 19. Once registration closes, applicants will be selected through a random drawing and notified by email if they have been selected or wait-listed, according to an EBB news release. The $13.2 million in this year’s EBB budget is expected to enable some 4,400 retrofits statewide, EBB officials said.

To date, some 10,000 homes statewide have benefited from the EBB grant program, including 1,948 in Portantino’s 25th Senate District and some 1,400 in Holden’s 41st Assembly District.

“Preparing for earthquakes is still an ongoing process,’’ Holden said at Friday’s gathering. “Bracing and bolting your home, especially in communities like this, in a lot of the San Gabriel Valley area, in my district, you’re dealing with older homes. There are so many historic districts in Pasadena alone, that every person in this city needs to be aware of this program and needs to take advantage of it.’’

Portantino echoed those thoughts.

“This program works,’’ he said. “This program helps make our houses safe, which makes our families safer… I urge everyone to take advantage of this program.’’

Janiele Maffei, a structural engineer and the CEA’s chief mitigation officer, called the investment “very cost-effective.’’

“It typically saves hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of disruption,’’ she said.

Pomeroy said the Beilfuss home is now “far stronger, far safer, far better-prepared to handle the ground-shaking that very well could come someday.’’

“This home won’t act like it had the rug pulled out from under it when the ground shakes violently underneath,’’ he said.

“We know we live in earthquake country here in California. We know we’re going to get hit again in this area by a powerful, damaging earthquake. We don’t know, we can’t know, exactly where, and we can’t know exactly when. But we absolutely know that we absolutely need to be prepared.’’

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