State offers homeowners grants for seismic retrofitting

Photos Courtesy of EBB
Seismic retrofitting protects a house from potential earthquake damage by bolting it to its foundation and adding bracing around the crawlspace.

Residents of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills in the 94022 and 94024 ZIP codes are eligible to register for the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program, which this year will provide $3,000 grants to more than 4,000 homeowners in California to retrofit their homes. The deadline to apply is March 19.

Seismic retrofitting protects a house from potential earthquake damage by bolting it to its foundation and adding bracing around the crawlspace.

“Without proper anchorage to the foundation and bracing of the crawlspace walls, these houses can slide or topple off of their foundations, and it’s very, very disruptive and very expensive damage,” said Janiele Maffei, executive director of the EBB and chief mitigation officer of the California Earthquake Authority.

In addition to being located in one of the hundreds of eligible ZIP codes, houses must meet the structural requirements of the California Existing Building Code to become registered.

The EBB is offering 4,400 grants this year. Since the program began in 2013, Maffei said 131 Los Altos residents have received grants.

Older homes are especially susceptible to earthquake damage, according to Maffei, who strongly encouraged the owners of such homes to apply. What she called “crawlspace vulnerability” can be found in many homes constructed before 1980 and even more built before 1940.

To register for the program, homeowners must complete a nonbinding application to show their home meets the eligibility requirements. The final participants are then randomly selected through an electronic lottery system, Maffei said. After uploading pictures of the house and construction permits to the EBB, homeowners are given the go-ahead. When the seismic retrofit is complete, participants receive the $3,000 grant to help cover costs.

“A retrofit in the Bay Area is more than $3,000,” she said. “But that $3,000 goes a long way.”

Homeowners accepted into the program have 12 weeks to submit the required pre-retrofit documentation and photos to the EBB and FEMA for approval. Once approved, they have six months to complete construction of the retrofit. The retrofit normally takes two to three days, according to Maffei.

“They’re getting the best protection for the best value in the shortest amount of time,” she said.

The EBB also includes a list of more than 1,000 contractors on its website that are available and educated in seismic retrofits.

“The one thing I want people to know is that we do have a lot of information on our website – we have videos, we have animations,” Maffei said. “We really have amazing customer service representatives that are ready to answer their calls.”

To apply and for more information, visit

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