Los Angeles

Soft-Story Retrofit – What You Need to Know

soft story retrofit building

What is a soft-story building?

A soft-story building is a building that has large openings on the first floor, typically tuck-under parking, large windows, or garages. These “soft” or “weak” structures are susceptible to damage in the event of an earthquake. Hence, the soft-story retrofit program was established to reduce structural deficiencies and prevent structural failure in the event of an earthquake.

soft-story retrofit

What is this program about?

The purpose of this program is to strengthen buildings which may be subject to damage in the event of an earthquake. More importantly, the program was created to prevent injury or loss of life.

What is the soft-story retrofit criteria?

  • Wood frame building where permitted construction was applied for before January 1, 1978. If no permit can be located, the structure is determined by the Building Official to have been built under Building Code standards enacted prior to January 1, 1978
  • The ground floor or basement contains parking or other similar open floor space that causes soft, weak, or open-front wall lines. In addition, the majority of the ground floor or basement portion of the structure contains an open floor space, and one or more stories exists above.

What do I need to do?

You are required to hire an engineer or architect to evaluate the building. Then, you must develop plans for the improvements and submit them to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to be approved.


  • 2 years from the date of order: submit plans to retrofit or demolish
  • 3.5 years from the date of order: obtain a permit to retrofit or demolish
  • 7 years from the date of order: complete construction and obtain certification of compliance

How much does a soft-story retrofit cost?

Depending on the size and structure, a soft-story retrofit can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $160,000.

How long does it take?

  • 1st Year: submit screening report
  • 2nd Year: submit retrofit plans
  • 4th Year: obtain permits
  • 5th Year: complete construction

What about my tenants?

You are required to notify tenants of the plans to retrofit as well as submit an application to the Los Angeles Tenant Habitability program. In addition, you may be required to supply tenants substitute living arrangements during retrofit construction.

What should I do next?

First, assess the costs of retrofit and deduct whether a sale, improvements, or demolition is in your best interest for your investment. Additionally, MPS Management can help you determine the best course of action for the soft-story retrofit program.