In 2015, Los Angeles soft-story retrofit ordinances were created. The city council approved two new ordinances that affect soft-story buildings and rolled out their mandatory retrofit program. The goal of this program is to save lives by ensuring that buildings throughout the city will be structurally safe when the next major earthquake strikes. So what do these ordinances mean for you? This first ordinance identifies the type of buildings that must complete a mandatory earthquake retrofit under the Soft-Story Retrofit Program. These buildings include all of the following:
• Wood-framed structures built before January 1, 1978
• Buildings with a ground floor that contain a parking, or other open space.
• Buildings with four or more residential units.
Ordinance 183893 also applies three different priority designations as follows:
Priority I – Buildings with 16 residential units or more.
Priority II – Buildings with three or more stories, but contain less than 16 units.
Priority III – All buildings not falling within Priority I or Priority II
The second ordinance spells out the time frame for building owners to get the retrofit completed so they will be in compliance with the Soft-Story Retrofit Program. This time frame contains two parts, for owners that are updating their buildings and owners that plan on demolishing them:
• The owner should submit a structural analysis within two years for review and approval.
• Submit the analysis in order to show existing compliance.
• Submit a structural analysis that shows the proposed alterations to meet seismic retrofit requirements.
Plans for demolition of the building.
• Owners need to submit these plans within 3.5 years after receiving an order to comply, obtain any permits needed for demolition.
Most building owners should have received a notice to comply with the city. This gives you seven years after the date of this notice to complete construction or demolish the building.
If your building meets any of the following descriptions, you will need to retrofit it:
• If the property has “tuck-under” parking.
• If the property has “tuck-under” parking and has three, or more stories.
• If the property has “tuck-under” parking, has three, or more stories, and has more than three units.
Here is the important thing you need to know about Ordinance 183893 and 184081, they only apply to buildings with a wooden frame. If your building does not meet the above descriptions, then you do not need a retrofit. Buildings constructed from brick or ductile concrete are exempt from the Soft-Story Retrofit Program. Buildings with a wooden structure that meet one, or more, of the above descriptions, are weaker and therefore pose a higher risk of collapsing during an earthquake.
Is Your Building a Soft-Story?
During a city-wide assessment, the Los Angeles Department of Building Safety compiled a list of 13,500 buildings that are classified as soft-story. Most apartment buildings around the city fall under the new Los Angeles soft-story retrofit ordinances. If your building has more than three stories, with a large open space on the ground floor, it is a soft-story building. If one or more stories contains windows, wide doors, and large open spaces, it is at risk in the event of an earthquake. These large, open spaces do not have the shear walls needed for stability, so they need to be retrofitted.
This type of construction project is not one that you can do by yourself. You will need to hire a professional contractor that specializes in soft-story retrofits. You can find a number of companies by searching Google. One of these will be RetroFitting 360 which serves the great Los Angeles area. We have experienced structural engineers on staff that will guide you through the process, step by step. Our engineer will complete an inspection of your building and draw up a detailed plan of the work that needs to be done.
Then they will go over this plan with you in detail. Once you approve it, they will take care of submitting the plan, and other documentation, to the city to obtain the necessary permits for construction to begin. You will want to let your tenants know about the work that will be done, and your RetroFitting 360 contractor will file a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) with HCIDLA before the project begins. As you can see, there are a lot of steps that go into a soft-story retrofitting and time is running out. Make sure you are in compliance with the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit ordinances or you may have to pay a hefty fine. For more information, or to get your retrofit started, contact RetroFitting 360 today. We offer a free initial consultation and will be happy to answer all of your questions about this process.