Take the Stress Out of Apartment Seismic Retrofitting

New Wooden Shear Wall (Before Stucco)

With the inevitable threat of earthquakes in California, many property owners have pursued seismic retrofitting projects to help strengthen the structural integrity of their properties. Last week, Felson Companies completed a voluntary seismic retrofit of two buildings at Whitman Green Apartments in Hayward.

The project at Whitman Green was pursued because the buildings are two-story, wood frame structures built over ground floor garages. Their structural integrity was concerning because of the configuration of the ground level parking. The offset layout of the buildings allowed for engineering improvements to be made to better tie the two building halves together. The project was designed by Clausen Engineers of Emeryville.   “Every seismic event is an opportunity for engineers to learn more about the performance of buildings during earthquakes. Our knowledge base has increased significantly in the time since many of the homes and apartment buildings in the Bay Area were constructed. If the opportunity is available to an owner, a seismic retrofit can be a wise investment for their property” advises Patrick Hines of Clausen Engineers.

Seismic strengthening was achieved at both buildings at Whitman Green by installing a threaded steel rod and strapping system through the width of the entire building, reinforcing a major load bearing wall, and installing a new exterior wing wall. “Seismic projects are typically very thorough, and this one was no exception. We added additional shear to the load bearing wall in the garage level and 61 clips per building to tie the load bearing wall to the ceiling joist above,” said contractor Peter King of King Construction. Movement in an earthquake will be minimized with these precautions because the threaded rod, clips, and strapping system will act like a seat belt for the entire building while the exterior wall will act as an anchor to the offset portion of the building.

With the completion of this job, Felson Companies has now seismically retrofitted 13 buildings in Alameda County. Many property owners tend to be very weary of pursuing seismic retrofitting because of cost, architectural changes, and perhaps design complexity. Many property owners wait until municipal regulations require a retrofit. Contrarily, Felson Companies has retrofitted all of their buildings voluntarily. “We’ve been successful in these projects by conducting a significant amount of pre-construction due diligence and selecting engineers and contractors who are experienced, budget conscious, and can explain their decision making in a straightforward manner” said Blake Felson, who spearheaded the project for Felson Companies. Although we may never be able to accurately predict when the next earthquake will occur, we can most likely predict how a building will move in an earthquake. If done accurately and correctly, seismic retrofitting should help to minimize that movement.

 

 

Castro Valley Apartment Community Goes Green

May 21, 2014 – Ealier this month Creekside Terrace, a 52-unit apartment community located in Castro Valley, became the first market rate apartment building in Alameda County to achieve certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program. The Bay Area Green Business Program is a California government program that assists local businesses to operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

The Green Business Program requires property owners to comply with 140 required and optional environmental measures that are classified within six categories (General; Waste; Energy; Water; Pollution; and Wastewater). Some requirements are easy, such as beginning a recycling program or replacing all incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent or LED bulbs. Other requirements are more challenging such as switching to all environmentally friendly cleaning products or creating an Environmental Policy Statement.

Built in 1973 by owner/operator Felson Companies, Creekside Terrace had to make many changes to the property and to its management operation to become more environmentally friendly. “We’ve wanted to make our properties more sustainable and the Green Business Program created a catalyst for environmental change by providing us with an ‘environmental roadmap’ that was easy to follow,” said Blake Felson, the Project Manager at Felson Companies who led the efforts.

Part of the certification required engaging with residents to encourage conservation. Community Manager Carla Faires has been very impressed with the positive response from her residents; “I’ve had to request additional recycling and composting bins as more and more residents are participating in the cause. It has really caught on within our community!”

After making physical and operational changes, the property was audited by the Castro Valley Sanitary District, Pacific Gas & Electric, East Bay Municipal District, StopWaste.org, and the Alameda County Green Business Program. “Felson Companies has broken new ground in achieving Green Business certification for Creekside Terrace. We’ve had several non-profit housing organizations complete the Green Business certification, but Felson Companies is the first market rate management company in Alameda County to certify one of their properties. We hope that other market rate firms will follow their lead,” said Pamela Evans, Alameda County Green Business Coordinator.

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Felson Companies, Inc. is a privately held real estate investment company that specializes in the management of multi-family properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since its founding in 1948, the firm’s principals and employees have shared a strong commitment to the local communities in which they serve. For more information, visit http://www.felson.com.

More information about the Bay Area Green Business Program can be found at http://www.greenbiz.ca.gov.

Green Business Certificate

Green Business Certificate

Why Apartment Communities Should Embrace Social Media

social media

     Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. have gotten too popular to be considered just a fad. The key to social networking will be for companies to utilize it to increase customer engagement and sales. At Felson Companies we’ve tinkered around on various social media platforms for the last two years trying to figure out how to adapt the technology to apartment property management. Through trial and error, we’ve found that social media can be used to increase information, communication, and feedback at our apartment communities.

     First and foremost, social media is a great way to inform residents. Residents may not see the big pink flyer posted in the laundry room telling them that the water will be shut off on Tuesday for 3 hours but they might see the posting about it on Facebook. Residents appreciate being able to read about what is happening at their community at their convenience. This is especially important for school aged residents as they might be less inclined to read notices posted around the community. According to property management software company Appfolio, 65.9% of residents use apartment social networking pages to learn about news, updates, and events related to their community.

     Second, social media provides an opportunity to increase communication channels. Throughout the past decade, it has been widely documented that face to face communication between residents and property staff has decreased. A study by IREM in 2011 found that 89% of residents prefer to communicate via e-mail rather than by phone or in-person. Additionally, Appfolio reported that 20.5% of residents use social networking pages to communicate with apartment community staff. Since social networking posts are public we obviously advise using caution. For instance, don’t write things like, “Fred, what’s the deal? Your rent was late again this month!” We recommend staying positive by writing thank yous, compliments, and congratulatory messages. These small gestures will help to build a closer knit community at your property which will hopefully lead to higher resident retention.    

     Lastly, one of the most important benefits to social networking is its ability to solicit feedback from customers. Appfolio reported that 23.4% of residents use their community’s social networking pages to provide feedback. Whether good or bad, feedback can become a very valuable tool if you act upon it. For instance, a prospective resident told one of our managers that they called us after reading a positive comment from a current resident on our Facebook page.  We promptly then placed that posting more prominiently on our page and thanked the resident for the posting.  Negative feedback on the other hand can help you fix things you may have overlooked or haven’t taken seriously enough.

     In conclusion, utilizing social media for your apartment community can help inform residents, improve communication, and generate valuable feedback. We hope that this posting has encouraged you to consider social media more seriously. Feel free to share your social media experiences in the comment section below and take our social media poll…

Earthquakes: Will your property be ready?

In earthquake prone California, building owners, managers, and residents constantly live under the threat of the next big trembler.  Over the past decade many municipalities have identified residential buildings that may be vulnerable in an earthquake and in various forms have required (or strongly recommended) property owners to seismically retrofit their buildings.  The cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and […]

Is your apartment community inviting?

It is common sense that residents are much more likely to lease an apartment that is warm and welcoming than one that is dirty, dark, and unkempt. Furthermore, Realtors and many home improvement television shows put a tremendous amount of emphasis on creating attractive curb appeal. But after making sure your vacant units are spotless and your grounds are meticulously maintained, some on-site property managers can easily overlook a critical component: themselves.

With social media websites enabling the ability to review an apartment community within minutes I often still wonder why some property management staff members are rude, unreasonable, and unpleasant to their residents and prospects in-person, over the phone, and through e-mail correspondence. I understand that everyone can have a bad day and may take things out on the wrong people but we must remember to act professional and maintain a positive attitude.

The word “inviting” can be defined as “offering the promise of an attractive or enjoyable experience.” At Felson Companies, we strive to make our apartment communities as inviting to our residents, prospects, and vendors as possible. We’ve even created our company’s 8 core values around the word:

Invested
Notable Service
Value
Integrity
Team Oriented
Innovated
Nutty
Gracious

We believe that by constantly reminding ourselves to create an inviting environment at our apartment communities, we will repeatedly go above and beyond the expectations of our residents.

What ways do you create an inviting environment at your apartment community?

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Welcome

Welcome to Felson Companies’ new blog.  On this site we will post commentary about our latest happenings, information about the apartment industry, and news about the neighborhoods surrounding our apartment communities.  Thank you for reading, we hope to keep you well informed and interested.