Most Los Angeles landlords and building owners are aware of the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit ordinances. If you don’t know, two building policies were approved by the city council in 2015 that affect soft-story buildings. Right after the new policies were approved the Los Angeles soft-story retrofitting program was announced. The idea behind is to ensure that buildings throughout the city will be structurally sound when the next earthquake hits. So what is covered under the new ordinances and how do they apply to you?
The first ordinance, 183893, lists the type of buildings that have been mandated to complete a seismic update under the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program. On this list are wood-framed structures and soft-story buildings built before 1978. Ordinance 184081 specifies the time frame for building owners to get their retrofit completed so they will be in compliance with the mandatory program. This second ordinance has two components based on whether you are planning on retrofitting the building or just demolishing it.
City officials have compiled a list of all of the buildings and structures they consider to be at risk. Owners of these buildings were sent a letter by the city notifying them of the mandatory Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program. In most cases, these letters gave owners seven years to submit their plans and complete the retrofits needed. If you received one of these letters you should have hired a soft-story retrofit contractor by now. If you haven’t hired one, or don’t know if you need one, don’t worry, we are here to answer all of your questions for you and make the process easy to understand.
Is your building included in the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program?
Longtime residents of the greater Los Angeles area have been waiting for the “Big One” to hit any day. If you are new to the area, the “Big One” is the next major earthquake that has been predicted to hit southern California for years. . After the damage done from the earthquake in 1994, city officials have been trying to find a way to minimize the damage and save lives in future quakes. The 1994 earthquake took the lives of 60 citizens and caused millions of dollars in damage to city bridges, freeways and buildings.
A notice to comply was mailed out to most building and apartment owners in 2016. These notices went out to owners of buildings that are classified as soft-story structures. The first round of notices went out to owners of building that fall under the Priority or 1 or 2 under Ordinance 183893. If your building has less than five residential units, your notice should have been mailed out later.
If you are planning on updating your property, you have two years to submit your retrofit plans to the city. On the other hand, if you are going to just demolish the property then you must submit those plans to the city within 3.5 years. The plans you submit will need to be drawn up by a professional soft-story retrofitting contractor, like the ones at Retrofitting 360.
If you have not received a letter to comply from the city it does not mean that you are off the hook. The City of Los Angeles Department of Building Safety spent over two years assessing city structures in order to decide which structures would be the most vulnerable when a major earthquake strikes. After this extensive assessment they have compiled a list of over 13,000 buildings that meet their criteria. This means it is likely that many owners on the list may have been overlooked. Don’t be the one who ends up having to pay huge fines later because you didn’t do your homework now. Almost all soft-story buildings constructed before 1994 need to be updated.
What makes a building a soft-story?
To put it simply, any building with three or more stories that has a ground floor with a large open space, like a parking garage, is a soft-story building. Those large open spaces are what makes these types of building vulnerable. Most of them do not have a shear wall which makes them very unstable during an earthquake. The upper floors tend to collapse down on top of themselves and once this happens the building cannot be repaired.
After World War ll, the city of Los Angeles grew at a rapid rate. A huge number of apartment complexes began popping up all over the city. The problem with these older apartment complexes is the designs used during that time were not what they are today. Technology has advanced both the quality and durability of the materials used, as well as the construction techniques found in most retrofits. Any building constructed between 1950 and 1980, will need to be retrofitted in order to be compliant with the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program. If you are still unsure if your building is a soft-story the best thing to do is to contact a Los Angeles retrofit contractor to schedule a consultation.
What steps do I need to take to complete a soft-story retrofit?
Understanding the steps involved can create a lot of confusion. To make it simpler for you, start by finding an experienced Los Angeles retrofitting contractor, like RetroFitting 360. Their professional contractors have completed over 90 soft-story retrofits in the Los Angeles area already and know exactly what it takes to bring your building up to code. A good soft-story retrofit contractor will guide you through every step of the process and eliminate most of the stress. Here is a step-by-step look at what is involved in a Los Angeles soft-story retrofitting:
The best soft-story retrofit contractors will offer a free initial consultation. At this first meeting one of their professional contractors and seismic engineers will go over everything with you. The engineer will inspect your building and create a detailed plan of the work that is needed. Then they will call you to schedule a follow up meeting. At this meeting, they will go over your retrofit options and provide you with a detailed report that covers all of the work that needs to be done, a timeline for completing it, and an estimate of the cost.
Before any construction can begin, you will need to acquire the proper building permits from the city. Your Los Angeles retrofitting contractor will submit all of the paperwork the city requires to obtain the permits you need. It takes about 38 days to have the application approved and permits issued, if everything is submitted right the first time.
Along with the application, you will need to pay a plan check fee and a detailed plan of the work that is needed on your structure needs to be submitted with the other documents. Filing the application and work plan is only the first step towards acquiring the necessary permits. A city official will go over the work plan to make sure it meets the current building codes.
Many times these work plans do not meet all of the regulations of the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit codes. When this happens, city officials will send it back asking for corrections before they are submitted again. This costs you more in time and money and delays your soft-story retrofit project from getting started. Time is running out, make sure your application is approved the first time by hiring the right soft-story retrofit contractor, one that is experienced with the city ordinances and retrofitting process.
While you are waiting for the permits to be approved, you need to file the Tenant Habitability Plan with the Department of Housing. This can be done on the internet and is usually approved within five business days. The law states that you must give your tenants a 25-day notice telling them of the work that is going to be done to the building. This allows them to make other arrangements and ask any questions they may have. Your building permit will not be issued if this step is skipped.
One of the biggest reasons most retrofitting plans get sent back by the city involves parking spaces. The city is likely to send your plan back if it reduces the number of parking spaces already on the property. Another area to watch out for is the number of windows versus door openings in the large open spaces. Your Los Angeles retrofit contractor will complete these calculations when the retrofit design is created.
These are just an estimate of the fees the city charges to check your plans and for the permits, they do not include the actual cost of the construction. Apartment complexes with 8-12 units average around $850 - $1200. Large structures or buildings can expect to pay $3,000 - $5,500. While it may seem that just acquiring the proper permits is a lot of work, the right contractor will make it simpler. If you hire RetroFitting 360 their knowledgeable staff will complete most of the items that are listed here, so you won’t have to deal with city officials or learn confusing building codes.
Actual construction begins
During a soft-story retrofit, the weakest areas of the building are reinforced to make them sturdier and more stable during, and after, an earthquake. Most damage tends to occur during the aftershocks. The actual earthquake may cause cracks in foundations and walls and the tremors that come after cause buildings to collapse.
One of the most commonly used techniques in a retrofit include steel connectors added to the structure along with l-beams which creates resistance to the initial shaking of an earthquake. Other options are also used depending on the structures needs, like ground beams and plywood shear walls. Depending on the type of building you have and how long ago it was built will determine if other techniques will be needed to bring it up to the codes of the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program.
A quality soft-story retrofit contractor, like RetroFitting 360, will ensure your retrofit project is as disruptive as possible. This is not only important to your business but your tenants as well. Our contractors and staff will be available to answer any questions your tenants may have. One of our goals is to make your project run as smoothly as possible without completely disrupting the daily lives of your tenants or employees. This includes keeping driveways and parking spaces open and noise to a minimum. The good news for you is your tenants can call us with any problems, questions, or complaints and allows you to go about your day.
The final step
Once the retrofitting construction is completed, your building will need a final inspection. This will be done by a city official who will schedule a time with you. This city inspector will make sure the work that was done matches the work plan that was filed with the building permit application. If everything meets the building codes under the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program you will be issued an official certificate with the city’s stamp of approval. If the work does not meet the inspector’s standards you will need to contact your soft-story contractor to make the necessary corrections. Make sure the job is done right the first time by hiring a qualified retrofitting contractor that serves the Los Angeles area.
Failure to comply
Time is quickly running out to get your Los Angeles soft-story retrofit completed. As you can see, a number of steps have to be completed, all of which take up valuable time. 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.
Hiring the right Los Angeles retrofitting contractor
Take the time to do a little research before hiring just any retrofit contractor. By taking a little time in the beginning you can save a lot of time later. Start by making a small list, this makes it less overwhelming, of the qualified soft=story retrofit contractors in Los Angeles. Go down the list and look for reviews from other customers to see what they have to say. You want to be sure that the company you hire understands the codes and ordinances of the Los Angeles soft-story retrofit program and has some experience with this type of work. If you can’t find customer reviews, ask your friends or colleagues who have had a retrofit done on their building for recommendations.
Also be sure to check out how much experience the company has, and how long it has been in business. There are no formal credentials, or certifications, in the field of earthquake retrofitting. Make sure that the company you hire has both training and experience in seismic modifications, a thorough knowledge of the steps that are needed and they need to be up to date on the local building codes and regulations. You can find most of the answers to these questions on their website. If the website does not have this information listed, it is up to you to pick up the phone and call them. A reliable company will have qualified customer service agents who can answer your questions and schedule a consultation for you.
RetroFitting 360 is a full-service seismic company that serves the greater Los Angeles area. Our mission is to deliver your soft-story retrofit in a timely, efficient, and most of all, cost-effective manner. Once you hire us, you can relax knowing that a qualified professional will take care of you. From your initial consultation to the city inspection at the end of the project, we will be with you every step of the way. Your contractor will update you on a regular basis if anything changes with the deadline, work needed or construction costs, so there will be no surprises when the work is finished. Don’t be penalized for missing the deadline, start the process of your Los Angeles soft-story retrofit by calling RetroFitting 360 today.