Soft Story Retrofitting
Is your building part of the soft story retrofit project in Los Angeles?
Seismic earthquake activity invariably causes property owners to ask, “how safe is my building?” and “do I need seismic retrofitting?” Large earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles area have shown that certain types of buildings are extremely vulnerable! For example, structures that are not bolted to their foundations can slide off the foundation during an earthquake, buildings that have unreinforced masonry will see it crumble, and so-called “Soft Story” buildings are in danger of complete collapse.
SEISMIC RETROFITTING CAN SAVE YOUR SOFT STORY STRUCTURE
Local government officials in the greater Los Angeles area have recently required property owners to prepare for the next big earthquake. In 2016, many owners of “soft story” buildings received a notice from the City that they must earthquake retrofit their buildings.
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 apartment buildings a “tuck-under” parking garage structure.
Building such structures 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 right in the San Fernando Valley!
LA Times, “Is my building vulnerable in a big earthquake? Here’s how to find out” by Shelby Grad, July 9, 2019, available here: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-earthquake-building-vulnerability-20190709-story.html
Sadly, such soft story structures are susceptible to damage during seismic activity, as was seen in many news story reports during the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which caused many such soft story buildings to collapse.
LOS ANGELES SEISMIC RETROFITTING ORDINANCES
In 2015, two city-wide ordinances were passed into, requiring the owners of soft story construction buildings to retrofit them in strict accordance with city retrofitting codes. The purpose of the ordnances and 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 City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (“LADBS”) 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.
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.
Here is additional information regarding the LADBS Soft Story Retrofit Program:
Earthquake Retrofitting Los Angeles Ordinance 183893 and 184081
The first City seismic retrofitting ordinance No. 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. The second ordinance No. 184081, provides information regarding 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 compiled a list of all the buildings and structures that they consider as at risk and then sent a letter to the owners of these buildings, notifying them of the compulsory Los Angeles retrofit soft-story program. The letters gave owners, in most cases, up to seven years to draft plans and complete the necessary retrofits. If you are the owner of a soft story building and you received the City’s “notice to comply” but have not yet hired a soft story retrofitting Los Angeles contractor at this point, you probably should have! But don’t worry, keep reading, as the earthquake retrofitting professionals at Weinstein Construction are here to answer all your questions and make it simple for you to understand the process.
IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS?
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.
WHERE CAN I FIND SEISMIC RETROFITTING EXPERTS TO HELP ME?
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.
Weinstein Construction seismic retrofitting specialists have done hundreds of soft-story retrofits and will direct you through every step of the process. The consultation process is free of any costs, and as the building owner, you will receive a detailed report outlining potential seismic retrofitting solutions, a timetable to complete the work, and a reasonable cost estimate.
Weinstein Construction professionals can help with all your earthquake retrofitting Los Angeles work, from start to finish. If you think that your apartment building may require soft story retrofitting Los Angeles services, call us now for a free, no-obligation discussion of your needs!
ADDITIONAL SEISMIC ORDINANCES FOR SOFT STORY STRUCTURES
If you are a building owner in the following Greater Los Angeles locations, you may be interested in following up on the following guidance!
- City of Alameda Ordinance 2989:http://docs.ci.alameda.ca.us/WebLink/DocView.aspx?id=373444&dbid=0&repo=CityofAlameda&cr=1
- City of Beverly Hills:http://www.beverlyhills.org/departments/communitydevelopment/softstoryprogram/
- City of Burbank (Municipal Code Title 9, Chapter 1, Article 7, Division 4): http://www.burbankca.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=1885
- City of Fremont (Ordinance 10-2007, Soft-Story Residential Buildings Retrofit): https://www.fremont.gov/377/Earthquake-Hazard-Reduction-Ordinances
- City of Long Beach (Chapter 18.70 of the Long Beach Building Standards Code): http://www.longbeach.gov/lbds/building/Plan-Review-Services-dev/code/
- City of Los Angeles (Mandatory Retrofit Program): https://www.ladbs.org/services/core-services/plan-check-permit/plan-check-permit-special-assistance/mandatory-retrofit-programs
- City of Pasadena (Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance): https://www.cityofpasadena.net/planning/soft-story-retrofit-ordinance/
- City of Santa Monica (Seismic Retrofit Program): https://www.smgov.net/Departments/PCD/Programs/Seismic-Retrofit/
- City of Torrance (Safety Guidance): https://www.torranceca.gov/home/showdocument?id=2724
- City of West Hollywood (Ordinance 17-1004): https://www.weho.org/home/showdocument?id=31443