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With the 31st anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, former city manager Bill Avira BenitoLink took a walking tour of the city center to discuss the retrofit.

A global movement called the Great Earthquake Drills is expected to involve more than 17.1 million people in 2020, as the 31st anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake approaches on October 17th.

The California Office of Emergency Services recently advised state residents that they can participate in International Quake Day on October 15th by registering for the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” practice.

One thing is almost certain about Hollister, if you were in the city center when you hit the next big blow, you might have to drop, cover and stick, but you’d be safer than those who were there in 1989, when Calaveras Volt shook down San Benito Street and destroyed the block 400, which led to the demolition of buildings and knocking down homes from their foundations.

Over the ensuing years, a retrofit of business and government buildings convinced a former city manager and planning commissioner that at least 60% of the city center would remain intact in the event of another earthquake of magnitude 7.1 or greater.

Retired city manager Bill Avira took BenitoLink on a walking tour of the city center recently where he pointed out many of the buildings and how they were originally constructed or modified. The tour began in The Vault, at the corner of Fifth and San Benito Streets, which survived the earthquake with minor damage.

When someone wants to build or modify a building in downtown Hollister, they must consider where it is according to the earthquake zone map. Photography by John Chadwell.

Avira said the earthquake completely destroyed the façade off the Farmers Merchant Building at the eastern corner of Forth and San Benito Streets. He said it was rebuilt in 1992 to look like the previous building, but it was essentially a new structure designed to meet the earthquake codes of the time.

Shortly after arriving in Hollister in 1994, Avira said, work began on the Briggs Building, a two-story parking building with an office space of 10,000 square feet on the ground floor. The intention of the building was to create an economic incentive to encourage rebuilding of the city center and accommodate the San Benito County Superior Court across the street, Avira said, adding that it was built to survive a magnitude 9.7 earthquake.

“It was built as a basic service structure,” he said. “It’s the strongest building in the city center because it has concrete pillars underneath that go down 75 feet.”

Adjacent to the parking building, work is underway to establish the Community Foundation for the San Benito County Hotspot. According to Del Curto Brothers Construction Co. , They were required to sink four 27-foot holes filled with boulders as support for the building costing more than $ 500,000. More will be needed when the company starts building 24 residential units and retail stores on the same plot.

It starts working on Epicenter next to Vault. Since the new building is located in the earthquake zone, it requires a 27-foot deep pothole filled with boulders for support. Photography by John Chadwell.

The Epicenter’s foundation is dug against The Vault, which is owned by Mayor Ignacio Velasquez. The original 1880s building was demolished and rebuilt as a branch of the Bank of Italy, which was founded by Amadeo Peter Giannini in 1904, before changing its trademark in 1931 to Bank of America.

“The last bank moved in the mid-1990s and then I took it over in 1998,” said Velasquez. “I redesigned it to open the Vault Restaurant. The building was constructed of reinforced concrete and I think some seismic work was done in the late 1980s. I also added additional safety elements, like more seismic tapes around the building and the fire sprinkler system.”

Avira said the old City Hall building where the City Planning Department is now located, at 339 Fifth Street; The Holland Hotel which now houses the Hollister House Bar & Grill on the ground floor at the corner of Fifth and San Benito Streets; The Granada Theater, at 336 Fifth Street, appears to have been constructed of unreinforced stone, which could result in injuries and deaths when it collapses on the streets during earthquakes. However, it is actually constructed of concrete poured in place that is reinforced, and is unlikely to collapse during an earthquake.

Pointing to the old City Hall building that was retrofitted in 1999, Avira said, “Fortunately, Hollister didn’t have a lot of unreinforced construction work. It was a thorough modernization. We had to dig into the outer walls and anchor them every three feet. It’s a massive earthquake to descend. Everything is now built to survive 7 to 9. “

The old courthouse is now home to the city’s planning department. Modified to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 7 or greater. Photography by John Chadwell.

Along the west side of San Benito Avenue south of Hollister House Bar and Grill, most of the businesses are one-story, log buildings that survived the 1989 earthquake.

The earthquake badly damaged the Veterans Memorial Building, built in 1927, separating the entire front façade and columns from the rest of the structure.

City Planning Commissioner David Huboy, who owns Huboi Architecture in Hollister, had an office in Campbell in 1989 where he felt the earthquake. One of the first projects he worked on after moving to Hollister was the Veterans Memorial Building. Initially, engineers recommended that it be demolished, he said.

“Based on the geotechnical reports, we placed a pillar to support the columns and attached them to a steel frame,” Hoboy said. It also helped reinforce many damaged homes in the vicinity. “ The older residential section held up better because the quality of the materials was much better at that time [late 1800s to early 1900s]. You can’t get that kind of quality framing today. “

He said what the builders learned was to transmit earthquake forces through the buildings to the foundations using metal conductors, so that the forces are distributed throughout the building more effectively.

“We also learned the value of plywood,” he said. “Old homes did not have plywood in the ceiling beams. When plywood is fixed to the rafters, it transfers forces down to the walls as the conductors transfer the force down into the foundation.”

The Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Hollister. File image.

Avira said studies must be done for every building within the seismic safety zone that stretches across San Benito Avenue in order to determine whether it has crossed the fault.

He said, “You have to conduct investigations of trenching at a depth of at least 15 feet so that geologists can determine if a particular plot is vulnerable to surface rupture, because vibration is one thing, but loosening is another thing.”

Hoboy said the main obstacle to retrofitting some buildings along San Benito Avenue is the seismic zone created by the Calaveras Fault. A state geologist must approve every project, whether it is a modernization or a new structure. He said that many of the buildings – including the old Hazel Hawkins Hospital Building on Monterey Street built in 1907 and the current Town Hall on Fifth Street, built in 1910 as one of the 1,419 Carnegie Libraries across the country – were designed by William H. Wix. The test of time, including earthquakes.

“Most of the iconic buildings in the city center will hold up well during the earthquake, but some of the older buildings still need updating,” Hoboy said. “We need to continue the earthquake retrofit strategies in some of these old buildings.”

Because conducting these studies can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, most landlords cannot afford to conduct them. This is why there are some vacant buildings and vacant buildings in the city center.

The city’s last major inspection was prior to the construction of Fire Station No. 1 at the corner of Fifth Street and Sally Street near the seismic safety zone.

“We have been asked to conduct an investigation of the surface rift,” Avira said. We had to dig a trench and it cost us about $ 150,000 to do this study. If we discover the error, we will not be able to build the basic services building. “

Other BenitoLink related articles:

Hollister merchants recall 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

San Benito Geology: All Your Faults

San Benito Geology: Piece by Piece, How San Benito County Came to Be

BenitoLink is a non-profit news site that reports on San Benito County. Our team works around the clock during this time when accurate information is necessary. Producing local news is expensive, and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.

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