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Web application helps residents identify Berkeley's seismically unsound buildings

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AUGUST 12, 2012

Berkeley residents will now have an easier time identifying seismically unsafe buildings in the city when it comes time to search for a home.

Berkeley SafeRenting, a new web application launched Friday by CalSERVE Senator Klein Lieu, provides residents with a visual tool that can find Berkeley’s seismically unsound buildings, with easy access through both computers and phones.

The application, which will identify the buildings through the city’s Soft Story Program, will also help the program in its recent attempts to make residents and landlords more aware of the risks associated with structures that have weak first stories, known as soft-story buildings.

“It’s an app not just for Berkeley students but for all Berkeley residents,” Lieu said. “You get on, type your address and see if (your home) has been deemed a soft-story building.”

Lieu came up with the idea for the application after having difficulty understanding the PDF listing on the city website that indicated which city buildings were officially categorized as “soft story.”

“(The city listing) is just a huge table of five or six tables of addresses,” Lieu said. “It is not accessible in a very easy, quick way.”

According to Lieu, Berkeley SafeRenting will use colored markers featured on a Google map of Berkeley to show which buildings the city identifies as seismically unsound.

On the application, red markers are used as a warning color for buildings out of compliance, orange markers indicate buildings still in review, green markers indicate soft-story buildings that have been approved and blue markers indicate already retrofitted buildings.

Lieu said the application is part of his bigger objective to open up government data to better serve the city.

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner Igor Tregub said the application worked well with the Berkeley Cribs website, a rating site launched by the ASUC, CALPIRG and ASUC Renter’s Legal Assistance last spring that allows students living in the residence halls, apartments and Berkeley Student Cooperative housing units to rate and review their living experience.

“Undergoing a modernization allows us to have more complete information (for tenants),” Tregub said. “Putting this information on this (application) is a wonderful opportunity for the collaborated effort.”

Leiu has also started working with Tregub to expand the application and open up more information to Berkeley tenants by mapping out crime-ridden areas, bus routes, areas without street lights and buildings in close proximity to the city’s police stations.

Incoming ASUC External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi also said he hoped the application could be incorporated into the Berkeley Cribs website as part of the ASUC’s larger goal to provide UC Berkeley students with a one-stop shop when searching for a place to live.

“We have big plans to provide various forms to disseminate information to students,” Abbasi said. “The goal is to have various outlets, social media platforms … so students know what their rights are.”

Contact Alyssa Neumann at 


AUGUST 12, 2012

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