Retrofit blog


Soft-Story Retrofit | Los Angeles Retrofit Deadlines



If you own a soft-story building in Southern California then you are well aware that the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood legally require seismic retrofits for soft-story buildings. The distinctive design of tuck-in parking on the ground floor makes soft-story buildings especially vulnerable during seismic activity, making them prone to collapse. The first kind of soft-story retrofit ordinance was passed by the city of Los Angeles in 2015, Santa Monica quickly followed suit in 2016, and West Hollywood joined the efforts in 2017. This year both Beverly Hills and Pasadena have begun to count how many at-risk buildings can be identified within their municipalities.

Notice to Comply

Notice To Comply letters began to be mailed by the city of Los Angeles in 2016. If you own a soft story building in Los Angeles that needs a seismic retrofit you should have received a notice letter in late 2017. Santa Monica has sent notice letters to the largest of buildings that require retrofitting (known as Priority I or Priority II) if your building has less than 5 units you should be receiving a notice letter later this summer. You have two years from the date you receive your notice letter to submit engineering plans to retrofit your property, or plans to demolish it. In Santa Monica & West Hollywood you must first submit a Structural Evaluation (a Structural Engineer needs to assess your building). A Seismic retrofit in Los Angeles is not something you’ll want to blow off. Southern California is notorious for the amount of seismic activity. A prolonged earthquake can cause serious damage to an already weak soft-story building, and the likelihood of a collapse is high. Prolonged shaking is what caused so much damage after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, it shook for over 15 seconds. This video below illustrates just how much damage can happen to an un-reinforced structure. The NSAID institute in Japan built a large-scale demonstrator

Prolonged Seismic Movement

Check out how 15 seconds of seismic movement cause the un-reinforced structure to collapse on itself. This type of prolonged seismic movement is what caused so much damage during the Northridge Earthquake. The design of a soft-story building is weak and is vulnerable during an earthquake, which can result in collapse and eventual loss of life. A building that has collapsed cannot be salvaged. You’ll have to demolish what’s left and rebuild.

Full-Scale Shake Test

Structural Evaluation

You’re going to need a set of Architectural & Engineering Plans to submit to building and safety, no matter what city your building is located in. Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood all require engineering plans to be submitted as part of the Structural Evaluation. You’ll need a licensed Structural Engineer or an Architect to develop plans & calculations to determine if your building is sound. If it is found deficient you’ll need a plan to retrofit. The city of Los Angeles identified over 13,000 soft story buildings within the city limits that are considered weak and will need some type of retrofitting. Not sure if your building meets all the criteria to retrofit? We have access to the inventory list generated by the Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety, call us and we can confirm if your property is on the list. Unsure if your Santa Monica building is on the list? We also have access to the inventory list, we will happily confirm if your property is affected.


Los Angeles Soft Story Retrofit Deadlines


(Two years from receipt of Notice Letter)

Santa Monica Soft Story Retrofit Deadlines


West Hollywood Soft Story Retrofit Deadlines


Beverly Hills & Pasadena Soft Story Retrofit Ordinances


(Pasadena Now report on preliminary findings)

Other cities are also considering passing retrofit ordinances, both the city of Pasadena and Beverly Hills have begun to study the condition of soft story buildings in their municipality. It is safe to assume that they will also follow suit by passing retrofit ordinances within the next five years. The Beverly Hills city council began talks of a soft story ordinance as far back as 2016. Although the ordinance has not been passed, their proposal is similar to that of Los Angeles. It would cover buildings that are of wood-frame construction, have two or more stories, feature tuck-in parking on the ground floor, and were designed prior to 1978. A preliminary count of buildings in Beverly Hills identified 300 buildings that might require some type of retrofit There are so many apartment buildings in Southern California that avoiding them is nearly impossible, and unfortunately, many of them were built before modern building codes were passed in the 1980’s. Tuck-in parking is a distinctive feature of soft-story buildings, it’s also the feature that makes them weak.

A preliminary count of buildings in Pasadena identified over 400 buildings that might require a seismic retrofit. At a City Council meeting in May of 2018, Mayor Tornek is quoted as saying “We need to saddle-up and get this done”. Pasadena is expected to pass a seismic ordinance later this year with it going into effect in 2019. Don’t get caught off guard; If you own an apartment building in Pasadena you don’t have to wait until the ordinance is passed to retrofit your building. Our firm has been approached by property owners from Downey, Torrance, and Carson that are interested in getting their retrofit started this year.

Soft Story Deadlines

We recently hosted a free webinar in which we go over the deadlines to comply with the seismic retrofit ordinance of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.

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 Soft-Story Retrofit Pros has helped hundreds of homeowners with their projects. When you hireRetrofit 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.