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Frequently Asked Questions




Seismic Retrofit - BIG


Bay Cities Construction has been a California licensed contractor for more than 15 years. We pride ourselves as your learning center when considering a major construction project. Bay Cities Construction has published many articles about Soft story retrofitting in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, CA. You can click here to access them.  Los Angeles now has the nation's toughest earthquake safety rules.

Los Angeles City Soft Story retrofit Ordinance 183893 and 184081 detail which structures are affected. You can download our compiled all you need to know which includes the ordinances.

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 happens after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake according to the California ShakeOut Scenario?

1,800 deaths and 50,000 injuries

  • 40% from collapse of soft-story and non-ductile concrete buildings

$213 billion of economic loss throughout SoCal

  • $47.7 billion from shaking damage
  • $65 billion from fire damage
  • $96.2 billion from business interruption costs
  • $4.3 billion from traffic delays”

Did you know that soft story retrofits are now mandatory in Los Angeles?

oft story retrofitting in Los Angeles and Santa Monica are no longer something that is recommended, it is now actually the Law! According to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, Order to Comply Notices have been sent to property owners according to the schedule below.


Why do we have to retrofit our soft story building? Why was this law enacted?

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 have un-reinforced 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 top of the lower level.

Four Performance Levels to Target


Operational Level


Immediate Occupancy


Life Safety


Collapse Prevention

Four Performance Levels to Target (courtesy of simpson)




What do I need to do first? Property Owner’s Responsibility

The property owner must hire an engineer or architect licensed in the state of California to evaluate the strength of the building. The engineer or architect must then develop plans for the building’s seismic strengthening in compliance with this program. The owner must notify tenants in writing per HCIDLA regulations.

You can get the Property Owner’s Guide courtesy of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety as part of our free everything you need to know about soft story e-book

What Is the process of doing a Softy Story Retrofit?

1. $213 billion of economic loss throughout SoCal

  • 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.
  • 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.

Soft Story Services

2. Bring the plans to the City Plan Checkers.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • You must give notice to tenants because they will be affected by the construction.
  • 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 our free E-Book prior to construction.

5. Construction Work

  • 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.



Let's Start a Conversation


Do you need a turn key solution to get your building into compliance?

Bay Cities Construction is a California licensed Contractor. We have a team of engineers and designers that are ready work for you. This is what we offer.

  • 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.