Apartment Building Earthquake Retrofit Information
(Soft Story Retrofit)
The Los Angeles Building and Safety Department has identified apartment buildings that are most vulnerable to earthquakes. These apartment buildings usually have 2 or more stories wood frame construction called soft story type apartment buildings. Are built before January 1, 1978 and contain ground floor parking or other similar open floor space. The program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 or less units.
The LA Times has an interesting article with access to addresses of 13,500 apartments and condos likely to need earthquake retrofitting.
If your building has been identified in the database, you can also double check LADBS website to verify.
If your apartment building is on the list you will notice it will say “possible Soft-Story”
My understanding is that you will need an engineer to determine if and what type of earthquake retrofit your building will need. From what Ive been told its not a straightforward process.
The engineer will go out to the site and take pictures and measurements,
as part of the engineering process. He or she will probably expose key sections of the building
to see what is behind the stucco walls. Its a necessary process to see what types of beams are holding up the building.
The engineer will also have to go inside every unit and measure each apartment.
Afterwards a blue print will be printed and engineering calculations will be
designed and customized for your building. Since the LADBS has numerous requirements
including required submit of full blue prints, the task is not as easy as it seems.
The engineer will work with the building owner to go over the plans and advise on alternatives designs if the initial design does not appeal to the owner. Problems that can come up for example are minimum required garage entrance heights after the retrofit beams are installed.
Once the calculated loads and blue prints are done the engineer can present the plan for approval at Building and Safety.
If the plans are approved , then these plans can be used to have contractors bid on the actually construction of the project. Its advisable to have blueprint and engineering done first, then find contractors to bid out the project to.
You will also be required to do file for a Seismic Retrofit Work Cost Recovery Program which allows for a temporary rent surcharge to tenants based on:
1. A pass-through of up to 50% of total seismic retrofit costs divided equally among all rental units, if approved by HCIDLA.
2. A maximum rent increase of $38 per month for 120 months. The recovery period may be extended until the full approved amount is collected.
Mandatory Wood frame Soft-story Retrofit Program: PERMITTING AND INSPECTION PROCESS GUIDELINES
If you need more information on apartment building retrofitting please contact me for assistance.