The City of Los Angeles is preparing to adopt a mandatory ordinance requiring building owners to retain a structural engineer to assess and design seismic retrofit of soft-story buildings.

Soft-story buildings are wood-frame buildings, two stories or more in height, which have large open areas at lower levels.  Examples include multi-residential complexes with tuck-under parking, garage doors, or retail display windows.

Other than unreinforced masonry and tilt-up concrete buildings, which have previously been addressed by City mandatory ordinances, the City’s 13,000 to 16,000 soft-story buildings pose a significant risk of loss of life, business interruption, loss of immense amounts of shelter, and property damage from the next significant earthquake.

This ordinance is a pro-active and forward-thinking initiative by the Mayor and the City to help protect peoples’ lives and allow the City and its residents to continue functioning and recover quicker after a major earthquake.

The proposed timeframe is fast:  assess, design and retrofit within 5 years.  The City is currently working on funding mechanisms, including building permit fee waivers, low-interest loans, and property tax breaks.

During the past 40 years, Critical Structures has provided the structural retrofit design for numerous soft-story buildings throughout Southern California for owners who have wished to protect their investment on a voluntary basis.  We are well-versed in the variety of ways – moment frames, cantilevered columns, strengthening of shear walls and addition of load collectors – to retrofit these structures and we are able to develop the most cost-effective method for your specific building.  We are intimately familiar with the variety of pre-manufactured solutions that may improve the cost-effectiveness and construction schedule, including ShearMax panels, Hardy frames, Simpson Strong-Walls, and Simpson Special Moment Frames.  We have worked closely with qualified licensed contractors whom have successfully implemented our designs with no or minimum change orders.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will help guide you through the assessment and retrofit process.