Historic Kenwood home red tagged after earthquake
Damage to the Kenwood home at 98 Shaw Ave. during the Napa Earthquake on Aug. 24 has resulted in it being red-tagged by the County.
One of the oldest homes in Kenwood, the white stucco and stone house at 98 Shaw Ave., has been red-tagged by the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), due to damage it sustained during the 6.0 earthquake that hit Napa and the surrounding areas on Aug. 24.
Renter Ryan Engle, who was home at 3:20 a.m. when the quake hit, said the whole house shook and the floor on the bottom level shifted and cracked as the wall heaved outward. The resulting damage included a large crack in the south-facing exterior wall, and crumbling stucco and stone revealed old wooden beams in the north-facing wall.
Engle, who has rented the house at the corner of Shaw and Clyde avenues for five years, alerted the property manager, Carlo Figlioni, who then turned to the County for advice. In the wake of the earthquake, Sonoma County set up a special hotline for homeowners with earthquake damage. Subsequent inspections by independent and county inspectors determined the house was “unsafe to occupy” – and red-tagged it – on Sept. 16.
According to California building codes, structures can be green-tagged, yellow-tagged, or red-tagged in the wake of a natural disaster. A red-tagged house is considered severely damaged and must be evacuated immediately.
The red-tag banned Engle, and any other unauthorized personnel, from entering the main structure of the house. In mid-October, Engle was living in a tent in the backyard, trying to clean out what he could of the house and find a new place to live with his dog and two cats. Unable to find anything local or get much support from the Red Cross, Engle was planning to move back to Colorado. “It’s really sad for me. I thought I’d be here another five years,” said Engle, “This is my dog, Leyla’s, backyard. She’s been here since she was a puppy. So it’s really heartbreaking for me.”
Figlioni, who manages the property for his father, who lives in New Jersey, said that based on the advice he’s been given by their architect, the house is not salvageable because it was built with unreinforced masonry. Figlioni said they are planning to demolish and rebuild the house in the “same spirit” as the current house, as it’s important to his family. “We really like the house. I used to live there in the 80s,” said Figlioni.
Unreinforced masonry (URM) is common in buildings constructed prior to 1933. The exact age of the Figlioni’s house is unknown, but it’s likely one of the oldest structures in Kenwood. Figlioni said building records show the house was built in 1935, although he’s also been told it was built closer to 1909. Dee Sand, who chronicled the history of Kenwood in her book, Kenwood: Yesterday and Today, said the Kenwood subdivision plan drawn up in 1887 reflects a house already built on the corner of Shaw and Clyde avenues, but whether it’s the same house currently standing is unclear.
Only a handful of other structures from that era still stand in Kenwood, including the Kenwood Depot, also built with URM. The Hotel Chauvet in Glen Ellen, built in 1906 using URM, suffered a partial collapse while undergoing renovations in 2004. Owner Christine Hansson and her partners spent about $300,000 on seismic renovations and reinforcements, which seem to have paid off during this recent quake.
The “URM law” (SB-547), passed in 1986, required certain California jurisdictions to adopt a mitigation plan for URM buildings that did not meet the minimum standards recommended by engineers, but many counties have only adopted voluntary programs. In the late 1990s, Sonoma County identified 315 URM buildings – from fire departments to schools – in the unincorporated areas of the county. By the time the South Napa quake hit, 204 had still not been “seismically strengthened.” Rob Spaulding, supervising building inspector for PRMD said this list does not include most residential or historic buildings that are constructed using URM, because SB-547 specifically removed these structures from the list. Spaulding reported the current the number of URMs is down to 184 on 170 parcels within unincorporated Sonoma County.
As of press time, the house at Shaw and Clyde was the only red-tagged building in the northern Sonoma Valley. In the city of Sonoma, four buildings were yellow-tagged, three of which have been mitigated. Of the 34 citizen- and inspector-reported damaged structures in unincorporated areas, two have been red-tagged and two have been yellow-tagged, said Spaulding.
As part of the state of local emergency declared by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in September, the county has adopted reduced or no permit fees associated with construction to repair earthquake damage. The Earthquake Hotline is 565-3856 and information is still available at PRMD’s website at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Permit-and-Resource-Management/.