November 08, 2015

Los Angeles Seismic Retrofit Ordinance 183893

The Ordinance was adopted October 9, 2015 with an effective date of November 22, 2015.The purpose of the ordinance is a mandatory standards for earthquake hazard reduction in existing soft-story and non-ductile concrete buildings and were established as follow:

  • Soft Story buildings – Wood frame multi story buildings constructed prior to 1980 with soft, weak or open front walls (buildings with 3 or less units are exempted).
  • Non-Ductile buildings – Concrete buildings constructed prior to 1976.

Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) will send a courtesy letter to the owners of the buildings regarding compliance, appeals and exemptions. An Order to Comply (OTC) will be sent subsequence to that letter.

Compliance Timeline For Soft Story Buildings

  • Within 1 year from the date of the OTC to submit plans to retrofit or demolish the building or proof of a retrofit.
  • Within 2 years from the date of the OTC to obtain a retrofit permit.
  • Within 7 years from the date of the OTC complete construction.

Compliance Timeline For Non-Ductile Buildings

  • Within 3 years from the date of the OTC to provide an engineering checklist indicating if the buildings or is not within the scope of the Ordinance.
  • Within 10 years from the date of the OTC provide either of the following: 1) Proof of retrofit; 2) Report describing time-line to retrofit; or 3) Demolish.
  • Within 25 years from the date of OTC complete the demolition or retrofit.

October 09, 2015

Los Angeles Mandatory Soft Story Ordinance 

Los Angeles Soft Story Ordinance was passed by the City Council today. The ordinance will address over 13,500 Soft Story Buildings to be retrofitted in the next 7 years and over 1,450 Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings in the next 25 years.

June 11, 2015


The new City of San Francisco Ordinance 30-15 for the legalization of units or adding units in a basement or garage is the perfect incentive for the compliance with the City of San Francisco Soft Story Ordinance 66-13.

The ordinance solely pertains to the residential wood frame buildings that are in one of the three categories below:

  1. Have complied with the voluntary seismic upgrading based on AB-094.
  2. Complies with the Soft Story Ordinance 66-13.
  3. Buildings are located in Castro District.

As long as the addition or legalization is within the envelope of the main building structure, they will not go through the zoning and planning hearing. The building owners have a choice to convert their basement or parking area to residential units under the guide line of Ordinance 30-15 and although this is considered as a change of use, the ordinance waived the full seismic upgrading in lieu of just Soft Story compliance.

To start the process, the building owner needs to fill out the Form G-23 , with a filing fee of $174.00 and deliver to the San Francisco Building Department, First Floor, Window 8. Once the Building Officials approve the form, the owner can start a new permit process.

March 26, 2015

Exceptions from Dwelling Unit Density Limits 

(Weiner Legislation, Ordinance No. 30-15)

This Ordinance allows to permit one or two units to be legalize as “Accessory Dwelling Units”.

For additional information see Ordinance 30-15

March 03, 2015

San Francisco Market Street, April 14, 1906 (4 Days Before The Famous Earthquake)

Footage of San Francisco’s Market Street, taken from a camera mounted to a cable car on April 14, 1906– just four days before the big earthquake.

December 08, 2014

L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s earthquake safety plan

L.A. mayor calls for mandatory earthquake retrofitting for all Soft Story & Non-Ductile Concrete Frame buildings prior to 1980.

See “link below” from Los Angeles Times for the mayor’s earthquake safety plan: 

September 16, 2014

San Francisco ABC7 News Video about the Soft Story Buildings

ABC7 News video “link below” about the retrofitting of Soft Story buildings in San Francisco. This video features one of the Matrix Seismic Group projects at the corner of Polk & Broadway (2065 Polk Street).

San Francisco Soft Story Buildings


September 15, 2014

City of San Francisco Screening Form Deadline

Today, September 15, 2014 is the deadline for the submittal of the Screening Form to the City of San Francisco for the Soft Story Ordinance “66-13”. Out of approximately 6,200 buildings which the Screening Form notice was issued, still over 1,000 buildings have not met the City of San Francisco deadline.

The purpose of the Screening Form was that the City & County of San Francisco could identify the potentially high risk buildings that have more than two stories, five or more units, built prior to January 1, 1978 and the first story “called Target Story” was made of wood framing.

These buildings had to be identified by a Licensed Engineer to be either in the program or out of the program (which is not subject to the Soft Story Ordinance 66-13).  All the buildings which were identified to be in the program are in one of the four tiers.

The tiers are categorized as follows:

  • Tier 1:  Nursing homes or similar type of facilities (Group A, E, R-2.1, R-3.1 or R-4).
  • Tier 2:  Apartment buildings containing 15 or more units where the building is not located in mapped liquefaction zone. No commercial space on the first floor.
  • Tier 3: Apartment buildings containing less than 15 units where the building is not located in mapped liquefaction zone. No commercial space on the first floor.
  • Tier 4: All buildings that are located in mapped liquefaction zone or any buildings which have commercial space (Group B or M) on the first floor.

The deadlines for the tiers are:

  • Tier 1: Plan Submittal: September 15, 2015, Construction Completion: September 15, 2017.
  • Tier 2: Plan Submittal: September 15, 2016, Construction Completion: September 15, 2018.
  • Tier 3: Plan Submittal: September 15, 2017, Construction Completion: September 15, 2019.
  • Tier 4: Plan Submittal: September 15, 2018, Construction Completion: September 15, 2020.

Almost 80% of the subject buildings are Tier 3.

August 24, 2014

Napa Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake

On Sunday, August 24 at 3:20 a.m., a magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered near American Canyon occurred in the region. The earthquake was 5 miles SSW of Napa, California. The damages were estimated around $400 Million. The structural damages were from single family home to several story commercial buildings in addition to the roads, gas rupture and fire. Most of the Un-Reinforced Masonry (Brick) buildings in Downtown Napa which were not retrofitted prior to the earthquake experienced damages including partial collapse, falling bricks over the sidewalks or adjacent parking area and major interior and exterior cracks.

P02a    P01a


The earthquake also forced the ground water towards the surface. The U.S. Geological Survey has received reports of dramatic water increases as much as 20 times average in creeks near Napa, Sonoma and Vallejo.

March 27, 2014

The 50 Year Anniversary

The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964

(Source: USGS)

Map of Alaska

On March 27, 1964 at 5:36pm local time (March 28 at 3:36 UTC) a great earthquake of magnitude 9.2 occurred in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska. The earthquake rupture started approximately 25 km beneath the surface, with its epicenter about 6 miles (10 km) east of the mouth of College Fiord, 56 miles (90 km) west of Valdez and 75 miles (120 km) east of Anchorage. The earthquake lasted approximately 4.5 minutes and is the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history. It is also the second largest earthquake ever recorded, next to the M9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960.

The map shows the epicenter of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake (red star), caused when the Pacific Plate lurched northward underneath the North American Plate.

January 28, 2014

Earthquake Retrofit Fair

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


With the launch of the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program last September, many San Franciscans are already starting the work to make their buildings, their tenants, and themselves safer from earthquakes. This free trade show-style event brought property owners together with the services and professionals they will need to complete the screening process, perform and finance their retrofits. From engineers to architects, city agencies to contractors, lenders to manufactures, this fair’s hundred plus booths was a property owner’s one-stop-shop for earthquake retrofit!


The Earthquake Retrofit Fair

April 18, 2013

San Francisco Soft Story Ordinance 66-13

soft (4)

The City and County of San Francisco passed the Mandatory Retrofit Soft Story Building Ordinance “66-13” on April 18, 2013. The Soft Story Ordinance was signed by the Mayor of the City of San Francisco on the 107th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake. The San Francisco Soft Story Ordinance can affect over 6200 buildings in the City and County of San Francisco.

The ordinance amends the Building Code to establish a Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program for wood-frame buildings of three or more stories or two stories over a basement or under the floor area that has any portion extending above grade and containing five or more dwelling units where the permit to construct was applied for prior to January 1, 1978 and the building has not been seismically strengthened.   

The preliminary Soft Story Building list was prepared by the City Official based on the visual observation.

Starting June 1, 2013, the owner of the Soft Story buildings will be notified by The City of San Francisco to comply with the Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance. The owners of the buildings who have been notified that their building is within the scope of the Soft Story Seismic Retrofit shall engage an architect or engineer to submit to the City of San Francisco within the time limit of one year which is set forth in the ordinance a  properly completed Screening Form. After submittal of the Screening Form, the owners have 2 to 5 years for plan submittal and 4 to 7 years for Completion of Work & Issuance of CFC2. All times start 90 days after the operative day of the ordinance.

November 24, 2011

San Francisco AB-094


The City and County of San Francisco adopted the Administrative Bulletin AB-094 for the purpose of public safety.

The AB-094 which was passed on April 21, 2010 as a voluntary measure for seismic (earthquake) upgrading for all wood frame buildings (Type V) to qualify the building owners for various incentives, such as expedited permit review and fee adjustments.

Should the building owners decide to use these incentives, they will face new challenges which were not disclosed to them at the time of submittal in the San Francisco Building Department. These challenges can be summarized as follows:

· To satisfy the expedited permit, you have to fill out a copy of the Administrative Bulletin (AB-004) on the first page of your architectural plans. This means if your architect or engineer is not familiar with the procedure under AB-094, they have to revise their plans and add AB-004 digitally to the first page of the plans and come back to the Building Department again for the initial submittal.

· By using AB-094, building owners forfeit the over the counter plan check (No. 8 of pink application) submittal. The submittal is mandatory for the intake (No. 3 of Pink application). The waiting period is currently between 8 to 14 weeks just for the structural plan check due to the cutback in staff for plan checking.

· Although the AB-094 offers the fee incentive for original plan submittal, the AB-094 has other limitations.

1. The plans and calculations should reflect only the Soft Story issues.

2. If you do some other work such as demo, changing a window or store front, etc. you have to ask the architect or the engineer to prepare separate plans for all the work which is not under the AB-094. These will cost you more for the following reasons:

. If the area where the construction work will be performed is commercial, you have to comply two times with the ADA accessibility issues one for the soft story plan submittal and the second time for the other work (cost of your ADA will go up).

. There will be extra fees due to the architect and engineer for two submittals, plan checks (most probably two different plan checkers). A designated plan checker assigned only to AB-094 and the other plan checker for the non AB-094 plan submittal, and approvals.

. AB-094 has more stringent code guide lines. This will require you not only to deal with the soft story portion of the building by adding a lateral resisting element on the line of soft story (such as a steel moment frame, concrete, concrete block, strong walls and plywood shear walls), but to analyze the entire first and second story of your structure.

. By analyzing the entire building, various shear elements will be installed in various locations on first and second floor by removing the existing drywalls (possible asbestos in the joint compound), plaster, flooring, insulation, exterior siding and stucco.

. After installing plywood shear walls, all affected areas to be covered with new drywall, insulation, fire blocking, flooring and paint.

. Epoxy anchor installation in basement or under crawling spaces.

3. The program is for 15 years and at the present time, the City is not sure that it will become mandatory or not.

Although these code guidelines are for Public Safety, it should address the economic burden to the building owners. If the project costs 4 to 5 times more than the actual local soft story compliance, most of the building owners will not choose to do the voluntary structural enforcement under the AB-094. This will defeat the purpose of having a safer structure on behalf of Public Safety.

For the buildings that will have a change of ownership, the financing agencies require the owner to comply with the seismic issue of the structure as a contingency of the loan. Frequently, they are not familiar with the term of Soft Story (as it is defined in AB-094) and that should be discussed with the underwriter prior to the closing.

To receive a PDF copy of AB-004

To receive a PDF copy of AB-094 dated April 13, 2010: &

To receive a PDF copy of Draft #2 of AB-094 dated Nov 9, 2010: