Residents of Los Angeles live in the area for many reasons. For some, it’s the sunny weather almost all year long. Others love the abundance of nightlife and activities the city has to offer. And even though everyone is aware that Los Angeles is prone to earthquakes, they come here anyway. The benefits of living in Southern California far outweigh the risks. At least they do if you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your property.
The soft-story retrofit program was originally started in San Francisco in 2013. The program is designed to prevent loss of life and create better resiliency for the city in the event of a major earthquake. Los Angeles rolled out its own program in 2015. Since then Los Angeles soft story retrofit companies have been working tirelessly to help property owners meet the city’s deadline.
Understanding LA’s Retrofit Ordinances
As part of the Mandatory Retrofit Program, city officials created two new ordinances that property owners must comply with:
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.
Not every building needs to be retrofitted
After the big earthquake in 1994, city officials assessed the damage done in order to find out what structures were most vulnerable during seismic events. They found two types of buildings that met their criteria, non-ductile concrete buildings, and soft-story buildings. They compiled a list of properties that they determined would be in need of a seismic retrofit in order to bring them up to the standards of the new ordinances.
Owner of these properties were sent a Notice to Comply letter with information on the new mandatory program and a deadline for completing the work. On the city’s list were just over 13,000 soft-story apartment complexes. Since the program was rolled out in 2015, Los Angeles soft story retrofit companies have been in high demand in order for property owners to meet the city’s 2020 deadline. As of now, only 40% of the soft-story buildings on the list have been retrofitted, and none of the non-ductile buildings are complete.
Other cities roll out their own mandatory retrofit programs
When Los Angeles created their retrofit program, it was the strictest set of ordinances at that time. But as of March 2017, when Santa Monica rolled out their seismic ordinances, LA now comes in second. Santa Monica added more types of buildings to their list of vulnerable structures, as well as shorten the timelines for the work to be completed, compared to LA’s program. Out of the 2,000 buildings on Santa Monica’s list, very few have even begun the process.
In May of this year, Pasadena joined the growing list of Southern California cities requiring seismic retrofits. Pasadena’s new ordinance, 7345, went into effect on June 24. These new codes and building standards have created a lot of controversies and been used to hurt, or help, the political careers of city officials. But these ordinances were created to make structures safer for the people living and working in them when an earthquake strikes. And saving lives is always a good thing.
Seismic retrofits are Not an option
If you received a Notice to Comply with the city, you must follow the instructions or face steep penalties. Ensuring your property is resistant to an earthquake is the law, not an option. Building owners who do not comply with the mandatory retrofit program may face steep fines for being in violation of the retrofit laws. The first is a placard placed on your building notifying the tenants and the public that it is not safe during the event of an earthquake. If you still refuse to retrofit your property you will face a court hearing, additional fines and fees and possibly have your business closed until it meets the city’s codes.
RetroFitting 360, Inc. is one of the leading Los Angeles soft story retrofit companies. Our experienced staff will focus on the most cost-effective and efficient construction solution to meet your needs. Our civil and structural professionals will draw up the necessary plans to modify the building that are needed for permits to be issued.
Our team is committed to turning your retrofit into as painless a process as we can for you and your tenants. If you are worried about the stability of your building, or you received a letter from the city to comply with the mandatory Soft-Story Retrofit Program we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free inspection of your property and find out about the cost-effective solutions available to you.