Chances are, before 2015 you may not have even heard of the term “soft story building.” However by now, if you own multifamily property in Los Angeles, the city-wide soft story ordinance is pretty much all you are hearing about. In November of 2015, Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, passed the most sweeping mandatory seismic regulation in the nation ordering some 14,000 soft story apartment properties built before January 1, 1978 to undergo significant earthquake retrofitting to prevent buildings from crumbling as a result of violent shaking from an earthquake.
What is a soft-story building?
A soft-story building is a structure which has a weaker first floor and is unable to carry the weight of the stories above during an earthquake. The first floor generally would have large openings in the perimeter walls such as garages, tuck under parking or even large windows.
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 other similar open floor space
***The program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 or less units.
Notices to owners will go out in the following phases:
Phase I. Buildings with 16 or more dwelling units
- 3-story and above – May 2, 2016
- Condos/Commercial – Oct 30, 2017
Phase II. Buildings with 3 or more stories
- With less than 16 units – Oct 17, 2016
Phase III. Buildings not falling within the definition of Priority I or II
- With 9-15 units – Jan 30, 2017
- With 4-6 units – Aug 14, 2017
- With 7-8 units – May 29, 2017
- 2-story – July 22, 2016
Timing of compliance:
From the receipt of the Order to Comply, qualifying soft story building owners must:
Within 2 years: Submit proof of previous retrofit, or plans to retrofit or demolish
Within 3.5 years: Obtain permit to start construction or demolition
Within 7 years: Complete construction
For further information, please visit this dedicated soft story ordinance website for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.