Soft story failure was responsible for nearly half of all homes that became uninhabitable in California’s Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
ECR Engineering has extensive experience with building with soft stories in all Bay Area. The soft story ordinance in San Francisco requires mandatory retrofit of San Francisco buildings that meet certain criteria. Within the next few years, other countries in Bay Area are expected to announce similar mandatory soft-story programs and any building that needs to be retrofitted to be in compliance with the most regulations will need this service. Most recently, in December 2014, Los Angeles announced a similar program for wood-frame buildings with soft story(s). San Francisco is expected to announce a similar program for 2-4 unit buildings with soft story(s) and Oakland is expected to announce it’s soft story program in Fall of 2016. ECR Engineering gives FREE consultation and quote for buildings with soft story conditions! Contact us today for a free consult.
ECR handles the soft-story projects from start to finish, providing the following services:
– Drafting & Detailing
– Handling permit process
– Project Management
What is Soft Story?
A soft story building is a multi-story building in which one or more floors have windows, wide doors, large unobstructed commercial spaces, or other openings in places where a shear wall would normally be required for stability as a matter of earthquake engineering design. A typical soft story building is an apartment building of three or more stories located over a ground level with large openings, such as a parking garage or series of retail businesses with large windows.
San Francisco’s Mandatory Soft Story Ordinance
On the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Mayor Ed Lee signed into law the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance. This legislation requires the evaluation and retrofit for “multi-unit soft-story buildings,” defined as: Wood-frame structures, containing five or more residential units, having two or more stories over a “soft” or “weak” story, and permitted for construction prior to January 1, 1978.
On September 15, 2013 the City issued notices to all wood frame buildings containing five or more dwelling units, two or more stories, and permitted for construction prior to January 1978. Notices were sent to building owners at the address used for property tax notification within the Assessor’s Office databases.
1. The owner must hire an architect or engineer to submit a “Screening Form” that includes:
A. All information required by the City.
B. Whether the building is exempt from the requirements.
C. If not exempt, the appropriate “Compliance Tier”.
2. If the owner claims the building is exempt, the architect or engineer must also submit an “Evaluation Form” describing the seismic work done that satisfies the exemption and which includes the plans for the work.
To learn more about screening forms and the soft story ordinance in San Francisco, visit the city’s official Soft Story page.
Owners have up to September 2017 or September 2018 (depending on which tier the building is in) to get the construction permit to start the retrofit work. It makes sense to do it as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to reduce the risk of a building collapse well before the deadline. The more time that passes, the more expensive the work will probably be due to the high number of buildings but limited number of contractors. Owners can contact ECR Engineering, with great seismic experience, to determine what needs to be done and how much it’s likely to cost so they can decide how they wish to proceed.