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Los Angeles Soft Story Retrofit | Is My Building on a Fault Line?

Posted by Bryan Echeverria on Nov 7 2017

There are thousands of high density apartment buildings across the City of Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, most apartment buildings built before 1980 have a soft story design that will require some sort of earthquake retrofit. This is important because Southern California averages more than 100 earthquakes annually, according to the US Geological Survey. The City of Los Angeles passed Ordinance 183893 and Ordinance 184081 in 2015 to require all qualifying soft story buildings to be retrofitted to meet new seismic guidelines.


(Source: California Geological Survey via Los Angeles Times)

Soft Stories and Fault Lines  

The very first question you might have is “What is a Soft Story?”. You may not be familiar with what a soft story building actually is, but they are easily identifiable. A soft story building is any multi-story building in which one or more floors have windows, wide doors, large unobstructed commercial spaces, or other openings in places where a shear wall would normally be required for stability as a matter of earthquake engineering. A typical soft story building is an apartment building of three or more stories located over a ground level that has large openings, like tuck-in parking garages, or any other large openings.

Soft story buildings are susceptible to structural failure during an earthquake because of their design. But if a soft story building is built on a fault line, the likelihood of collapse due to earthquake damage is greater. The California Geological Survey recently identified 4 new fault lines in the West Los Angeles area. The fault lines run along some of the most expensive real estate in Los Angeles. Including neighborhoods like Brentwood, Westwood, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Pacific Palisades. These new fault maps limit new development in the area that will be directly over the faults. Structures that are built over fault lines could completely collapse if the foundation breaks during earthquakes.

Beverly Hills, Westwood, Century City

The Santa Monica fault runs directly underneath Santa Monica Boulevard. In 2003 the Los Angeles Times reported that an analysis showed that more than a dozen apartment and office building plans were approved without requiring any additional seismic studies. These areas of West Los Angeles have a dense population, with most apartments being soft story buildings. Neighborhoods affected by the Santa Monica Fault include Beverly Hills, Century City, Rancho Park, Westwood, Sawtelle, Brentwood, and Mid-City.

santa-monica-fault-line.png(Source: California Geological Survey via Los Angeles Times)

The Santa Monica fault affects a large part of West Los Angeles. It covers an area along Santa Monica Boulevard, and Wilshire Boulevard. Structures directly on and near the fault lines have an elevated risk of suffering major damage during an earthquake. Based on maps available in 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 1,400 buildings are on or next to the Santa Monica fault line.

santa-monica-fault.png(Source: California Geological Survey via Los Angeles Times)

Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Sawtelle

The Santa Monica fault line, which runs from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, also extends into Pacific Palisades. Just like the City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Monica also introduced ordinances to require seismic retrofits of soft story buildings. The new Seismic Ordinance in Santa Monica is far more extensive and has more requirements. These new standards are described as the toughest in the nation.

los-angeles-santa-monica-fault.png(Source: California Geological Survey via Los Angeles Times)


(Source: California Geological Survey via Los Angeles Times)


A fault zone was also identified in Hollywood, another area that has a high number of apartment buildings. The fault zone runs between Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard along the Hollywood Hills. Any soft story apartment buildings in these areas have a higher risk of collapse during an earthquake. The soft story design is vulnerable to collapse during violent shaking. You can find out if your building could collapse in an earthquake by reading Could My Building Collapse in an Earthquake?

Bay Cities Construction can help you with your soft story retrofit. We are a California Licensed Contractor and our team of engineers and designers are ready to work for you. We are committed to making the soft story retrofit process as quick and painless as possible. If time is of the essence and you want to complete the soft story retrofit quickly, we can help.

Don’t wait for the Big One to damage your building. You can get the soft story retrofit process started today. Deadlines for the Los Angeles Soft Story Retrofit are quickly approaching, don’t get fined for complying.

Typical construction companies will refer you to an architect to get drawings, and that can take months. Our team will draft your preliminary set of drawings within 4 weeks. You will not find this expedited service anywhere else. Our team of engineers and designers will make sure your drawings are up to code so construction can begin as quickly as possible. Our team will also represent you with Building & Safety at the city of Los Angeles and city of Santa Monica whenever necessary. Once the drawings are approved, we will provide you with a detailed written quote that covers all labor and materials for your soft story retrofit construction.

If you want to learn more about Soft Story Retrofits you can read the articles below:

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