Soft Story – Many properties, residential, commercial and apartment buildings have what is called a soft story condition. This term is used to describe any building that has a habitable room or rooms above a garage, carport or porch area that was not specifically designed to transmit shear or lateral forces to the story above. Failures of these types of building or structure with soft story conditions can lead to loss of lives in an earthquake. Many counties in California are currently drafting ordinances to require retrofitting of all soft story buildings.
If you live in, or own a property that looks similar to the ones below, give us a call.
In January of 2014, the city of Los Angeles teamed up with the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) and other organizations to develop a report that would outline the city’s plan to create a seismic program intended to improve the city’s resiliency after a seismic event. The city of Los Angeles issued their “Resilience by Design” report outlining their program on December 8, 2014. The report contains recommendations for seismically evaluating and strengthening the city’s infrastructure as well as vulnerable commercial and multi-family soft story and non-ductile concrete buildings. The city is using internal resources to create an inventory of soft story buildings that will be affected by the program. A copy of the report can be found here.
Under the law, property owners will have seven years to fix wood apartments and 25 years to fix concrete buildings. The city has already identified about 13,500 apartment complexes that officials suspect need repairs. A Times investigation in 2013 found more than 1,000 older concrete structures — including landmark buildings in downtown, Hollywood and Westwood — that require close scrutiny for retrofitting. read more
The Buildings draft ordinances (both soft story and non-ductile concrete) are currently under review by various committees including the SEAOSC Existing Buildings Committee (EBC). In a presentation to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on February 17, 2015, Mayor Garcetti stated that he hoped that they that the review process will be completed by June and the ordinances will be in place by the year’s end. We are helping the city of Los Angeles’ efforts through its active involvement in SEAOSC EBC. In addition to the review of the proposed ordinances, SEAOSC EBC is developing example problems that will help expedite the design of retrofits for the affected buildings. For further information on “Resiliency by Design,” go to the Mayor’s blog at: lamayor.org/earthquake. To learn more about earthquake preparedness, go to: readyla.org.
In California, there is an earthquake hazard disclosure law requiring the seller to disclose to the buyer at the time of sale the existence of certain known earthquake hazards, such as lack of bolting, existence of cripple walls with no shear paneling, hot water heaters that are not properly strapped, etc.. One of the conditions required to be disclosed as a hazard is the existence of a soft story structure. Visualize two dominoes standing on their small ends. Load four or five bricks on the dominoes with no difficulty because the dominoes are strong enough to carry the load, or downward force. But, if you go to the side of the dominoes and apply a tiny shear force: a shake or with even a breath; the whole thing will come crashing down.
We encourage our LA neighbors to get the work done now while it’s still voluntary. BEFORE it becomes mandatory.
call: 323-931-2969 ~ or: email
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Full LA City Ordinance can be downloaded here
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Earthquake Inspection Process
Learn more about the Earthquake Inspection Process.