Alpha Structural, Inc. Media Features

Soft Story Retrofitting Pasadena

A soft story building is a multi-story structure built with a first floor that is much less rigid (soft) than the floors above. A building with a weak first floor often have large openings underneath like a garage, large overhang or windows or tuck under parking. These bottom floors are not likely to withstand the pressure of significant seismic activity due to unreinforced openings on the ground floor and the lateral forces that push a structure from side to side.

A major earthquake will likely cause far more movement than the soft story building can withstand resulting in the upper floors collapsing on top of the first floor and large openings. The new Pasadena soft story retrofit program addresses the issue of properly strengthening soft story buildings.

Pasadena Soft Story Retrofitting Program

On May 20, 2019, the City of Pasadena approved and adopted Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance 7345, making it mandatory to strengthen existing wood-frame buildings with soft, weak, or open-front walls.

City staff have estimated that there are 493 wood soft-story buildings that require evaluation and possible retrofit. The structures are defined as generally consisting of partial tuck-under parking on the first floor level with living space in the floors above. Soft story buildings have collapsed in past earthquakes, and can result in the loss of life, personal injury, and substantial property damage.

The new Pasadena retrofitting program applies to all existing buildings of wood-frame construction, or wood-frame portions where:

  1. A permit for construction of a new building was applied for on or before November 12, 1976, or 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 November 12, 1976, and
  2. The Ground Floor or basement portion of the structure contains parking or other similar open floor space that causes Soft, Weak, Open-Front Wall Lines.

The retrofit program does not apply to single family residences, a multiple-family residential parcels containing four or less units, or ground floor or basement concrete podium levels where a rigid concrete diaphragm exist, unless there is a first wood frame story above the podium with soft, weak, or open front walls.

Pasadena Soft Story Retrofit Time Table

The following are compliance time frames. Compliance dates are calculated based on the date the owner received notice.

From the receipt of the Order to Comply:

  • 1 year: Submit screening form (optional)
  • 3 years: Retrofit plans and obtain permit

  • 7 years: Complete construction

A building owner may request an extension to either the retrofit plans and obtain permit (3 years) or the completion of construction (7 years), if he or she can prove, with substantial evidence in writing, that the work cannot be continued within the time required by the ordinance.

The written request must demonstrate that:

  • Due to circumstances beyond the owner's or permittee's control, construction could not be commenced, continued or completed in the authorized time period.
  • If the construction has started, substantial progress has been made.
  • If construction has started, the condition of the property presents no health or safety hazard.
  • The continued delay will not create any unreasonable aesthetic impact to the neighborhood or substantial economic detriment to the neighboring property owners.
  • Due to unforeseen conditions, as deemed appropriate by the building official, construction could not be commenced, continued or completed in the authorized time period.

A new proposed schedule for compliance will be required and an extension may not exceed six months.

How Will This Soft Story Retrofit Law Affect You?

It is no longer a question of whether or not there will be an earthquake of significant magnitude in Southern California – the issue is WHEN it will strike SoCal. The longer your soft story building goes without retrofit, the more potential something disastrous could occur. We are prepared to assist you in all phases of the retrofitting process. Completion of this structural reinforcement could result in a lower insurance premium and, depending on current incentives, you may be eligible for grants, tax breaks and financial aid to help you upgrade your building.

Why Alpha Structural For Soft Story Retrofitting?

Alpha Structural, Inc. is a leader in the field of soft story retrofitting having received numerous awards for their excellence in work and customer service. In 2018 alone, Alpha Structural was recognized for its excellence in customer service winning The Talk Award and Pulse of the City Award. They have received the Angie’s List Super Service Award for over 8 years straight and been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc 5000 and the Los Angeles Business Journal. They have further received commendations and certificates of recognition by many cities in the Los Angeles area.

  • INC 5000
  • Pulse of the City 2018 Award
  • Talk of The Town 2018 Award
  • Angieslist Superservice 2018

One of our specialties is to bring a building like yours up to par with today’s strict building codes. We will carefully inspect your building and isolate the most practical and cost efficient solution. Utilizing our decades of foundation repair and seismic retrofitting experience, we design and engineer to help you save on construction costs.

Our team evaluates each building individually. Common solutions utilized are steel moment frames and plywood shear walls (strengthening existing walls), which adds proper support to the soft story structure against seismic activity. Every property is unique and that means all soft story retrofitting in Pasadena must be customized for each individual building. At Alpha Structural, we will design, engineer, acquire the correct permit and retrofit your structure, all in-house.

Our team is highly-qualified with extensive experience in complex soft story retrofitting in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and other surrounding cities. Call us today at (323) 258-5482 to schedule an inspection!

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