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News & Press: President's Message

January President's Message

Friday, January 18, 2019  
Posted by: Tim Hart
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“I hope I go to Heaven, and when I do, I'm going to do what every San Franciscan does when he gets there. He looks around and says, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'” – Herb Caen

A comment that I have often heard about people from San Francisco is that they can be very provincial. It was once voted America’s Snobbiest City. I have heard friends and colleagues who live in the city (or should I say “The City”) claim that San Jose is a suburb of L.A. and that Sacramento is in the Midwest. And Oakland? Well, they acknowledge its existence but don’t talk about it, like a family relative that they are embarrassed about.

Our SEAONC community tends to be San Francisco centric, not necessarily because our colleagues are snobs, but because San Francisco is (and has been for many years) the home base for a large number of structural engineering firms, and thus the home base for a large number of structural engineers. As a result, many of SEAONC’s events and functions are centered in San Francisco, and many of the issues that SEAONC members are concerned about are specific to San Francisco.

However, there are issues that involve structural engineers that exist outside of San Francisco. For example, soft-story wood framed buildings are very common in most Bay Area cities and only a few of them, such as Berkeley, Alameda, and now Oakland, have mandatory soft-story retrofit ordinances in place. Non-ductile concrete structures and pre-Northridge steel moment frame structures are also very common (I know because I designed a few of the latter). Construction quality, sustainability, and community resilience are issues that occur everywhere. Yet many of the discussions in our SEAONC committees and even within the Board regarding these issues have been specific to San Francisco.

For the majority of my career in the Bay Area I have worked at firms outside of San Francisco. I’ve worked in San Jose and Oakland and currently I work in Berkeley. When I worked in San Jose and Oakland, it was often a challenge to be involved in SEAONC committees and activities because of how difficult it was to travel to San Francisco. It is still a challenge to get to San Francisco from Berkeley. I also sometimes got the sense, especially when I was working in San Jose, that my colleagues and I were sort of forgotten by the association. We were members but not really engaged. I remember signing up for the Young Member’s Forum in 1995 and 1996 and never hearing from them. While I believe that our committees are more responsive to our members who do not live or work in San Francisco than they were 20 years ago, I believe that we could do better to engage these members.

To that end, I’ve asked the Board and the SEAONC Office to consider new ways that we can engage our members that work outside of San Francisco. We can consider providing our committees with access to video conferencing so members outside of San Francisco can actively participate in committee meetings. We can consider broadcasting our monthly meetings to remote locations similar to what SEAOCC and other state SEAs are doing. We can consider greater association support for our South Bay dinner meetings and investigate if there is interest in having separate dinner meetings in Santa Rosa and/or Walnut Creek.

I would also like to ask for your opinions, especially if you work outside of San Francisco. How can SEAONC engage with you and your colleagues better? How can SEAONC enable your participation in committees and programs? What can SEAONC do better for you? I welcome your suggestions.

Happy New Year!


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Mission: To advance the practice of structural engineering, to build community among our members, and to educate the public regarding the structural engineering profession.

Vision: A world in which structural engineers are valued by the public for their contributions to building a safer and stronger community.