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Nearly all Paso Robles buildings retrofitted after deadly 2003 earthquake

Posted at 6:08 PM, May 03, 2019

Thursday’s 3.5 magnitude earthquake sparked conversation across northern San Luis Obispo County with some wondering, how safe are our surroundings if a more powerful quake were to hit?

In 2003, a downtown building collapsed and killed two people as a 6.6 magnitude earthquake shook the Central Coast.

The City of Paso Robles says at that time, not all buildings were retrofitted but almost all of them are now.

“I remember the windows rattling, the plates were rattling and the chandeliers,” said Travis Sitler, Templeton resident.

Sitler felt Thursday’s 3.5 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks while watching TV in his Templeton home.

“The one thing with earthquakes, you never know what is going to happen next,” Sitler said.

Iva Morris felt it in Paso Robles.

“I was real happy it wasn’t any bigger than that,” Morris said.

Though this quake didn’t phase Morris, the deadly December 2003 San Simeon earthquake still makes her tremble.

“The fact that there was loss of life is what struck me the most,” Morris said.

Older buildings were no match for the 6.6 magnitude earthquake. The devastation prompted the city to speed up and stiffen its retrofitting process.

“Temporary may have made sense at one time but I think we reached a point where it had to be mandatory,” said Brian Cowen, a Paso Robles building official.

After the 2003 quake, commercial building owners were given three options: retrofit the building, demolish it or vacate it.

Cowen says nearly all buildings in Paso Robles are now reinforced.

“The few that I am aware of the risk is very low,” Cowen said. “We are talking about single-story buildings, homes with maybe one wall that is with no reinforced masonry or under-reinforced masonry.”

There is no mandatory retrofitting for residential homes.

The city says it’s a good idea to take a look around your house. If you think something might fall and injure someone during an earthquake, building experts say you should anchor it down.