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Seismic Safety

The University of California’s first seismic safety policy was issued in January 1975, and has been updated over time to incorporate current knowledge in seismology, structural and geotechnical engineering. The current policy is dated March 2021. In 2017, the University of California proactively launched a comprehensive, multiyear effort to update seismic safety policies systemwide. The primary goal of the current initiative is to provide an adequate level of safety and wellbeing for the UC community and the public at large.

The updated UC policy requires that every UC building with significant seismic performance deficiencies be retrofitted, replaced or vacated no later than the year 2030. However, based on code requirements, a major renovation can trigger the need for seismic improvements prior to the 2030 deadline.

All University of California structures, including those at UC San Diego, meet applicable California building codes in effect at the time of their construction and at the time of any renovations. Structural upgrades during the next decade will take UC structures beyond what is currently required by state and local building codes.

Efforts to assess and rate every building on each of the 10 campuses were launched in 2018 and rely on a phased approach and schedule:

  • Phase 1: Completed Dec. 31, 2018
  • Phase 2: Completed June 30, 2019
  • Phase 3: Completed June 30, 2020

Independent consulting structural engineers are conducting seismic evaluations following practices recommended by the Seismic Advisory Board, and these evaluations are based on standards set forth by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). About ten years ago, UC developed a system of seismic performance ratings working together with the California Department of General Services and California State University. These ratings are assigned following an assessment of earthquake resiliency for buildings. The full description of ratings levels are:

  • I–IV: Seismic Safety Policy Compliant
  • V: Will Require Further Evaluation and, if Confirmed, Must Be Addressed
  • VI: High-Priority for Correction
  • VII: Must Be Unoccupied and Access-Restricted

Preliminary Findings

Per the policy, 744 structures owned or occupied by UC San Diego were evaluated. While all university-owned buildings were designed and constructed in adherence to the codes in effect at the time of their construction, preliminary results determined that 287 of the buildings assessed currently have a seismic performance rating of “V.” These buildings will require further evaluation and, if the ratings are confirmed, the seismic deficiencies must be addressed.

Additionally, another 15 buildings were assessed at a seismic performance rating of “VI,” or a high-priority for correction.

No UC San Diego buildings were found to warrant a “VII” rating.

The buildings that have a “VI” rating, per the initial assessment include:



3500 5th Ave 

Will not renew lease

Central Utilities Plant

Retrofit in Design

Mandell Weiss Theater

Retrofit in Design

Mandell Weiss Theater Shop

Retrofit in Design

York Hall

Retrofit in Construction

Center for Neural Circuits and Behavior

Planned for Demolition*

Arbor Drive Parking Structure

Planned for Demolition*

Theodore Gilded Facility

Planned for Demolition*

Nimitz Marine Facility Laboratory Building

Planned for Demolition*

Mayer Hall


Biomedical Sciences Building 


Che Café


Recreation Gymnasium




Main Gymnasium


*In accordance with current Neighborhood Planning studies

A full list of buildings evaluated and their ratings is available online.

UC San Diego is also somewhat unique among the 10 UC campuses as it is located on geographically complex terrain and many of its structures are architecturally complex as well. This combination of factors can lead to a greater number of structures that have the potential to be rated a higher seismic risk when utilizing the rudimentary methods of the ASCE Tier 1 checklist; however, with more rigorous analysis associated with the Tier 2 and Tier 3 evaluation methods, many of these same buildings are expected to be re-categorized as seismically safe.

While these ratings may, understandably, generate concern, it is important to note that a building rating can be the result of a seismic deficiency in just one portion of the structure and does not necessarily indicate that an entire building is compromised.

Next Steps

UC San Diego, like other UC campuses, will start prioritizing and planning its retrofitting work after the preliminary ratings are thoroughly evaluated and confirmed by engineers. Meanwhile, UC San Diego has begun to review available, realistic options to limit occupancy and usage of seismically deficient buildings on our campus.

Due to the rigor involved in Tier 2 and Tier 3 analysis, it is expected that full evaluation of all SPR “V” rated building will not be complete until 2026. Once the full evaluation process is completed, it is likely that many of the buildings that are currently in the “V” category will potentially be given a category “IV” rating which is considered seismic safety policy compliant.

We will continue to submit assessment findings to the UC Office of the President to support a coordinated, system-wide effort to holistically prioritize and address the work, which can include retrofitting, replacing or vacating hundreds of buildings on the 10 UC campuses.

The complex task of addressing seismically deficient buildings across campus requires significant financial investment, yet is consistent with UC San Diego’s well-established history of taking an active role in safely protecting everyone’s health and the environment, whether they are part of the campus community, or visiting.

As the evaluation process continues, we will provide timely communications about relevant developments and decisions.


Learn more about earthquake preparedness by visiting the UC San Diego Earthquake Safety webpage.