SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) — In the crawl space beneath his San Leandro home, Danny Hinckley is taking on a job most people would never consider.

“This will be several weekends,” Hinckley says crawling in the dirt just below his living room.

It will be several weekends with a steep learning curve, but if he does it right, all this effort just might save his home in a major earthquake.

For most Bay Area homes it’s sheer, that side-to-side, lateral shaking that presents the biggest threat in an earthquake. Sheer was what produced most of the red-tagged homes from the Napa Earthquake in 2014.

The homes were damaged when the house shook one direction while the foundation moved another, causing them to snap loose and collapse beneath the ground floor.

The basic retrofit goal is to get the house and the foundation bolted together to move as one.

“So that your house can’t slide over,” Hinckley explains. “You just gotta be willing to get dirty, sweaty, bump your head, wear out your pants.”

Most importantly, homeowners have to have a game plan and that’s where the city of San Leandro comes in.

In four classes over two weeks, the city’s building department walked Hinckley and about nine other homeowners through the entire process — from drawing up a full set of engineer-approved plans tailored specifically for his house, right down to the power tools.

The same tools the city actually lets him borrow.

So, along with plenty of time, Hinckley’s real investment was the smaller tools and the building supplies.

“I haven’t added it all up, but it’s right around $3,000,” he estimates.

That’s the first big payoff, because for a house the size of his, hiring someone to do the job could cost as much as $20,000.

“I’d say $15,000, $17,000,” Hinckley estimates. “At least $15,000 I’ve saved.”

As for the second big payoff, that’s something he can’t quite put a price on, at least, not yet.

“I hope that I never find out if it works,” Hinckley laughs. “But on the other hand, I kind of do want to find out if it works.”


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