In some of our recent blogs (see link at the end of this page) we discussed seismic retrofitting and how commercial property owners can prepare for an earthquake.  We touched briefly on the City of Los Angeles’ Soft Story Retrofit Program, which identified buildings vulnerable to structural failure both during and after an earthquake.  This program requires the owners of these buildings to comply with mandatory City Ordinances 183893 and 184081 and retrofit the buildings within a specific timeframe.

In this blog and in the next few weeks, we will cover the various steps involved in a typical mandatory retrofit project.  “Soft Story” buildings, even if they have a caisson foundation, typically have a weaker first floor that is unable to carry the weight of the stories above during an earthquake.  These buildings also typically have large windows or openings in the perimeter walls such as garages or tuck-under parking.

The Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program

The goal of the City of Los Angeles’ mandatory retrofit program is to reduce the structural deficiencies of specifically identified buildings in an economical way.  Those buildings that were deemed most vulnerable have the following attributes:

  1. Consist of two or more stories of wood frame construction
  2. Built under code standards enacted before January 1, 1978 and
  3. Contain ground floor parking or other similar open floor spaces.

Note that the retrofit program does not apply to residential buildings with three or fewer units.  To verify if your building is within the scope of the Program, you can refer to the LADBS Permit & Inspection Report here:


The City of Los Angeles has already sent each property owner of an identified building an “Order to Comply” beginning on May 2, 2016 and through November 6, 2017.  A property owner must comply with the City ordinances within the relevant time limits, as detailed below.

Typical Steps to Soft Story Retrofit Project

We will be “serializing” the next few blogs, and devoting a number of them to the typical steps in carrying out a Soft Story retrofit project.  This week we will discuss Step No. 1, which is directly below.  Come back to our blog next week to read the next entry in the series, which will be Step No. 2!

Step No. 1 – Draft Plans and Obtain City Approval of the Plans.

Upon receipt of the “Order to Comply” as described above, the property owner must keep careful note of the following timeline:

  1. Within 2 years from the receipt of the Order to Comply: submit to the City proof (e.g., a structural analysis) that shows that the building has already had a previous retrofit, or submit plans to retrofit or demolish the building
  2. Within 3.5 years from the receipt of the Order to Comply: obtain a City permit to start construction or demolition and
  3. Within 7 years from the receipt of the Order to Comply: complete the demolition or the retrofit project.

Next, the property owner should schedule an inspection by a licensed contractor who is highly-skilled in undertaking Soft Story retrofitting projects.  For example, Weinstein Construction, has since 1977, specialized in earthquake mitigation services, providing over 70,000 free, no-obligation home inspections to residential and commercial property owners in the Greater Los Angeles area.

The contractor’s inspection will be followed by a licensed structural engineer drafting plans for the project.  Once the City approves the plans, your contractor of record will pull the City Permit and at that point the project is ready to go!

Next week we’ll discuss the mandatory City of Los Angeles Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”) requirements and how the Soft Story retrofit project is kicked-off!

Meanwhile, if you want to hear more today, or if you’d like to schedule a free, no-obligation inspection of your Soft Story structure, call Weinstein Construction at (800) 862-6582.  Be prepared and have peace of mind when the next “Big One” hits!