In our previous blog in the series on Soft Story retrofitting, we discussed how the owner/landlord of a Soft Story building hires a structural and/or soil engineer and a construction firm to carry out a Soft Story retrofitting project.  In other blogs in the series, we also discussed the required steps to comply with the Soft Story Retrofit programs of the City of Los Angeles, as well as other surrounding cities.  We also explained what a typical Soft Story retrofit project looks like.  All these blogs can be accessed on our Blog page, or via the links at the end of this article.

Today we’ll close this blog series by discussing how to deal with a Soft Story retrofit project’s Lead and Asbestos testing, Seismic Shut-Off Valves, Deputy Inspections, Structural Observations by the project’s Engineer-of-Record, and how Weinstein Construction can assist the owner/landlord of a Soft Story building with the process for recovering up to 50% of the costs of the Soft Story retrofit!

Lead and Asbestos Testing

For many years, both homes and buildings in the greater Los Angeles area have been constructed using materials containing lead and asbestos.  For example, 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead paint, a toxin that affects the human nervous system!  Although lead paint was banned in 1978, it is very common today to find homes still painted with lead paint in certain areas.  Moreover, many 20th Century homes contain asbestos in common building materials such as heating duct insulation, cement roofing, siding shingles, roof coatings, and even some types of vinyl floor tiles!

The risk of lead and asbestos must not be ignored.  It is said that when lead paint is disturbed by chipping, scraping, or sanding, it releases particulates, and just a small amount of lead contaminated dust, less than 1/16 of the amount in a sugar packet, can cause nerve and brain damage in children, or hypertension in adults.  Similarly, asbestos, when it deteriorates or is disturbed, releases microscopic fibers into the air, that when inhaled, can cause lung cancer, as well as other, rare forms of cancer.

Before starting a Soft Story project, the owner/landlord of a Soft Story building must undertake lead and asbestos testing on the work areas.  Such testing must follow the standards set out by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).  If the testing shows lead paint or unacceptable levels of asbestos, these hazards must be remediated before the project can begin.  If requested, Weinstein Construction can undertake this testing for you, and will hire a licensed environmental services firm to perform this work.

Seismic Shut-Off Valves

As per Los Angeles Municipal Code Ordinance 174478, the owner/landlord of a Soft Story building must also install and permit seismic gas shut-off valves on the Soft Story building.  These valves are designed to automatically shut off the supply of natural gas to the structure when an earthquake occurs, in order to prevent a fire or explosion due to the accumulation of gas in the building.  Note that the owner/landlord of a Soft Story building will not be able to obtain a final City approval for the project until such shut-off valves are installed and permitted.  If requested, Weinstein Construction can assist you in installing the valves.

Deputy Inspections

Owners/landlords of a Soft Story building are also required to hire and pay for Deputy Inspectors, who provide continuous inspections for the Soft Story project during those time periods that the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (“LADBS”) Inspectors are unable to fulfill their inspection duties.  The LADBS certifies Deputy Inspectors through a rigorous interview and examination process, and evaluates the work they do to maintain a high standard of inspection.  The Deputy Inspectors typically inspect and approve onsite steel welding, reinforced steel rebar, mix of concrete used on the project, wood shearing nailing, as well as other aspects of the construction.  As such, it is imperative that the project’s Deputy Inspectors have the correct certifications, as otherwise, the City Inspector will not approve the project.

Structural Observation Reports

The Soft Story project’s Engineer-of-Record is required to complete a Structural Observations Report (“SOR”), which involves the visual observation of the structural system of the project, in order to ensure that the project conforms to the approved plans and specifications.  If the Engineer notes any deficiencies in the structural system of the project, the Engineer will formally propose corrective actions to mitigate any issues found.  Before the City Inspector will accept the work undertaken on the Soft Story project, the Engineer is required to provide an SOR which states that all deficiencies have been resolved satisfactorily.

Soft Story Landlord Cost Recovery Program

In the City of Los Angeles, owners/landlords of Soft Story buildings who have properly filed a Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”) are able to recover up to 50% of the costs of the Soft Story retrofit through tenant rent increases over a period of 10 years.  Once the Soft Story project is complete, the professionals at Weinstein Construction can assist you in submitting a Cost Recovery application that, after approval by the City, will trigger letters sent by the City to the building’s tenants, informing them of the rent raise.  In order to process the Cost Recovery forms, Weinstein Construction will need to submit to the City’s Housing and Community Investment Department (“HCIDLA”) a copy of the THP, as well as copies of all cancelled bank checks showing the Soft Story retrofit project expenses.

Let Weinstein Construction “take the worry and stress out” of your Soft Story project!

Call (800) 862-6582 today to speak with Angela about your Soft Story needs!  At this time, we can also schedule you for a free, no-obligation inspection and estimate to retrofit your Soft Story structure!

Other Weinstein Construction blogs on Soft Story Retrofits and the Requirements of the City of Los Angeles can be found below: