Los Angeles Ordinance 183893 Soft-Story Retrofitting

What is a Soft-Story Building?

Soft-story buildings are properties with multiple stories built on softer, less rigid first floors. Examples of soft story buildings include, ground floor tuck-under parking below residential units, tall first floor stories that are twice the height of other floors and multi-use properties with retail stores with all glass fronts and apartments above them. These types of buildings present serious risks during earthquakes and substantial seismic activity, possibly resulting in top floors collapsing on the lower floors.


Mandatory Retrofit Program for Soft-Story Buildings

On November 2015, the City of Los Angeles signed the Mandatory Retrofit Program, Ordinance Number 183893. The program is designed to minimize the potential for injury or loss of life due to the construction characteristics of soft-story buildings. The ordinance defines soft-story buildings as having the following characteristics:

  • Built before January 1, 1978

  • Consisting of two or more stories

  • Wood frame construction

  • First floor has an open floor space or is used for parking


Under the Mandatory Retrofit Program, building owners will be notified by the City of Los Angeles that they are required to perform a Seismic Retrofit. This order has to be done under the following conditions:

  • Within two years after service of the order, submit retrofit plans to the city.

  • Within three and a half years after service of the order, obtain all necessary permits for rehabilitation or demolition.

  • Within seven years after service of the order, complete construction or demolition work under all necessary permits.


Even though the ordinance was passed almost four years ago, there are still tens of thousands of buildings that have not been properly retrofitted to protect against collapse.


Los Angeles Seismic Retrofit

Soft-story buildings can be retrofitted to address the structural inadequacies increasing the likelihood that they will withstand any earthquake activity. There are multiple ways to enhance the existing soft-story property including, Shear Wall, Cantilever Column and Steel Moment Frame. Shear walls are built to help strengthen the lateral stability, which is protection from any sideways movement. A Cantilever Column is a vertical enhancement, like a concrete or metal column that is connected to horizontal beams. A Steel Moment Frame provides the most amount of stability, is ideal for taller or open spaces and is the preferred method by building enforcement officials and building professionals.


If you are in the greater Los Angeles area and own a soft-story property, be sure to contact Urbane Builders to be in compliance and protect the lives of your tenants and your investment.