By Thomas K. Pendergast
When the “big one” hits, the elementary school at St. Anne’s of the Sunset will be about
as prepared as possible, after seismic upgrades to make the three-story building more
earthquake resistant are completed this fall.
A demolition crew has been working on the old building, part of which first opened in
the 1920s, since the beginning of summer. The work is expected to be completed around
late October or early November.
St. Anne’s Principal Tom White said San Francisco passed an ordinance a few years ago
requiring private and parochial schools in the City to undergo a seismic audit and
evaluation of their school buildings. Once the Archdiocese of San Francisco was made
aware of that, meetings were held to determine a timeline around which they
“We at Saint Anne’s, as well as all of the other Catholic schools in San Francisco, had
various seismic engineers come through and they evaluated the integrity of all of the
buildings that we were using,” White said. “After all of the buildings had their reports
ready, we met with the engineers and came up with a plan.”
The total cost of the seismic upgrade at St. Anne’s School is estimated at $4.1 million.
After the demolition part is completed, then comes the construction where ceilings and
floors are bolted to walls on all three floors.
The school will be opening again on Aug. 22, but temporary portable classrooms will be
brought in while the construction continues. Money to rent the portable classrooms is
included the $4.1 million pricetag.
“Safety is obviously one of the most important factors you can offer to families – secure
and safe facilities,” White said. “When this project is finished we will be 100 percent
seismically effective, engineering-wise, in 2017. We’ve done everything that we can. That
makes a big impact on the future of the school.”
Pastor Fr. Daniel Nascimento suggested that San Francisco residents cannot depend on
“After the last few earthquakes we’ve been fortunate that there were no serious damage
other than just things falling over and some external plaster cracking, stuff like that,”
said Fr. Nascimento. “In the seismic study it was revealed that if the earthquake shakes
one way, it’s OK. But if it shakes a different way, then all the walls and the ceilings might
collapse because they weren’t bolted together. Imagine what that would look like with a
school full of kids and staff.
“We have the ability, and we do live in earthquake country, and it’s just a matter time, so
if we put things off, things aren’t going to get cheaper,” he said. “It needs to be done, and
we discussed that with the school community and then the parents of course were very
much in favor of moving forward. We shared with them our shortfall, the amount that
we needed, and they all agreed that yes, we need to do it.”
Endowments, savings accounts and loans will cover about 80 percent of the total cost,
but the other 20 percent the school is trying to get through donations. As of press time,
the school was still $400,000 short.
“We’re short. I guess part of it is people are away on vacation and so, I think, as people
come back from vacation and then they see what’s going on … that they would be more
ready to step up,” Fr. Nascimento said.
Stephen Harris is a structural engineer with the firm Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, which
is overseeing the project.
“We are adding several reinforced concrete walls in the building, and the concrete walls
are reinforced with rebar and they are connected to the existing walls at the existing
floors,” Harris said. “In addition to that we’re also doing some reinforcement with
carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, also called FRB, which is a high-tech material, very
thin, lightweight and very strong. “Every wall has a mesh of rebarin it, as well as
additional bars that are used to connect it to the existing structure,”
The St. Anne’s School retrofit also includes some work that will be done on the roof.
“We’re putting a plywood overlay on the existing wooden roof and we’re also improving
the connections between the roof and the walls, with some epoxy bolts and steel
brackets,” Harris said.
The project is also considering provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
which is mandated by federal law.
“When you go into that whole project, ADA is one of the first things that has to be
addressed. When you look at a project you can’t say ‘we’re going to address
the seismic issues and then we’ll come back and do the ADA upgrades.’” White said.
“What we must follow in this case is that we have to have certain things
that are required, but it is limited to a certain dollar amount, and we don’t have to spend
over that dollar amount to implement more ADA conditions. In our specific case, I
believe it’s $154,000 that must be spent on ADA improvements or upgrades.”
One of those ADA improvements will be a lift to take disabled people from the
schoolyard up to the first floor. Although they have no disabled students at this time,
Fr. Nascimento said the lift can still be useful.
“It actually will work out well because whenever we have Grandparents Day or
Special Peoples Day, there’s a school open house and if you have grandparents that
require handicapped access, this will make it easier,” he said. he said.