Is the Bare Minimum Enough for My Soft-Story Retrofit?

When the city of Los Angeles rolled out their soft-story retrofit program in 2015, many property owners considered it to be a “senseless hardship”. The majority of the buildings affected by the new city ordinances are soft-story structures with “tuck under” parking. On the list of mandatory retrofits are approximately 150,000 apartment complexes. Most owners do not want to put out a lot of money on what they consider to be a burden and are choosing to do the bare minimum required. Will these retrofits accomplish what the program is designed for?

Changing Owner’s Mind Sets

One of the biggest issues with property owners on the mandated retrofit list is their mindset. Shortly after the soft-story retrofit program was rolled out the city issued mandatory letters of compliance to the property owners on their list of at risk buildings. Many owners see their retrofit as a “compliance problem”. This mindset is becoming a huge problem for the retrofit program as it causes property owners to only want to complete the bare minimum amount of work needed to meet the city’s ordinances. 

What most of these owners are failing to grasp is that the soft-story retrofit program is not a compliance issue.  The Northridge Earthquake in 1994, didn’t just destroy whole city blocks, but it claimed the lives of 60 Los Angeles residents. The reason Los Angeles officials implemented the soft-story retrofit program is to prevent future loss of life during a seismic event. Property owners need to change their mindset from one of “compliance” to one that considers “public health and safety”.

Seismic Retrofits are a Public Safety Issue

Changing the mindset of property owners doesn’t happen overnight. Many need to be reminded that the soft-story retrofit program was not created just to punish property owners by the city. The program is necessary in all California cities that are prone to earthquakes. Longtime residents know that a major earthquake can occur at any time, and without any warning. The back-to-back quakes that struck Ridgecrest on July 4th and 5th, 2019, are evidence of that.

If one of your loved ones suddenly became ill you would take them to the emergency room for care. No matter what the diagnosis is, you will spend your time and money to do your best to help them to get well again. This may require researching the illness, taking time away from other activities to care for them, or anything else that will help them to recuperate. You do this out of love for this person. If you are the owner of an apartment complex you should think of your retrofit in the same way. The lives of your tenants are in your hands.

Over Half the Residents of Los Angeles are Renters

To help change your mindset from one of “compliance” to one of “health and safety”, let’s look at what your apartment complex means to you and your tenants. As the owner, your apartment building is part of, if not all, of your family’s income. Maybe you own multiple properties as part of your financial portfolio. For many owners, these properties are inherited and handed down through the generations. They are an investment in your and your children’s future. 

For your tenants, this is their home. Their apartment is where their children are born and grow up. Where their family spends holidays and birthdays together. In a lot of the rent controlled complexes these apartments are also handed down through the generations. And affordable housing is hard to find in Los Angeles, so if the building is not taken care of, most of your tenants will be left without anywhere to live. If it were to collapse during an earthquake many of these folks would have to leave the city causing a huge economic loss.

The Bare Minimum is not Enough

As a property owner you are probably aware that the retrofit ordinances require a “minimum life safety standard”. The building should be retrofitted to prevent total collapse. However, just meeting the minimum requirement means that in the case of a major earthquake, your complex could still sustain enough damage to make it unlivable. It is your responsibility to do everything you can to protect your family’s investment, and legacy, along with the lives of the people who live in your building.

In the case of an extremely ill loved on, you wouldn’t just slap a band aid on them and call it a day. So, just the bare minimum is not enough when it comes to your soft-story retrofit. If you are only focused on the cost of the job, then you need to think of it as an investment in your future and in the future of your tenants. Find a reputable company that offers a comprehensive retrofitting solution based on the needs of your building. RetroFitting 360 specializes in soft-story retrofit and our team of professionals will help create the safest solution for you and the folks living in your building.

The right mindset is “health and safety first”. If you have questions about retrofitting your soft-story building or would just like more information on the process, contact one of our professionals today. The staff at Retrofitting 360 will guide through the process every step of the way. Our team of specially trained engineers will create a detailed plan for your retrofit that will provide for the safety of your residents while giving you peace of mind.