Retrofit blog


Los Angeles Soft-Story Retrofit | What is a Soft Story Building?


Soft story retrofitting in Los Angeles and Santa Monica are not just recommended, they are required by Law! Soft-Story Retrofit Pros has been a California licensed contractor for more than 15 years. We pride ourselves as your best resource when wanting to learn more about soft-story retrofits. Our team has published several articles about retrofitting in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. The city of Los Angeles now has the nations largest retrofit program. The program began when the Los Angeles City Council passed Ordinance 183893 and 184081, both of which establish the criteria for the retrofit program


'Soft Story' buildings have tuck-in parking as shown above.

What is a soft story Building?

A typical soft story building is a multi-level structure located over a ground level with large openings, typically parking. Soft-story apartments are hard to avoid in Southern California because they were all built after World War II, when the region experienced a large boom in population.

Which buildings require a retrofit?

Buildings that are most vulnerable have been identified with the following criteria:

  • Consist of 2 or more stories wood-frame construction

  • Built under building code standards enacted before January 1, 1978

  • Contains ground floor parking or another similar open floor space

The program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 dwelling units or less. In November of 2015 the City of Los Angeles passed ordinance 183893 and 184081, which mandates that Soft-story structures be retrofitted and brought up to modern building standards.


Why do we have to retrofit our soft story building? Why was this law enacted?

Los Angeles City Soft Story retrofit Ordinance 183893 and 184081 detail which structures are affected.

Soft-story buildings are vulnerable to collapse during prolonged shaking. Soft-story structures designed and approved prior to 1979 are considered weak by current engineering standards. A considerable amount of soft-story buildings were constructed between 1960 – 1979. These structures have prone to experiencing catastrophically damage during a major earthquake. Soft-Story structures have failed during significant seismic activity. They are weak because they have unreinforced openings on the ground floor which caused far more movement than the structure can withstand. When this happens, resulting in the upper floors COLLAPSING on top of the lower level.


What is a Soft-Story Retrofit?

The weakest parts of the building are structurally reinforced to be able to resist seismic movement during an earthquake. In many cases, structural steel connectors and I-beams are used to create adequate resistance during seismic movement. The most common retrofit solutions include Special Moment Frames (the most common type are welded, but can also be bolted and prefabricated), Cantilevered I-Beams, Ground Beams, and Plywood Shear Walls.

What I the process of doing a Softy Story Retrofit?

  1. Create a site plan of buildings on the property.

    1. This type of plan is considered architectural plans to scale that meet Type V classification. This must include all the buildings on the property, property line boundaries.

    2. Engineering: a licensed structural engineer will use the site plan to create a structural solution to the weaknesses of the building. The engineer will have detailed all to structural connections and supports that must be built to strengthen the building.

  2. Bring the plans to the City Plan Checkers.

    1. It is important to touch base with the city planners and city engineering once your plans are ready. You will get guidance about what notes and data have to be present in the plans in order to gain city approval.

  3. Quote the cost of construction.

    1. You cannot get an accurate cost of construction until you have a full set of plans that detail the repair.

  4. Construction Planning

    1. You must give notice to tenants because they will be affected by the construction.

    2. Many time plumbing and electrical infrastructure is affected by the retrofit work because these pipes and conduit run along the ceiling of the carport. Often items they need to be relocated or temporally disconnected. You can

  5. Construction Work

    1. This type of work is very disruptive to the tenants so the faster your contractor finishes the better. A clear construction schedule should be established prior to the commencement of any construction so that tenants can plan accordingly.

Do you need a turnkey solution to get your building into compliance? Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is a California licensed Contractor. We have a team of Engineers and Designers that are ready to work for you. Here's how we can help you.

  1. Our team will draft your preliminary Engineering Plans within 4 weeks.

  2. We will represent you with the City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood and get your plans approved.

  3. We will provide you with a written quote that covers labor and materials for the work.

Want to Learn More?

What is a Soft Story Retrofit? | Seismic Retrofit Webinar

In this episode, we explore LA Ordinance 183893 and why seismic retrofits for 'soft story' apartment buildings are now required. You can watch the video above.

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 Soft-Story Retrofit Pros has helped hundreds of homeowners with their projects. When you hire Retrofit Pros 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 Retrofit Pros is the right team for you, contact us today. We have the experience, knowledge, and know how to help you save time & money on your seismic retrofit.

Ready to take the next step? We’re certain that Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is the best general contractor for your project, you can Schedule an Appointment by clicking HERE. We offer a complimentary One-hour consultation & assessment, 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.