Retrofit blog


Soft-Story Retrofit | What is the Retrofit Process in the City of Los Angeles?


Many of you know there are approximately 13,500 soft-story buildings in the City of Los Angeles that require a retrofit since the passing of Ordinance 183893 & 184081 in 2015. If you have questions about soft-story retrofit engineering plans cost, please see our cost articles. In this article, I will share with you the retrofitting a soft story process within the City of Los Angeles, CA. The City of Los Angeles has established a dedicated Soft Story Division within the Department of Building and Safety located on the 8th floor of the Metro (Downtown) office located at 201 and 221 N. Figueroa Street Suite 890 Los Angeles, CA 90012.


(You’ll need a set of engineering-plans to submit to Building and Safety)

Soft Story Retrofit Plan Check Process

All plan check submittals are presented here. As a property owner you apply for permits, but we suggest that you leave these duties to Professional Engineers and Professional Contractors. Walk-in during counter hours Monday through Friday from 7:30 am-4: 30 pm except for Wednesdays from 9:00 am-4:30 pm.

  • Preliminary Meeting

Engineers and contractors bring their soft-story retrofit plans and have a 15 to 30 min sit down meeting with a City Engineer. At this stage, no formal submittal takes place but it is an important meeting. The city engineer will look over the plans and provide feedback on the drawings and the engineering calculations. In many cases, they will provide a list of correction items that need to be reflected in the plans when they are formally submitted.

  • Formal Submittal

After the preliminary meeting, the engineer comes back to the city and formally submits the plans. An application must be filled out and plan check fees paid. You can expect the first round of corrections to take 30 days from the time plans are formally submitted. Once the corrections are made to the plans, you set up a meeting with the plan checker to go over the corrected plans. At this time the plans can be approved, and you are clear to move to the next step.

  • Tenant Habitability Plan

A Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) has to be filed with the City’s department of housing. The application and the plan are filed electronically and typically approved within 5 days. By law, your tenants must be given a 25-day notice of all the work that will be done to the property so they can know how they will be impacted and plan accordingly. You cannot obtain construction permits without first notifying your tenants with a THP.


(Earlier this month at the LADBS Metro Office, it takes 38 business days to get plans checked)

Soft Story Retrofit Timeline

The department has a posted sign detailing the number of days that it will take for new submittals to be assigned to a project engineer. The number of days fluctuates based on a number of projects submitted and available staff to review the plans. Above is a picture I took of the posted sign. Normal submittal is 30 days. Most people don’t realize that there is an expedited plan check service that the city offers for an additional $350. You can save about 15-20 days during the plan check process by requesting the expedited service.

Problems to avoid

The number one point of contention is parking spaces. Do not create plans that negatively impact or reduce the number of parking spaces on the property. You will get a tremendous amount of pushback from the City. The seismic retrofit design must not reduce the number of on-site parking spaces. Another item of contention worth mentioning is the ratio of window and door openings on the side walls of the tuck under parking. It is important that your design call out those opening dimensions and perform a ration calculation of wall space verses wall opening. It is a simple thing to do that shows the city engineers that you know what they are looking for.


Costs to Expect

Plan check fees typically fall between $850 and $1200 for projects between 8-12 units. Larger projects that are more complex and technical will be more expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere between $3000 to $5,500. Don’t forget that these plan-check fees are collected by the city and are typically not included with the price of engineering plans.


(An example of Plan-Check Fees for one of our projects)


The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is not perfect, but they are one of the best municipal building departments in the world. The process is not perfect, but it can be navigated with a certain degree of success. But you'll need a team of Pros to have your back every step of the way. Call (888) 881-7355 and find out how our team can help you.

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.