On April 25, 2023, registration opened for the Earthquake Soft Story (“ESS”) pilot program!  This unique government program offers free-money grants of up to $13,000 to eligible Los Angeles homeowners that goes toward a seismic retrofit of their “Soft Story” home, which is defined as a home with at least one floor of living space that is built above a garage.  Such homes are especially vulnerable to earthquakes and are prone to partial or full collapse because they cannot withstand the side-to-side movement from earthquake shaking!

The California Earthquake Authority Chief Mitigation Officer, Janiele Maffei has recently described such Soft Story homes as problematic, as they are essentially built with a garage inside of them, which takes out those earthquake-resistant elements of a house:  the walls themselves!  Ms. Maffei has also gone on record saying that it is critical to retrofit such homes to withstand the harmful effects of earthquakes as they were not originally built up to the rigorous standards of today’s construction codes.  Our old building codes were designed and constructed before we had a full knowledge of how buildings perform during earthquakes, and today, our codes have improved tremendously!

How do homeowners qualify for this new ESS grant program?

In Southern California, the ESS pilot program is offered in the City of Los Angeles and Pasadena in select zip codes.  In the near future, other cities will be added to the program!  In order to qualify for this free government grant, you must:

  • Live in an ESS eligible zip code (only one ESS registration per household is allowed)
  • Your home must be owner-occupied
  • The grant applicant must be the home’s legal owner of record
  • Your home must sit on level ground or a low slope
  • Your home must have two stories and a garage with a living space above
  • Your home must have been built before the year 2000

Can homeowners qualify for this new grant program even if they already received a previous incentive payment for the Earthquake Brace + Bolt (“EBB”) Program retrofit?

Great news, yes!  The fact that a homeowner received a previous incentive payment for the retrofit of their home’s crawlspace through the EBB program does not exclude the homeowner from participating in this new ESS program!

Sign me up!  How can I learn more about this new ESS grant program?

The California Earthquake Authority website to learn more about the Earthquake Soft-Story Retrofit grant program.  On this site, you can also enter your zip code to see if your home qualifies for an ESS retrofit, and sign-up to receive ESS program updates!

Funding for ESS retrofit grants comes directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”).  Once you’ve been accepted into the ESS program, you will have access to an online Homeowner Dashboard, where you will be prompted to upload required documentation (e.g., pre- and post-retrofit photos).

Can homeowners do the retrofit themselves? 

No, to receive free money ESS Program funding, homeowners must hire a contractor to do the retrofit work.  Homeowners must choose a contractor from the ESS Contractor Directory. Those contractors listed in the Directory have successfully completed a FEMA seismic retrofit training course, and are California-licensed general contractors.

Let the professionals at Weinstein Construction help you navigate the ESS registration process!  Call us today at (800) 862-6582 to schedule a free inspection of your home for this fantastic initiative that can put up to $13,000 in free government money toward your retrofit project! 

You can also learn more about the EBB program and Weinstein Construction.