A Guide to Soft Story Retrofitting in Los Angeles

Posted September 17, 2019, under Blog

You’ve probably heard the word soft story tossed around if you live in Los Angeles.

A soft story building is a common structure in Los Angeles that is categorized as a multi-unit property that was built with a weak or vulnerable first floor. These first floors are typically characterized by open spaces, which can be used as tuck under parking or open store fronts.

After the 6.7 Northridge earthquake of 1994, these structures – by large – failed due to the intense shaking from the seismic activity, causing the second floor to collapse onto the bottom open space.

The unreinforced openings of the soft story (the open ground first floor) do not have the modern structural reinforcements necessary to withstand higher magnitudes of seismic activity.

Luckily, many of these buildings can be salvaged with soft story retrofitting – and as of 2015, retrofitting these buildings in Los Angeles became mandatory.

Under L.A.’s mandate, owners of these buildings will have 7 years to retrofit any wood-frame structures and 25 years to fix concrete buildings.

Retrofitting these soft story structures in Los Angeles is not only mandatory, it’s a necessary safeguard in protecting your residents, the structure itself and in deterring future lawsuits.

In Los Angeles, soft story building owners who have been given a receipt to comply will have 2 years from that mandate to submit proof of a previous retrofit, or plans to retrofit or demolish the building, 3.5 years to obtain a permit to start construction and 7 years to complete the retrofit construction.

If you own a soft story structure in Los Angeles, it’s important to get the property inspected as soon as possible.

When you work with Julian Construction, we’ll send one of our skilled foundation inspectors to evaluate the structure of the building and determine the most effective and cost-efficient solution for retrofitting the property.

There are various methods used for retrofitting these soft story structures. Some of the most common solutions used are the installation of steel moment frames and plywood shear walls, which add the necessary support a soft story structure will need to withstand a sizeable earthquake.

Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles foundation inspection, foundation contractors, earthquake retrofitting, and foundation repair. Julian’s company, Julian Construction, has inspected over 30,000 structures, working with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety. The company has done more foundation repair and earthquake retrofitting in Los Angeles than any other company in the area over the last five years.

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