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Soft Story Retrofitting

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Soft Story Retrofitting2021-06-10T12:28:04-07:00
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Property owners typically receive a City LABDS order requiring retrofitting be done on their soft story building.  Upon receipt of such an order, the property owner will have a limited amount of time to complete the soft story retrofitting work.  Soft story building retrofitting work is typically done in three phases:

  • Submitting a retrofit plan within 2 years
  • Obtaining a permit to begin construction or demolition within 3.5 years and
  • Completing the job within 7 years.


Long-time Los Angeles residents have been waiting for the “Big One” to strike any day. If you’re new to the area, the “Big One” is the next big earthquake to strike Southern California for years. City officials tried to find a way to minimize the damage and save lives in potential quakes after the damage caused by the earthquake in 1994. The 1994 earthquake took the lives of 60 people and destroyed city bridges, freeways and buildings in millions of dollars.

In 2016, many building and unit owners received a notice to comply. Such notifications went out to building owners who are listed as structures on soft stories. The first round of notices went out to building owners falling under the Priority and 1 or 2 under Order 183893. If there are less than five residential units in your house, your notice should have been sent out later.

You have two years to apply your retrofit plans to the city if you intend to upgrade your house. On the other hand, if you just demolish the house, you will apply the plans to the city within 3.5 years. The designs you submit, like those at Weinstein Construction, will need to be drawn up by a qualified soft-story retrofitting contractor.


Seismic earthquake activity invariably causes property owners to ask, “how safe is my building?” Such earthquakes have shown that certain types of buildings are vulnerable! For example, structures that are not bolted to their foundations can slide off the foundation during an earthquake, buildings that have unreinforced masonry can have such masonry crumble, and so-called “Soft Story” buildings are in danger of complete collapse!

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    Soft story buildings are typically multi-story structures that have one or more floors with large opening windows, wide doors, large unobstructed commercial spaces, or other openings in places where walls would normally be required for stability as a matter of earthquake engineering design. Many such soft story buildings have a soft first story that is less rigid than the floors above it, for example, an apartment “tuck-under” parking garage structure.

    Such apartment buildings with flimsy first floors that serve as parking spaces became popular in the 1940s and 50s, as the City of Los Angeles spread West toward the Pacific Ocean and North into the San Fernando Valley.  In fact, recent stories in the Los Angeles Times show that many of the largest and most vulnerable apartment buildings are in the San Fernando Valley! (see LA Times, “Is my building vulnerable in a big earthquake? Here’s how to find out” by Shelby Grad, July 9, 2019).

    Sadly, such soft story structures are susceptible to damage during seismic activity, as was seen in many news story reports during the infamous 1994 Northridge earthquake, which caused many such soft story buildings to collapse, as well as the San Francisco earthquake of 1989.


    It can create a lot of uncertainty to grasp the steps involved. Start by finding an experienced retrofitting contractor in Los Angeles, like Weinstein Construction, to make it easier for you. Over 5,000 soft-story retrofits have already been completed by skilled contractors in the Los Angeles area and they should know what is involved in such a project. A successful retrofit soft-story contractor will direct you through every step of the process, which typically involves a free initial consultation, and a subsequent inspection of the building that is sufficient to produces a detailed plan of the necessary work.  The contractor will then contact you to schedule a follow-up meeting to review various retrofit options and provide you with a detailed report outlining the work that needs to be done, including a timetable for completion, and a detailed cost estimate.

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    The good news is that Weinstein Construction’s retrofitting experts specialize in soft story solutions and offer soft story structure retrofit reinforcement at a reasonable cost! Weinstein Construction’s soft story seismic retrofit can strengthen multifamily apartment complexes so that they are better prepared to deal with the next big seismic earthquake strike, helping to save lives, cars, and other valuable property.

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    • A building that was built under building code standards that were in place before January 1, 1978
    • A building that consists of two or more stories in a wood frame construction and
    • A building that contains ground floor parking or other open floor spaces.


    After a large number of wood-frame, soft story buildings in the greater Los Angeles area were severely damaged by earthquake seismic activity, a city-wide ordinance was passed into law in November 2015, obligating the owners of soft story construction buildings to retrofit them in strict accordance with city retrofitting codes.

    The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (“labds”) has identified buildings* that are most vulnerable to seismic activity, thus requiring a seismic retrofit, as having the following criteria:

    • Consist of 2 or more stories of wood frame construction
    • Built under building code standards enacted before January 1, 1978 and
    • Contains ground floor parking or other similar open floor space.

    * Note that the LADBS Soft Story Retrofit Program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 or less units. Owners of larger residential units have orders to comply with the soft story ordinance.

    The purpose of the city’s mandatory retrofitting program was to reduce the potential risk of injury and loss of life and property that could result from seismic earthquake activity taking a toll on vulnerable soft story buildings.  Without strengthening and retrofitting the construction of such vulnerable buildings, structural failure can occur both during and/or after an earthquake. The LABDS’ seismic retrofit program is one of the nation’s largest movements to promote seismic soft story building safety!

    Many Los Angeles property owners and tenants are aware of the soft-story retrofit ordinances in Los Angeles. If you don’t remember, in 2015, the city council approved two construction measures regarding soft-story buildings. The Los Angeles soft-story retrofitting system was revealed shortly after the new policies were approved. The idea behind this is to make sure that when the next earthquake hits, buildings across the city will be structurally sound. So what are the new laws covering and how are they applicable to you?

    The first order, 183893, specifies the type of buildings required under the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit system to complete a seismic upgrade. Built before 1978, this list includes wood-framed structures and soft-story buildings. Ordinance 184081 provides the deadline for building owners to complete their retrofit and comply with the compulsory system. The second order has two components depending on whether you intend to retrofit or completely demolish the house.

    City officials have compiled a list of all the buildings and structures that they consider as at risk. The city sent a letter to the owners of these buildings notifying them of the compulsory Los Angeles retrofit soft-story programmer. Such letters gave owners seven years in most cases to apply their plans and complete the necessary retrofits. You should have hired a soft-story retrofit contractor now if you got one of these documents. If you haven’t hired one, or don’t know if you need one, don’t worry, we’re here to answer all your questions and make it simple for you to understand the process.

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    Weinstein Construction professionals can help with all your soft story retrofitting, from start to finish. Call us today so we can explain how we work on soft story retrofitting ! If you think that your apartment building may require soft story retrofit services, call us now for a free, no-obligation discussion of your needs!


    What is retrofitting?2021-09-02T19:53:53-07:00

    Simply stated, it’s a process that ties a home together. It increase the resistance to earthquake damage and decreases the risk of injury. In short, it significantly strengthens the house.

    How do I know if I have a soft story?2021-09-02T19:38:39-07:00

    Was your apartment built before 1991? Then the answer is most likely YES. Most buildings that were built before 1991 have soft stories. The lower story of a building should have shear wall support. If you have an open parking garage, big windows, or any big spaces on the lower level of your building then you are at risk. If you are not sure if you have a soft story building, we will come to you for a FREE inspection. From there we will be able to tell you 100% if you have a soft story building or not.

    How much does soft story retrofitting cost?2021-09-02T19:49:25-07:00

    Each project will vary on a case to case basis, depending upon the scope of work. For example, a small apartment building with six units and one ordinary steel moment-resisting frame (OMF) and concrete grade beam footing may cost as low as $30,000 to retrofit, while other, larger apartment buildings, may be in the range of several hundred-thousand dollars to complete. Each project will vary depending upon the structural integrity of the property. The damage that is caused from a soft story collapsing can cost you the entire building. The damage can be so bad that it is not even possible to repair. This can be completely avoided if you have your soft story repaired. It is a very small price to pay to get your soft story retrofit completed compared to how much it can cost to repair the building damage following an earthquake.. You will be saving money on repairs and saving the lives of the people that live inside.

    How long does it take to repair a Soft Story?2021-09-02T19:43:10-07:00

    The time it takes to repair a soft story all depends on how much work needs to be done. Each job is unique, as some may take as few as a week to complete, while others may take a little longer, depending upon the scope of the work. Before we begin the job, we will give you a rough estimate about how long it will take. We know how important your time is and always try to do the best job in as little time as possible.


    Jack Dunbar Weinstein Construction Review 2

    Weinstein Construction redid my foundation and retaining wall and I’m very happy with the work!

    Mr. Allen
    Donald Borg Weinstein Construction Review

    We had our basement retrofitted. Very courteous to us, very attentive. I was very impressed with the people who came to do the job. They were polite, well dressed, and really seemed to know what they were doing. We feel a lot safer now than we would have otherwise.

    Donald Borg

    We had used Weinstein to earthquake retrofit our house. First, my intention was to do it myself, but we got a very nice sales rep over and he went through the whole procedure and by putting a thought into I concluded that it was not worth it for me to spend 14 days under the house. They came out, a top professional crew, they did it in a day, and we really loved what they did.

    Yorkin Schwar

    We are pleased with the results. The people were on time, they were neat, clean, and even the “big boss” was very nice and accommodating, so we’re happy with the services.

    Tom and Judy Fogle

    I was very happy. Very clean job. Very satisfied, and I recommend it to everybody.

    Eddie Levin

    We had our house retrofitted. Immediately we noticed the stability of it, even when we walked the house. Now it’s so much better and it’s stabilized, we’re very confident. It went very well and we’re very pleased.

    The Reverend Jess Palmer
    rabii lipsker

    They did a great job, they were on time, clean, and the price was right. I recommend you do the same.

    Rabbi Lipskier

    House was built in 1933. They did the right job, they did a very good job and we’re very happy with the results. I recommend them.

    Michael Ingbar
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