Jon Ridenour comments before the Board of Supervisors
November 8, 1999

November 8, 1999

Board of Supervisors
San Francisco

Hello, my name is Jon Ridenour. I want to thank you, supervisors, for considering the importance of the matter at hand, and I also thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I have lived in the Bay Area for nearly twenty nine years, and in the shadow of Sutro Tower since 1992. My two children, Paul and Jeff, are among 585 children and 51 staff members who attend Clarendon Elementary School, which, as you know, is within the fall zone of Sutro Tower. That is the primary reason I am here.

Since I'm also a licensed general and electrical building contractor of more than fifteen years experience, and most of my projects are residential remodels within San Francisco, that's another reason I'm here.

For me, a major quake in my lifetime is not viewed as a possibility, but as a reality. It is a major part of my life and job. I've seismically strengthened my own house in the realization that it could save the life of my children and myself when the big one comes.

A substantial amount of the work my company has provided for homeowners in the last ten years has involved seismic strengthening of their homes, sometimes at their request, and sometimes because it's a contingency of their permit approval.

It is largely the Building Department itself that has drilled the importance of realistic engineering requirements, and rigorous construction standards into the core of even the smallest projects.

We contractors learn quickly that for every structural or engineering detail that is required in a code by recognizeable common sense, there are many more that are "lawsuit generated" - in other words, after litigation shows that a little more stringency could have saved lives and property, but was not implemented when it could have been, and therefore lives and property are lost - it becomes a requirement thereafter.

Consider the age and height of the tower, the ceaseless exposure the tower has had to the harshest winds and fog for nearly thirty years, and the tremendous potential for disaster and loss of life any structural failure would certainly cause. Consider it's location in a volatile seismic area in the middle of a residential neighborhood, near a public school, next to a hilltop reservoir, and remember that it is the City itself that grants the tower continued permission to exist in such a spot.

Then, consider a San Francisco Building Department well known for its implementation of some of the highest standards in the nation.

If you combine an aging tower, the City's potential liability, and a fiercely stringent building department, one would think that common sense will prevail before disaster occurs. It would seem a "no brainer" that the highest standards will prevail in this project, in a responsible and public manner.

It is not reasonable to impose difficult and expensive building standards on the public, in the name of public safety, without implementing the same standards for multi-million dollar corporations, when an even greater threat of public danger and property loss is clearly at risk.

The possibility that more of San Francisco's future standards of public safety and municipal responsibility may need to be "lawsuit generated" after a predictable disaster, simply because we fail now to to implement the highest standards currently availaible to us, is unthinkeable.

That is why I thank each of you for considering, and then implementing Mr. Ammiano's proposal for peer review of the Sutro Tower quake retrofit.

Jon Ridenour


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