Retrofitting Is The Law

LA Retrofit Inspectors

The residents of the city of Los Angeles live in the area for different reasons. Some people love and live there for its’ sunny weather lasting almost all year long, others love the abundance of nightlife and activities even though everyone knows that Los Angeles is prone to earthquakes, they come here anyway. However, accepting that the LA retrofit is the Law, is unavoidable now, as long as the benefits of living in Southern California far outweigh the risks, so you should take the necessary steps to protect your property and yourself.

The climate in Los Angeles is a Mediterranean climate - the weather is usually dry and warm during the summer, and more rainy and mild in the winter. Officially, there are 3, 847, 400 people living in LA, and over 18 million people in the L.A. region. The city has an area of 1,200 square kilometers. LA has the second biggest population of any city in the US.
The city of Los Angeles is located on several fault lines and it is not a secret that earthquakes can cause large damage to city structures and losses of human lives.

The Beginning Of Soft-Story Retrofit Program

The destruction caused by the Northbridge earthquake in 1994 had a big impact on the creation of the program. The beginning of the soft-story retrofit program originally was started in San Francisco in 2013. This program is created to prevent loss of human lives and create better resiliency for the city in the event of a major earthquake. But in 2015 the city of Los Angeles started to roll out its own program and passed the two ordinances about Los Angeles Retrofit, according to which the following types of buildings were applied by:

  • Most of the Multistory wood-framed buildings, which have one or more sides of the ground floor open, typically for tuck-under parking. This applies to buildings constructed before about 1980.

  • Most concrete buildings constructed before about 1980.

Los Angeles Retrofit Ordinance

Los Angeles retrofit ordinance 183893, with the amendments 184081, is a city law that mandates the seismic retrofit of buildings in case they can not be proven to meet specific safety standards. The ordinance mostly is intended to promote public welfare and safety by reducing the risk of injury and loss of life that may result from the effects of earthquakes on existing buildings.
Once you receive a Notice to Comply with the city, you must face steep penalties or follow the instructions. Ensuring your property is resistant to an earthquake is the law and not an option.

All the building owners who do not comply with the mandatory retrofit program may face steep fines for being in violation of the retrofit laws.
First, a placard placed on your building notifying the public and the tenants that the current building is not safe, and may not or will not resist an earthquake. If you keep on refusing to retrofit your building, you will face a court hearing, extra fees, and fines, as well as there is a chance will get your business closed until it meets the codes of the city.

As part of the Mandatory Retrofit Program, the city officials created two new ordinances that all the property owners must comply with.

Ordinance 183893

With the first Ordinance 183893, the types of buildings are identified. They must complete a mandatory earthquake retrofit under the Soft-Story Retrofit Program. According to ordinance 183893, such buildings include all of the following points:

  • Structures made of wood frames and built before January 1, 1978

  • Buildings with any open spaces, such as a ground floor that contains parking

  • Buildings that have more than four residential units

Ordinance 183893 also applies three priorities with the following designations:

  • Priority I - buildings with 16 and more residential units

  • Priority  II - buildings with 3 stories or more, but contain less than 16 units

  • Priority  III - all the other buildings not falling within the first two Priorities

Ordinance 184081

The ordinance 184081 spells out the time frame for property owners to get the retrofit done. In this way, they will be in compliance with the Retrofit Law and the soft-story retrofit program. The present timeframe includes two parts, owner that plan on demolishing them and for the ones who are updating their buildings.

  • The structural analysis should be submitted by the owner within two years for review and approval.

  • On order to show existing compliance, submit the analysis

  • Submit a structural analysis that shows the proposed alterations to meet seismic retrofit requirements

Plans for demolition of the buildings

The property owners need to submit three plans within 3.5 years since they receive an order to comply and obtain all the permits that are needed for demolition. Most of the property owners should have received a notice to comply with the city. This will give you 7 years after the date of this notice to demolish the building or complete the construction.

Understand which of the following descriptions does meet your building and retrofit it.

  • If there is a “tuck-under” parking in your property

  • If the property has three and more stories, as well as “tuck-under” parking

  • If the property has “tuck-under” parking, and also three or more stories and units

Retrofitting Is Not For Every Building

Since the big earthquake in 1994, the city officials assessed the damage done in order to find out what structures were most vulnerable during seismic activities. They identified two types of buildings that met the criteria: soft-story buildings and non-ductile concrete buildings - so that means retrofitting is not for every building. They compiled a list of properties that were determined to be in need of earthquake retrofit in order to bring them up to the standards of the new ordinances.
The owners of those properties received a Notice to Comply letter with information on the new mandatory program and a deadline for finishing the construction.

Various Mandatory Retrofit Programs

When Los Angeles created its retrofit program, it was considered the strictest set of ordinances at that time and many cities started to create their own ordinances, which was the sarts of various mandatory retrofit programs all over the CA. Yet, when Santa Monica rolled out their earthquake ordinances, Los Angeles came in the second. Santa Monica added extra other types of building to their list of vulnerable structures, and also shortened the timelines for the construction to be finished.

damaged soft-story buildings after earthquake

On May 20, 2019, Pasadena also joined the growing list of southern CA cities that are requiring earthquake retrofits from property owners. Their new ordinance 7345, went into effect on the following month. The new building standards and codes have created a lot of controversies and they have been used to help or hurt the political careers of city officials. However, actually, the ordinances were designed to make structures safer for the people working and living in them when an earthquake strikes.