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What's a Soft-Story? | What You Should Know About Soft-Story Retrofits

Retrofits are Now Mandatory in Los Angeles?

Soft story retrofitting in Los Angeles and Santa Monica are no longer something that is recommended, it is now actually the Law!

Bay Cities Construction is a California Licensed Contractor and has been in business for over 15 years. We pride ourselves as your number one source to learn about construction, remodeling, and soft-story retrofits whenever considering a major construction project. Bay Cities Construction has published many articles about Soft Story Retrofitting in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. You can click here to access all of our retrofit blog articles. Los Angeles now has the nation's toughest earthquake safety rules since passing new sets of engineering guidelines in 2018. Ordinance 183893 and 184081 detail which structures are impacted and will require a retrofit in the City of Los Angeles. 


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What is a Soft-Story Building?

A typical soft story building is a multi-level structure located over a ground level with large openings. For instance, a building with tuck under parking, garage, or commercial store front.

Which buildings are affected?

Buildings that are most vulnerable have been identified with the following criteria:

  • Consist of 2 or more stories wood frame construction
  • Built under building code standards enacted before January 1, 1978
  • Contains ground floor parking or another similar open floor space

The program does not apply to residential buildings with three or less units. So if you have an rental property that only has two units, you are exempt from this ordinance. Additionally, if your property is more than two stories but has no tuck-in parking, you won't have to perform any type or retrofit on the property. This is only for properties that have open parking directly beneath apartment units as pictured below.


Why Do We Have to Retrofit our Soft-Story Building? Why Was this Law Passed?

Los Angeles City Soft Story retrofit Ordinance 183893 and 184081 detail which structures are affected. Soft story structures designed and approved prior to 1979 are considered weak by current engineering standards. A considerable amount of soft story buildings were constructed between 1960 – 1979.

These structures have the propensity of experiencing catastrophically damaged in the event of a major earthquake. Soft story structures have failed during significant seismic activity. They are weak because they are have unreinforced openings on the ground floor which caused far more movement than the structure can withstand. When this happens, resulting in the upper floors COLLAPSING on itself just like during the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.


What is a Soft-Story Retrofit?

The weakest parts of the building are structurally reinforced to be able to resist seismic movement during an earthquake. In many cases structural steel connectors and I-beams are used. In most cases glue-lam beams and steel connection hardware are used to carry strengthen the weak sections of a structure.

What Is the Process of Doing a Retrofit?

  1. Create a site plan of buildings on the property.
    1. This type of plan is considered architectural plans to scale that meet Type V classification. This must include all the buildings on the property, property line boundaries.
    2. Engineering: a licensed structural engineer will use the site plan to create a structural solution to the weaknesses of the building. The engineer will have detailed all to structural connections and supports that must be built to strengthen the building.
  2. Bring the plans to the City Plan Checkers.
    1. It is important to touch base with the city planners and city engineering once your plans are ready. You will get guidance about what notes and data have to be present in the plans in order to gain city approval.
  3. Quote the cost of construction.
    1. You cannot get an accurate cost of construction until you have a full set of plans that detail the repair. If you have questions about the difference between a quote and an estimate please read our blog article about “Quote Vs. Estimate.”
  4. Construction Planning
    1. You must give notice to tenants because they will be affected by the construction.
    2. Many time plumbing and electrical infrastructure is affected by the retrofit work because these pipes and conduit run along the ceiling of the carport. Often items they need to be relocated or temporally disconnected. You can download a check list of “to does” prior to construction.
  5. Construction Work
    1. This type of work is very disruptive to the tenants so the faster your contractor finishes the better. A clear construction schedule should be established prior to commencement of construction so that the affected people can plan accordingly.


Want to Learn More?


We recently hosted an hour-long webinar to help explain what a Seismic Retrofit is and why they are required under LA Ordinance 183893 - you can watch the video above!

If you want to learn everything there is to know about soft-story retrofits you'll want to check out our most in-depth article What is a Soft-Story Retrofit? Everything You Need to Know About Retrofits  on our new websiteThere, you'll be able to access all of our retrofit blog articles, case studies, our retrofit gallery, short videos, and enjoy free access to our full-length soft-story webinars. Our team has developed all this content for property owners like you. It is your destination to learn all about the retrofit process. Bay Cities Construction and Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is here to help answer any questions you may have about your retrofit project. Our team has the experience to Engineer & Build a Cost-Effective Retrofit Solution for your property. Get started today by visiting our website at www.softstoryretrofitpros.com to schedule a free assessment. 


About Us

For over 15 years Bay Cities Construction has helped hundreds of homeowners with their projects. When you hire Bay Cities Construction you don’t just hire a contractor, you hire an entire team of Pros. With several years of experience, our team has the expertise to help you Design, Engineer, and Build Your Retrofit Solution. We also represent you City Representation when submitting your plans and ensuring they are approved, and we handle all the Permit Processing so you never miss a day of work. If you think Bay Cities Construction is the right team for you, contact us today. We have the experience, knowledge, and knowhow to help you save time & money with a bolted moment-frame or shear-wall panel.

Ready to take the next step? We’re certain that Bay Cities Construction is the best general contractor for your project, you can Schedule an Appointment by clicking HERE. We offer a complimentary 1-hour consultation at our office, so you can meet our team and we can discuss your Soft Story Retrofit project. If you have been disappointed by other contractors, it's time to call one of the best seismic retrofitters in Los Angeles.

  • Our team will draft your preliminary drawings within 4 weeks.
  • We will represent you with the City of Santa Monica and The City of Los Angeles.
  • We will provide you with a written quote that covers labor and materials for the work.


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About the Author - soft story retrofit pros - los angeles retrofit contractor - 23890 hawthorne

We have a website that's entirely dedicated to seismic retrofits, both Soft Story Retrofits and Residential Foundation Brace+Bolt . You can learn more about both types of retrofits by visiting www.softstoryretrofitpros.com


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