In some of our previous blogs (see links at the end of this page) we discussed the mandatory requirements of the City of Los Angeles’ Soft Story retrofitting program, which identifies buildings vulnerable to structural failure from the effects of an earthquake. In this blog, we discuss the potential cost of Soft Story retrofitting!
What are “Soft Story” buildings?
Soft Story buildings are multi-story structures that have one or more floors with large windows, wide doors, large unobstructed commercial spaces, or other openings in places where walls are typically required as part of a stable earthquake engineering design. Such open floors are far less rigid than the floors above them.
A good example is an apartment building’s “tuck-under” parking garage structure, which is susceptible to damage during seismic activity. 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, many of the most vulnerable apartment buildings are located right here in the Greater Los Angeles area!
Soft Story building in Los Angeles retrofit cost
A Soft Story retrofit cost in Los Angeles varies, depending on the type of building and its size. For the most common example of such a building — a multi-story structure with a second story over a garage or carport — one should first determine how many “Soft Lines” such a structure has.
A “Soft Line” describes the soft open, or weak wall lines of a structure. This typically refers to building sections that are supported by thin columns with tuck-under parking at the ground level, which are most at risk during an earthquake event. A parking area that is open from three sides would be considered as having 3-Soft-Lines, where each Soft Line must be reinforced against earthquake forces.
And so, when trying to determine a Los Angeles Soft Story cost, one should take into consideration the size of the structure and the number of its “Soft Lines”, with the following rule-of-thumb: for a “tuck-under” parking garage, one must design and build one reinforcing structure (either a “moment frame” or a “cantilever column”) for every six parking stalls. Each such reinforcing structure will cost about $35,000 to $40,000. Following this math, if a building has under-tuck parking for 12 cars, the cost of Soft Story retrofitting will range from $70,000 to $80,000.
What else one must take into consideration for earthquake retrofit Los Angeles cost?
Los Angeles Soft Story cost of retrofitting may vary depending on other factors, for example, the type and location of the building: can heavy equipment access the building easily? Can a full-size truck (or just a small car) get onto the property? Is the parking area uphill, or downhill? What is the distance from the parking lot to the street? All these questions factor into cost considerations.
Moreover, other concealed and/or unforeseen site conditions may affect pricing, for example, the existence of any of the following (which may need to be disconnected, removed, or altered): concrete footing below ground, water/electric or gas pipes, plumbing or sewer lines, fire sprinkler lines, landscaping/irrigation lines, large tree roots, low voltage lines (e.g. communication), etc.
Can a property owner / landlord recover the costs of a Soft Story retrofit?
Yes, indeed, the City’s Tenant Habitability Program, as administered by the Housing and Community Investment Department (“HCIDLA”), can approve a rent increase if a property owner / landlord submits a temporary rent increase request within one year of completing the Soft Story retrofit. The HCIDLA will notify tenants of the increase and the tenants will have the opportunity to submit any objections in writing. If the rent increase is approved by the HCILDA, the property owner / landlord can typically recover up to 50% of the Soft Story retrofit costs in a rent increase which is spread out over 10 years.
Top seismologists and building scientists all agree that there is an urgent need to retrofit residential and commercial properties in Los Angeles 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 (800) 862-6582. Be prepared and have peace of mind when the next “Big One” hits!
Other Weinstein Construction blogs on Soft-Story Retrofits and the Requirements of the City of Los Angeles can be found below: