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More About Soft Story Retrofit And Why it is Necessary

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A soft story retrofit merely provides additional reinforcement to the structure of a building for it to better hold up in the event of an earthquake. The primary aim of soft story retrofit in Los Angeles is to ensure the building is secure enough, so when an earthquake hits it remains standing while ensuring the safety of anyone outside or inside the building.

A retrofit generally aims to reduce the impact of side-to-side shaking since that is what typically results in the first floor of a soft story building collapsing. The existing walls are reinforced, usually by replacing drywall or stucco with a more stable plywood, and anchoring the walls to the building’s foundation. New shear walls might also be installed, because they  are built for resisting side-to-side shaking caused by winds from earthquakes. A pricier steel frame can upgrade both the aesthetic appeal and functionality of a building. Contingent on the unique conditions of your property, there are an array of options that the engineer can offer.

Why Is a Soft Story Retrofit Necessary?

This is a necessary investment as it offers protection for everyone outside and inside the building. Property owners who do not retrofit their buildings within the provided time frame, are breaking the law and might face legal consequences for not adhering to retrofit ordinance.

How Do You Retrofit Your Commercial Building?

The first step would be to hire an expert and licensed structural engineer to assess the strength of the building and to recommend what structural additions will be required for making your building earthquake safe.

To get a permit for retrofitting the building, first a structural assessment/calculation package, structural plans, and architectural plans must be submitted. If you have tenants that rent units from you and that will be impacted during the construction phase, you will also be required to submit a tenant habitability plan. A fee is payable for obtaining a retrofitting permit.

What Happens Next?

After you have received a permit, you can begin construction. Inspections must be done throughout the building process, and only once the final inspection is passed, your building will be included on the list of buildings that comply. The fastest time in which retrofitting can be done is around forty days, but it can take longer depending on the scope of the construction. It is recommended to get this done as quickly as possible so that you are prepared the next time an earthquake hits. Plus, the deadline for retrofitting buildings that do not comply with safety standards, is May 2023.

How Much Will it Cost To Have Retrofitting Done?

Unfortunately, this is a pricey investment, but it’s compulsory by law and it is essential for the safety of the tenants and others. The cost will depend on the scope and size of the project. Retrofitting for small buildings cost on average between $30000 and $60000. For larger buildings, it will cost anything between $80000 to $120000 to retrofit, and again, there is no way out of it.

Everyone must comply. Thankfully, there is a way for property owners to get a discount or not pay the full amount. They can apply for the cost recovery program, and if approved, fifty percent of the retrofit costs can be added to rent. However, the maximum rental increase is $38 a month for 120 months, and the costs must be split between all units.


It is imperative to hire experienced engineers and contractors to assist you with retrofitting your commercial building. Don’t delay and get this done as soon as possible to make your building earthquake safe for all involved. 

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