Berkeley’s Seismic Retrofit and Rebate Programs

seismic retrofitWith the recent Napa earthquake we thought we’d take the opportunity to inform everyone what options are available to homebuyers in our wonderful city. The effectiveness of the Berkeley Seismic Retrofit Incentive Program has made Berkeley one of the most improved cities for one- and two-family residence seismic safety in the Bay Area.

Many Bay Area cities offer incentives for homeowners to do seismic retrofits to their dwellings; it’s the most effective thing you can do to make your home more safe in case of an earthquake. Surprisingly, it’s not as expensive as you may think.

The Hayward and San Andreas fault are both active faults capable of producing major earthquakes, so it is very important to take appropriate steps to safeguard your home. So you may be sold on the idea of its importance, but what does it mean to “seismic retrofit” and what kind of incentives are involved?

A seismic retrofit is any modification of an existing structure that would make it more resistant to an earthquake. The City of Berkeley provides the list of qualifying seismic retrofit work to give you an idea of what a retrofit might include:


  • Bolting of foundations to mudsills and installing shear walls
  • Work to repair or replace substandard foundations
  • Securing of chimneys and stacks
  • Removal of unreinforced masonry chimneys
  • Anchoring of existing waters heaters

The City of Berkeley has a rebate program where they will refund a portion of the city transfer tax from the property’s sale as incentive for you to do seismic work. Here’s the wording:

“A property transfer tax of 1.5 % is imposed on all transfers by deeds, instruments, writings or any other document by which any lands, tenements, or other interests in real property are sold, located in the City of Berkeley… The Seismic Retrofit Refund Program allows for up to 1/3 of the City of Berkeley transfer tax to be refunded for voluntary seismic upgrades to residential property.”

Property owners have 1-year after the sale was recorded to complete the work and file for the refund. The City recommends that you call or visit the Building and Safety Division in advance to make sure the improvements are eligible; you can also review the retrofit program and refund guidelines online.


1) All structures used exclusively for residential purposes are eligibile, as are  or any mixed use structure that contains two or more dwellings.

2) Properties that have been previously retrofitted are still eligible; however, different qualifying seismic work would be required.

3) If the seismic retrofitting was done before October 17, 1989, then it is not eligible.



Program Guidelines


To learn more about protecting yourself and your home in the event of an earthquake, check out our Earthquake Home Safety Series.

photo credit: photo credit: martinluff via photopin cc

Arron Sweeney
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Arron Sweeney

Founder of Your Berkeley, Realtor Associate at King Realty Group
Arron lives in the Berkeley Hills with his wife, two dogs and baby daughter. Arron is the founder of Your Berkeley and a Realtor Associate with King Realty Group.
Arron Sweeney
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