Teams of inspectors start assessment of Napa quake damage
A small platoon of building inspectors scoured Napa’s central core Monday, visiting commercial and residential properties door to door in what is likely to become an arduous task of assessing the full extent of Sunday’s earthquake.
About 30 inspection teams, each with two inspectors, were tasked with conducting at least “windshield,” or quick exterior, inspections or assessments of properties in and near downtown Napa. As of 5 p.m. Monday, at least 70 buildings in the city have been “red-tagged” by building inspectors, which means the structures are uninhabitable because of earthquake damage.
On Sunday, there were 10 teams doing inspections, said Rick Tooker, Napa Community Development Director. Prior to Monday’s inspections, 35 percent of the town center already had been assessed, Tooker told reporters Monday.
Some city officials said it’s too early to fully determine the effectiveness of years of earthquake preparedness and structural retrofitting in the downtown area. Deeper structural inspections will come later after current preliminary inspections that are aimed at essentially determining whether structures are safe to inhabit.
One inspector said Monday afternoon that of the 25 to 30 buildings that he inspected, half of them had seismic retrofitting. These buildings, he said, were still standing.
“The retrofitting saved the building from collapsing; it did it’s job,” said Curt Taras, a professional civil engineer participating in the state Office of Emergency Services’ Safety Assessment Program. Taras was dispatched to Napa to assist in earthquake inspections.
Taras said that although retrofitted buildings were damaged, “the structural steel that was put inside effectively saved the building.”
On Monday afternoon, Taras, accompanied by Casey Handcock, a civil engineering student and intern with the Napa Public Works Department, made their way through downtown searching for damage.
At a home on Seminary Street, Taras knocked on the front door until the owner, Wes Jones, answered. Jones gave Taras a tour of the property, highlighting the most visible damage. Inside the house, there were numerous cracks on walls and on the staircase. Plaster had fallen off at least one section of lath and plaster wall, exposing wood slats.
Jones said the building took damage in 2000 after a magnitude-5.2 earthquake struck Napa Valley. That earthquake caused an estimated $55 million in damage in the valley. The home’s original chimney had to be replaced.
He said that after the 2000 quake, he spent tens of thousands of dollars retrofitting the old section of his house, which was built in the early 1900s. Jones said he bolted down the foundation and reinforced the cripple walls that extend down to the foundation. He also cross-braced the old part of the house.
After Taras completed his inspection, he gave Jones a yellow tag, which requires repairs to be made and advises caution. Some 200 buildings in Napa have been yellow-tagged.
Property owners are expected to assess and clean yellow-tag buildings and then call the city for a re-inspection. A green-tagged building means the property has passed the inspection and can be inhabited.
“Your property is between green and yellow,” Taras told Jones. “I could go green . . . I’m not really calling your damage structural.”
While Taras pounded the pavement, many homeowners and tenants anxiously waited for an inspector to get to their address.
At the corner of Napa and Fourth streets, Michele Farhat, director of marketing and development for Family Services of Napa Valley, a mental health clinic at 709 Franklin St., watched as a construction crew dismantled the building’s chimney.