During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the City of Santa Monica was hit hard, losing about 1,500 apartments, or about 5% of the city’s inventory of apartments.  Many of the damaged structures were wood-framed “Soft Story” multi-family residential apartment buildings, with car port parking on their ground floor, and above, apartment units supported by skinny poles which came crashing down.

Despite taking decisive action after the Northridge quake to inspect and retrofit vulnerable buildings, within a decade, Santa Monica’s progress in protecting its buildings was stalled.  An investigation ensued, which resulted in Santa Monica’s 2017 adoption of one of the country’s most extensive Seismic Retrofit Program.

Santa Monica’s Soft Story Program ordered about 2,000 vulnerable commercial and multi-family residential buildings to be retrofitted on the city’s own strict timeline.  Happily, by the summer of 2023, city officials announced that 1,099 buildings that were originally identified as “seismically vulnerable” were now compliant with the city’s retrofitting laws.

While the City of Santa Monica has made significant progress in identifying and fixing vulnerable buildings, 865 buildings reportedly have not yet been retrofitted.

Importantly, Santa Monica (and the nearby City of West Hollywood) have issued retrofitting orders that require vulnerable “steel moment frame”, unreinforced masonry, and “tilt-up” buildings to be retrofitted.  In their most recent report, Santa Monica officials identified 80 steel moment frame buildings, of which only two have been strengthened and 11 were retrofitted.  The city also identified 90 unreinforced masonry buildings, 72 of which are today compliant, with 18 remain to be retrofitted.  Finally, 42 tilt-up buildings were identified, of which only 22 are compliant today.

If you are a Soft Story property owner in the city of Santa Monica, you have only until 2026 to upgrade your vulnerable building.  Don’t delay, if an earthquake damages your building, your costs and liability will be astronomical!  Call the earthquake retrofitting professionals at Weinstein Construction today for a free Soft Story inspection and consultation!


In March, 2023, the City of Torrance passed a mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program ordinance requiring Soft Story, non-ductile concrete, tilt-up, and steel moment framed buildings to be retrofitted, an idea that has been under discussion since 2018.  All in all, the city’s ordinance will reportedly affect about 1,300 buildings.

Other cities that have implemented retrofit laws for Soft Story buildings include the City of Los Angeles, the City of Burbank, the City of Beverly Hills, the City of West Hollywood, the City of Pasadena, the City of Glendale, the City of Culver City, and the City of Long Beach.

Top seismologists and building scientists all agree that there is an urgent need to retrofit residential and commercial properties in the Greater Los Angeles area and safeguard them from the destructive forces of earthquakes.  Property owners should prepare today for the real and very imminent threat of seismic activity.  If you wish to discuss or schedule a free inspection of your home or Soft Story structure, Call Weinstein Construction at 866-623-5788.


*  Adapted from, “What California can learn about earthquake safety from Santa Monica”, The Los Angeles Times, Sandhya Kambhampati and Rong-Gong Lin II, July 7, 2023.