Accessibility and Website Information Skip Site Wide Navigation Skip to Content City Seal | HomeCity of San Diego | Home
Search City of San Diego

Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The FAQs are questions compiled from inquiries made by you, our valued customers and citizens. They are presented to assist you with better understanding the requirements of City's Unreinforced Masonry (URM) program.

NOTE: The Ordinance referenced in the FAQs is the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance/Regulation of the City of San Diego. For full text of this ordinance refer to SDMC, Chapter

  1. What is a URM?
  2. What is an unreinforced masonry (URM) wall?
  3. What type of buildings is required to comply with the URM Ordinance?
  4. What is an unreinforced masonry bearing wall?
  5. What is the deadline by which I am required to comply and retrofit my URM building per the seismic retrofit regulation of the City Ordinance?
  6. When did the time allowed by the Ordinance to comply with the seismic retrofit regulations began to run?
  7. What is required to be done by the URM Ordinance?
  8. In addition to the mandatory provisions, are there any other requirements?
  9. I purchased this building recently/a few years ago, and the previous owner did not disclose anything to me with regards to the URM status of this building, URM Ordinance, and how it affects my responsibility. Am I obligated to comply with the City's URM Ordinance?
  10. Where do I find this URM Ordinance and other URM retrofit requirements and guidelines?
  11. Is there a list of URM buildings in the City Of San Diego? And if there is, where do I find it?
  12. I received a letter from the City telling me that I have to retrofit my URM building per the stated Ordinance. Where do I start?
  13. I received this letter from the City about a URM building. But I have sold this building and I am not the current owner of this building / I have never owned this building. Why am I getting this letter?
  14. The address of the URM building on the letter I received from City is not the address of my building. Why am I getting this letter?
  15. The Assessors Parcel Number (APN) on the letter I received from City is not the APN of my building. Why am I getting this letter?
  16. I have already retrofitted my URM building. My building is still on the list of City's URM buildings as a non-compliant building. What do I need to do to have my building removed from the URM list?
  17. My building is a small, one-story warehouse. Is my building exempt from complying with the City's URM seismic retrofit regulations?
  18. My URM building is registered as a historical building on the local/State/Federal historical building registry. Is my building exempt from complying with the City's URM seismic retrofit regulations?
  19. My URM building is currently vacant and it is boarded-up. Do I have to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance?
  20. I want to demolish my URM building in the near future and I don't want to spend any money to retrofit this building now. The deadline to comply with the Ordinance has lapsed. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?
  21. I want to sell my URM building in the near future and the new owner plans to demolish or retrofit the URM building. I don't want to spend any money to retrofit this building now. The deadline to comply with the Ordinance has lapsed. Would City consider granting me or the new owner an extension of time?
  22. I want to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance. But I can not find any engineer to prepare construction plans and structural calcs. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?
  23. I have already obtained a building permit and want to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance. But I can not find any contractor to begin construction work. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?
  24. I have not yet complied with the URM Ordinance and my URM building currently is in escrow, in the process of being sold to another party. Would the City consider granting the new building owner an extension of time?
  25. I am considering vacating the tenants of my URM building and board-up all window and door openings. Would City consider granting me an extension of time to comply with the URM Ordinance?
  26. My contractor has looked at my building and said that I don't have to comply with the URM Ordinance. What do I have to submit to remove my building from the City's list of URM buildings?
  27. I co-own this URM building with several other partners. I want to proceed with retrofitting this URM building per the URM Ordinance. But, my partners/co-owners don't want to at this time. What are my options?
  28. My URM building was being managed by a property manager/property management company. The manager/company never informed me of the City's letters requiring my building to comply with the URM Ordinance. Am I responsible for and obligated to comply with the URM seismic retrofit Ordinance?
  29. The current owner of a URM building has recently passed away. As an heir (or heirs) am I responsible for and obligated to comply with the City's URM Ordinance?
  30. I just received a URM building as a gift/inheritance. The donor/building owner did not retrofit the URM building as was required by the Ordinance. Do I have five years after the day which I have received the URM building as a gift/inheritance to comply with the URM seismic retrofit regulations?
  31. When will my URM building be shown as in compliant with the URM Ordinance?
  32. Could City recommend an engineer or a contractor to me to perform what is needed for this seismic retrofit work?
  33. What happens if I do not comply with the seismic retrofit requirements of the URM Ordinance?

1. What is a URM?

It stands for Unreinforced Masonry, or URM for short. It is referenced to buildings which have structural load-bearing walls constructed with un-reinforced adobe, burned clay, concrete or sand-lime brick, hollow clay or concrete block, plain concrete, hollow clay tile, rubble and cut stone and unburned clay masonry.

2. What is an unreinforced masonry (URM) wall?

It is a masonry wall in which there is no reinforcing steel or, which the area of reinforcing steel is less than 25 percent of the minimum steel ratios required by the Building Code for reinforced masonry.

3. What type of buildings is required to comply with the URM Ordinance?

The URM Ordinance applies to URM buildings which, 1) constructed, or was under construction, or for which a Building permit was issued, before March 24, 1939, and 2) have at least one Unreinforced Masonry Bearing Wall.

4. What is an unreinforced masonry bearing wall?

It is a URM wall that provides the vertical support for the reaction of floor or roof-framing members.

5. What is the deadline by which I am required to comply and retrofit my URM building per the seismic retrofit regulation of the City Ordinance?

January 1, 2006.

6. When did the time allowed by the Ordinance to comply with the seismic retrofit regulations began to run?

The Ordinance requires that the building owner shall within five (5) years after the "Date of Service" comply with the seismic retrofit regulations. A certified letter was sent to the owner of every URM building known to the City of San Diego, to the mailing address, known and on file with the San Diego County Recorder's Office, notifying them of the "Date of Service" of January 1, 2001.

7. What is required to be done by the URM Ordinance?

The mandatory provisions of the ordinance have three elements which are required to be performed by January 1, 2006. These requirements are 1) Bracing of parapets around building perimeter, AND 2) Roof-to-Wall Ties/anchors around the building perimeter, AND 3) Removal or stabilization of any and all exterior building features which are falling hazards such as exterior stairways, balconies, marquees, cornices, statutes, etc. [SDMC, Sec. 145.0410].

8. In addition to the mandatory provisions, are there any other requirements?

The Ordinance has also three triggering provisions, which applies to any URM building, even if the building has been retrofitted per the mandatory provisions. These provisions apply when; 1) the cumulative value of remodel or renovation exceed 100 percent of the value of the building within any 5-year period after January 1, 2001, [SDMC, sec. 145.0407], or 2) the use or occupancy classification of part or all of a building is changed to a use or occupancy classification at a higher relative hazard category, [SDMC, Sec. 145.0408] or 3) the cumulative value of remodel or renovation exceed 50 percent of the value of the building within any 5-year period after January 1, 2001, [SDMC, Sec. 145.0411]. In the case of either provisions 1) or 2) above, the URM building must meet the requirements of the 2001 California Building Code for new buildings of the same occupancy category, or the State Historical Building Code for buildings registered on the local, State or Federal registry. In the case of provision 3) above, floor-to wall ties/anchors must be provided around the perimeter of the entire building, if the URM building is multi-story or multi-level.

9. I purchased this building recently a few years ago, and the previous owner did not disclose anything to me with regards to the URM status of this building, URM Ordinance, and how it affects my responsibility. Am I obligated to comply with the City's URM Ordinance?

Yes. As the owner of this existing URM building, you are still responsible and mandated to comply with the seismic retrofit regulation of the City of San Diego as stated in the URM Ordinance.

10. Where do I find this URM Ordinance and other URM retrofit requirements and guidelines?

You may find the full text of the City's Seismic Retrofit Regulation by referring to the San Diego Municipal Code, Chapter 14, Article 5, Division 4 -Additional Building Regulations For Archaic Materials And Methods of Construction. This Ordinance and other related URM guidelines may be found on the Development Services Department URM webpage.

11. Is there a list of URM buildings in the City Of San Diego? And if there is, where do I find it?

The list of URM building in the City of San Diego, sorted by Assessors Parcel Numbers and by Addresses, and other related URM guidelines may be found on the Development Services Department URM webpage.

12. I received a letter from the City telling me that I have to retrofit my URM building per the stated Ordinance. Where do I start?

We recommend that you start by consulting with a registered Civil or Structural engineer or an architect, licensed by the State of California, who has knowledge and experience in the area of structural engineering.

13. I received this letter from the City about a URM building. But I have sold this building and I am not the current owner of this building / I have never owned this building. Why am I getting this letter?

You have received this letter because your name and mailing address is on our file showing as the owner of the URM building being considered.
If you find this letter has been sent to you in error, please write a small note on the back of the letter with your explanation, sign, date and return to us immediately so that we can update and correct our records.

14. The address of the URM building on the letter I received from City is not the address of my building. Why am I getting this letter?

You must refer to the building's Assessors Parcel Number (APN) listed on the letter you have received. Many buildings have multiple addresses on file. But each parcel of property has only one APN. Our record identifies the building by APN and by the building address known to City to be the mailing address on file. Over the years tenants /owners use different addresses as their mailing address. But the building's APN does not change. If the APN on letter is correct, then your building is the one being considered as a potential URM building.

15. The Assessors Parcel Number (APN) on the letter I received from City is not the APN of my building. Why am I getting this letter?

In some cases building(s) on the parcel of property adjacent to the parcel of property which has a URM building has been purchased and both parcels have been consolidated in to one parcel with a different APN. If the APN on letter is not correct and it does not match the APN of your building, please notify us immediately so that we can update and correct our records. The owner of the URM building is required to comply with the URM seismic retrofit requirements of the Ordinance.

16. I have already retrofitted my URM building. My building is still on the list of City's URM buildings as a non-compliant building. What do I need to do to have my building removed from the URM list?

You must submit a letter to the City's URM Program Coordinator, providing evidence of compliance with the current or previous URM Ordinance. Such evidence may be in the form of Permit Number or a copy of the construction plans as permitted/stamp-approved by the City of San Diego. Upon confirmation of completion and approval of such permitted work, the list of URM buildings will be updated to correctly reflect the URM retrofit status of your building.

17. My building is a small, one-story warehouse. Is my building exempt from complying with the City's URM seismic retrofit regulations?

No. The Ordinance does not provide any exemption on the basis of the number of stories or how large or small a URM building is. Refer to SDMC, Sec. 145.0403 for the exemptions.

18. My URM building is registered as a historical building on the local/State/Federal historical building registry. Is my building exempt from complying with the City's URM seismic retrofit regulations?

No. The Ordinance does not provide any exemption on the basis of its status as a registered historical building. Refer to SDMC, Sec. 145.0403 for the exemptions.

19. My URM building is currently vacant and it is boarded-up. Do I have to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance?

Yes. As the owner of this existing URM building, you are still responsible and mandated to comply with the seismic retrofit regulation of the City of San Diego as stated in the URM Ordinance.

20. I want to demolish my URM building in the near future and I don't want to spend any money to retrofit this building now. The deadline to comply with the Ordinance has lapsed. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The Ordinance does not provide any provisions allowing the Building Official to grant an extension of time to comply with the Ordinance.

21. I want to sell my URM building in the near future and the new owner plans to demolish or retrofit the URM building. I don't want to spend any money to retrofit this building now. The deadline to comply with the Ordinance has lapsed. Would City consider granting me or the new owner an extension of time?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The Ordinance does not provide any provisions allowing the Building Official to grant an extension of time to comply with the Ordinance.

22. I want to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance. But I can not find any engineer to prepare construction plans and structural calcs. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The Ordinance does not provide any provisions allowing the Building Official to grant an extension of time to comply with the Ordinance.

23. I have already obtained a building permit and want to comply with the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance. But I can not find any contractor to begin construction work. Would City consider granting me an extension of time?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The Ordinance does not provide any provisions allowing the Building Official to grant an extension of time to comply with the Ordinance.

24. I have not yet complied with the URM Ordinance and my URM building currently is in escrow, in the process of being sold to another party. Would the City consider granting the new building owner an extension of time?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The new building owner will be responsible and liable for complying with the URM Ordinance.

25. I am considering vacating the tenants of my URM building and board-up all window and door openings. Would City consider granting me an extension of time to comply with the URM Ordinance?

No. An extension of time to comply with the Ordinance is not granted at this time for any reasons. The Ordinance does not provide any provisions allowing the Building Official to grant an extension of time to comply with the Ordinance.

26. My contractor has looked at my building and said that I don't have to comply with the URM Ordinance. What do I have to submit to remove my building from the City's list of URM buildings?

We recommend that you start by consulting with a registered Civil or Structural engineer or an architect, licensed by the State of California, who has knowledge and experience in the area of structural engineering. Your engineer / architect must submit a 'Structural Survey and Engineering Report' stating the reasons, substantiated with plans, sketches, photos, test reports and any other factual evidence, proving that your building does not require to comply with the Ordinance. Such report must be stamped, signed and dated by the licensed engineer/architect.

27. I co-own this URM building with several other partners. I want to proceed with retrofitting this URM building per the URM Ordinance. But, my partners / co-owners don't want to at this time. What are my options?

All URM building owners, whether individually or collectively, are mandated to comply with the seismic retrofit regulations of the City of San Diego as stated in the URM Ordinance. Failure to comply with this Ordinance will result in a violation.

28. My URM building was being managed by a property manager/property management company. The manager/company never informed me of the City's letters requiring my building to comply with the URM Ordinance. Am I responsible for and obligated to comply with the URM seismic retrofit Ordinance?

Yes. All URM building owners are mandated to comply with the seismic retrofit regulations of the City of San Diego as stated in the URM Ordinance. Failure to comply with this Ordinance will result in a violation.

29. The current owner of a URM building has recently passed away. As an heir (or heirs) am I responsible for and obligated to comply with the City's URM Ordinance?

Yes. If the heir(s) is now the legal owner of the URM building, he/she is now responsible for and obligated to comply with the City's URM Ordinance. All URM building owners, whether individually or collectively, are mandated to comply with the seismic retrofit regulations of the City of San Diego as stated in the URM Ordinance. Failure to comply with this Ordinance will result in a violation.

30. I just received a URM building as a gift/inheritance. The donor/building owner did not retrofit the URM building as was required by the Ordinance. Do I have five years after the day which I have received the URM building as a gift / inheritance to comply with the URM seismic retrofit regulations?

No. The five-year time limitation began to run from the original "Date of Service". All owners of URM buildings were notified by certified mail and were served of this "Date of Service" as required by the Ordinance, which set to be January 1, 2001.

31. When will my URM building be shown as in compliant with the URM Ordinance?

A URM building will be shown to be in compliance with the URM Ordinance, after the seismic retrofit work, as required by the ordinance and as specified on the Permitted / Approved construction plans have been inspected and passed final inspection by the City Building Inspector.

32. Could City recommend an engineer or a contractor to me to perform what is needed for this seismic retrofit work?

Employees of the City of San Diego are prohibited by law to make any recommendations regarding engineers, architects or contractors.

33. What happens if I do not comply with the seismic retrofit requirements of the URM Ordinance?

Failure to comply with the seismic retrofit requirements of the URM Ordinance will result in the violation of the ordinance. Such violation is a cause by which the Building Official is authorized to seek enforcement of the URM Ordinance, which may result in vacation and possible demolition of the URM building at the owner's cost. The City of San Diego may also seek judicial remedies as allowed under the law to hold owner(s) of the URM buildings liable and subject to civil and /or criminal prosecution.