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San Francisco Real Estate Blog Readers Ask: What About Tidal Waves and Earthquakes?

So a reader of this here SF Real Estate blog and The City Update (TM) wrote in and asked:

“We live in the Outer Sunset District.  Tell me, what is your honest opinion about owning a house in the Outer Sunset as far as both earthquake and tidal-wave dangers go.  I’ve always said I’d never buy a house out here because of those two factors, but I don’t know if I’m being paranoid… and we’re liking the neighborhood more and more.

Thanks for your input!


Well S.S., here’s my take on it.  (Full disclaimer – I live in the Outer Sunset so the answer may be a bit biased.)


The area from about 46th Avenue to Ocean Beach (with a few exceptions) is mostly liquefaction zone – that’s the “dangerous” part in terms of earthquake safety.  This means that a lot of the area is not consider high risk in that aspect.


The reality is though, that while risk of damage from a quake might be higher in these areas, you never know how a home will react in an earthquake because the type of movement the quake presents and the epicenter of the quake all impact the damage greatly. 


The key is to make sure you have taken precautionary measures (no matter where in SF you live) that involve retrofitting your home and preparing it for a quake. 


This includes (but isn’t limited to) items such as bolting down the foundation, making sure there are T-straps where they are needed and installing shear walls.  This is something that a professional should guide you through even if you are handy enough to do the changes yourself. 


In terms of tidal waves (aka tsunamis), hmmm.  I just don’t think of them to be honest.  The odds are that something that will wipe out the Outer Sunset will come along are unlikely (legal disclaimer – I’m not a tidal wave expert so don’t make any decisions based on that statement.


We also now have a tsunami warning system in place complete with sirens and notifications via TV or radio (via the emergency broadcast system.) 


I’ve lived in the City since I was two, and only remember one warning that something might happen, and the water was the same as it always was that night.


Here’s the thing.  I love the neighborhood.  I call the Outer Sunset “home” and in face, live right on the Great Highway.  And there will always be some drawbacks and potential risks. 


The way I figure it, I don’t have to worry about hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, etc.  But, I have to know earthquake safety, and be prepared to deal with an emergency (that means having an emergency kit and an emergency plan in place.)


Though – all that being said, that’s JUST my take on the topic. 


The true answer lies with your personal aversion to risk. 


If you’re not going to sleep at night because the worry will just eat you alive, then don’t buy here.  But if you can handle the risks involved, take precautionary steps to keep your home as safe as possible and know what to do in the event of an emergency, then, well, you might just be happier living in the Outsidelands if you find you love it already.


Oh, and P.S., this all applies to the Outer Parkside disctrict as well.


Do YOU have questions about San Francisco real estate?  The right answers can make all the difference.  Call me at 415–307–1392 or email me.  I’m always happy to talk “real estate.”