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San Antonio builders must check all retaining walls built in past three years

An interesting status report was posted online tonight by San Antonio officials who are examining the retaining wall collapse at the Hills of Rivermist. Officials met with local builders, who were told they must review all retaining walls built over the past three years that are more than four feet tall. The builders must make sure an engineer designed each wall and that the structure was built correctly. And the builders must pull permits for each wall by March 31.

Related: Centex Homes wrong about wall threat

Retaining wall at the Hills of RivermistThe builders raised several concerns about the city’s permitting requirements, some of which were discussed in our story about the city’s lack of oversight of retaining walls. Here’s the complete status report on the city’s Web site:

Development Services, the Greater San Antonio Builders Association, and approximately fifty of its members met today to discuss the need for the public to feel assured retaining walls in San Antonio have been built correctly. At the meeting, Development Services discussed:

* The City’s building code requirements to obtain permits for retaining walls.
* Builders need to (1) identify all retaining walls over four feet and built during the past three years, (2) provide documentation the walls were designed by an engineer and built correctly, and (3) obtain permits for the walls by March 31st.
* Development Services will use the information to develop a tracking system for retaining walls.

At the meeting, the builders initially expressed that they did not believe all retaining walls require permits. In addition, since some of the walls were constructed several years ago, they were concerned about the challenges of finding documentation to satisfy the City’s permitting requirements. Finally, they expressed a need to amend the Unified Development Code to clarify permits are required during the site development stage of construction.

Development Services responded to the builders’ concerns by reiterating permits are required for retaining walls over four feet. The department will work in partnership with the builders to issue permits and to obtain documentation that attest to the safety of the walls by the end of the summer. Finally, Development Services agreed to explore an amendment to the Unified Development Code to reinforce the procedures for permitting retaining walls during all phases of construction; from land development to building development.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Development Services and the builders agreed it was important to restore the community’s confidence that existing retaining walls built in San Antonio are safe. Development Services will develop information bulletins and new applications to reinforce the procedures for permitting retaining walls related to new construction.