LA enacts soft-story and older concrete retrofit laws

The Los Angeles City Council on Oct. 9 unanimously approved an ambitous seismic retrofit ordinance that will require owners to upgrade as may as 13,500 soft-story and pre-1978 wood frame buildings, and more than 1,000 pre-1980 non-ductile concrete buildings. 

The bold step comes a year after Mayor Garcetti’s “Reslience by Design” report that called attention to the threat posed by these structures and the need for system to rate building for their expected performance during earthquakes.

Over the next few weeks, the City will be sending notices to property owners telling them to expect a formal order for retrofitting soon.  If served a notice, the owner of a wood frame or soft-story building will have a year to respond with either 1) a structural analysis that shows the building does not need retrofitting, or 2) a structural analysis plus plans for the retrofit.  Permits must be obtained within two years, and the work must be completed in seven.

Owners of non-ductile concrete buildings will have three-years to complete a check list verifying that the building is constructed of non-ductile concrete.  The owner then has 10 years to 1) establish that the building has been retrofitted to meet the engineering requirements of the ordinance, 2) show that the building doesn’t need retrofitting because it already meets the requirements, or 3) submit plans for retrofit or demolition.  They will then have 25 years to complete the project.

Still unresolved is how all the work will get paid for.  As written, the ordinance allows owners to pass the cost of retrofitting on to tenants.   Proposals under consideration would require that costs be split between owners and tenants, with perhaps a cap on the tenant share.

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