Retrofit blog


Los Angeles Retrofit Ordinance: What is a Soft-Story Retrofit?


How does LA Ordinance 183893 affect you and your property?

In 2015 the Los Angeles City Council approved ordinance 183893 and 184081 to implement new seismic code for soft-story buildings. The goal of the mandatory retrofit program, under Ordinance 183893 and Ordinance 184081, is to reduce structural deficiencies by the most economical and feasible method. Without proper strengthening, these vulnerable buildings may be subjected to structural failure during and/or after an earthquake.


New seismic ordinances were passed in 2015

Ordinance 183893

The language in ordinance 183893 identifies which buildings must comply with the mandatory seismic retrofit program. The Soft Story Retrofit Program applies to buildings that:

  1. Are of wood-frame and was permitted or built before January 1, 1978

  2. The ground floor portion of the structure contains parking or any other similar open space.

  3. The building contains four or more dwelling units.

Ordinance 183893 also applies three different priority designations as follows:

  1. Priority I - Buildings with 16 dwelling units or more.

  2. Priority II - Buildings with three or more stories, but contain less than 16 units.

  3. Priority III - All buildings not falling within Priority I or Priority II

Ordinance 184081

The language in ordinance 184081 identifies the Time Limits for Compliance for the Soft Story Retrofit program.

  1. Within two years, the owner should submit a structural analysis for review and approval to:

    1. Submit structural analysis to demonstrate existing compliance

    2. Submit a structural analysis to demonstrate a proposed structural alteration to meet seismic retrofit requirements

    3. Plans for demolition of the building.

  2. Within three and a half (3.5) years after service of the order, obtain all necessary permits for rehabilitation or demolition.

Within seven (7) years after service of the order, complete construction or demolition work under all necessary permits.

You'll Need to Retrofit If...

  • If the property has "tuck-in" parking.

  • If the property has "tuck-in" parking and has two or three stories.

  • If the property has "tuck-in" parking, has two or three stories, and has more than three units.

If your property does not have any of the above characteristics, you will not need to comply with the new retrofit ordinances. But here is where things can get tricky, the ordinance only applies to wooden-structure buildings (made of wood), so if your property is made of ductile concrete or masonry type (made of brick) your property is exempt from soft-story retrofitting. Ordinance 183893 and 184081 both determine what type of wooden-structure buildings will require a retrofit. Normally, a wooden structure that has open parking on the first floor or underground (directly below living space) is considered a weak "soft story" Want to make sure if your building requires a retrofit? Read Does My Building Need a Retrofit? just in case you have not received an Order to Comply (OTC) letter from the city in the mail yet.

What is a Soft-Story Building?


Soft-Story apartment building in Los Angeles

You may not be familiar with what a soft story building actually looks like, but they are easily identifiable. A soft story building is any multi-story building in which one or more floors have windows, wide doors, large unobstructed commercial spaces, or other openings in places where a shear wall would normally be required for stability as a matter of earthquake engineering. A typical soft story building is an apartment building of three or more stories located over a ground level that has large openings, like tuck-in parking garages, or any other large openings. You can see what a typical soft-story apartment building looks like in the image above.


Steel moment frame welding in Los Angeles, CA

(Steel Moment Frame installation in Los Angeles, CA)

How to Get Started

The Los Angeles Department of Building Safety identified 13,500 buildings in Los Angeles that will require some type of seismic retrofit. The getting the process started is easier said than done, if you are looking for a good experience you'll need to do some research. The first step is to get a set of retrofit engineering plans to submit to the city, you will need to look for a professional construction company or contractor that have an engineer on staff, or else you'll need to look for a Professional Engineer independently. The second step occurs once your plans are approved and are marked as "Ready to Issue" - you'll need to find a reputable general contractor to actually build your retrofit solution. Having a hard time finding a contractor you can trust? Check out our article How to Find a Trustworthy Retrofit Contractor it is full of tips to help you avoid seedy contractors. The third step is to give your tenants notice of impending construction, you'll need to file a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) with HCIDLA before any construction can begin. Don’t wait for the Big One to damage your building. You can get the soft story retrofit process started today. Deadlines for the Los Angeles Soft Story Retrofit are quickly approaching, don’t get fined for not being in compliance.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn everything there is to know about soft-story retrofits you'll want to check out our most in-depth article What is a Soft-Story Retrofit? Everything You Need to Know About Retrofits on our new website. There, you'll be able to access all of our retrofit blog articles, case studies, our retrofit gallery, short videos, and enjoy free access to our full-length soft-story webinars. Our team has developed all this content for property owners like you. It is your destination to learn all about the retrofit process. Bay Cities Construction and Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is here to help answer any questions you may have about your retrofit project. Our team has the experience to Engineer & Build a Cost-Effective Retrofit Solution for your property. Get started today by visiting our website at to schedule a free assessment.

About Us

For over 15 years Bay Cities Construction has helped hundreds of homeowners with their projects. When you hire Bay Cities Construction you don’t just hire a contractor, you hire an entire team of Pros. With several years of experience, our team has the expertise to help you Design, Engineer, and Build Your Retrofit Solution. We also represent you City Representation when submitting your plans and ensuring they are approved, and we handle all the Permit Processing so you never miss a day of work. If you think Bay Cities Construction is the right team for you, contact us today. We have the experience, knowledge, and know how to help you save time & money with a bolted moment-frame or shear-wall panel.

Ready to take the next step? We’re certain that Bay Cities Construction is the best general contractor for your project, you can Schedule an Appointment by clicking HERE. We offer a complimentary 1-hour consultation at our office, so you can meet our team and we can discuss your Soft Story Retrofit project. If you have been disappointed by other contractors, it's time to call one of the best seismic retrofitters in Los Angeles.