Soft Story Retrofit
The City of Los Angeles (13,500 buildings affected), Santa Monica (2,000 buildings affected) and West Hollywood (800 buildings affected) have passed mandatory seismic upgrade retrofit laws to all Soft Story buildings in their cities.
What is a Soft Story building?
In the 1950s and 1960s building on Stilts was popular as an inexpensive way to add parking. About 80% of these buildings were wood frame construction. If you are one of the 20% that a Soft Story Building with a concrete frame or steel frame your retrofit cost will be dramatically lower – about $50 to $100/sqft compared to wood frame buildings.
Many of the Dingbat apartment buildings had tuck under parking that was accompanied by these stilts. Since Southern California is in an active earthquake zone, the city wants to reinforce these buildings and strength them from collapse in the event of a serious earthquake.
There is a great LA Times article about Soft Story Retrofits
How do I check if a building I own requires a Soft Story Retrofit?
The city mails out notices to property owners. If you want to check for yourself each city has an online tool you can use:
What is the process for Soft Story Retrofitting?
The first step in the Soft Story Retrofit process is to have a structural engineer to analyze the building.
Our foundation experts will take into consideration several factors. We will need to ensure the building will meet the structural standards required of retrofitted buildings engineering, as well as lower the impact of its use of the building.
To retro-fit a soft-story building, you can strengthen existing walls, add new ‘shear walls’ or add a steel frame in the soft areas of the building. To strengthen existing walls, finishes like drywall or stucco are replaced with sturdier plywood. Anchoring walls to the foundation is also part of the process. Adding shear walls — walls built for the sole purpose of adding lateral stability — can also be very effective, provided they don’t interfere with the structure’s function. If they do, a steel frame may be the best option, though such frames may be more expensive and dangerous to install (due to the fire hazard and noxious fumes generated from welding them into place) than other techniques.
How much does a Soft Story Retrofit Cost?
The cost varies by the size of the building and the method used to reinforce it. A good Retrofit cost Estimate is 5K – 10K / per unit. I recommend to get 3 bids from soft-story retrofit companies (see names on Soft Story Retrofit Companies list below). The average project cost is $30,000 to $60,000 for small to midsize buildings and $80,000 to $120,000 for large ones. Permit fees are $800 to $1,000.
FYI – The city allows landlords to recover 50% of the total retrofit cost by raising rents.
How Long do you have to complete a Soft Story Retrofit?
Los Angeles 7 Years, Santa Monica 5 years, West Hollywood.
How Long does a Soft Story Retrofit Take?
The most quickly a Soft Story Retrofit can be done is 40 -60 days. Some owners decide to move more slowly. Soft Story Retrofit Ordinances have different timelines for a structural engineer review, beginning and finishing construction. Since retrofitting is a large expense- cities allow up to 3 – 4 years to complete the retrofit.
Soft Story Retrofit Companies:
The Foundation Works
Titan Contracting Services
Bay Cities Construction
Quake Strong Seismic
Seismic Retrofit Solutions
Soft Story Retrofit Pros