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Los Angeles Seismic Retrofit Ordinance Passed

On October 9 the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a mandatory retrofit ordinance, aimed to improve the City’s seismic safety and resilience by strengthening vulnerable buildings most at risk during a major earthquake. The LA ordinance will require the structural strengthening of two of the city’s most vulnerable building types:

  1. Wood-framed multifamily buildings that contain large areas of tuck-under parking with a stability weakness at the ground floor level commonly known as a “soft-story” or “weak story” condition. Affected buildings are those with four or more units constructed under original building permit applications prior to January 1, 1978 that contain an identified “soft-wall line”.
  2. Non-ductile concrete buildings constructed under original building permit applications prior to January 13th 1977. This captures concrete structures constructed under buildings code standards prior to the 1976 Uniform Building Code. This includes buildings with concrete floors supported by concrete walls and columns constructed under permits filed prior to January 13th 1977.

The LA seismic ordinance is referred to by the Mayor’s Office as the Resilience by Design Program, and also includes measures to secure water supply and communications infrastructure. The City will provide notification and guidance to owners of buildings that require structural strengthening when this becomes active.

Funding and financing options are being explored to offset costs of implementation, which can range between $20,000 to $250,000 per building, depending on specific building configuration and scope of work required to meet the performance objectives. Defining the financial burden of required retrofits and available financing options will be critical for local property owners and investors, as well as lenders and brokers to understand the full impact the ordinance will have.

The Specifics: What You Need To Know

Wood-framed buildings with Soft or Weak wall lines
The Department of Building and Safety is believed to have pre-identified 13,000(+/-) wood-framed multifamily buildings within the city limits with “soft wall line” conditions. The city will provide notification and guidance to owners of such buildings requiring structural strengthening when this becomes active.

The ordinance amends a previous retrofit standard published by the city - LAMC Division 93 - and sets forth additional requirements. Buildings will be given priority designations and the Building Department shall prioritize its enforcement of the Division in the following order:

Priority 1: Buildings containing 16 or more dwelling units
Priority 2: Buildings with three stories or more, containing fewer than 16 dwelling units
Priority 3: Buildings not falling within the definition of priority 1 or 2.

For wood-framed buildings the time limit for compliance is as follows:

Within 1 year after receiving notification that a building must be retrofitted under the ordinance, the Building Owner must submit to the Building Department a structural analysis and or plans that demonstrate compliance or include the proposed structural alteration to meet the requirements of Division-93.
Within 2 years after the notification is received, obtain all necessary permits for rehabilitation or demolition.
Within 7 years after the notification is received, complete construction or demolition work under all necessary permits.

Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings
The LA Seismic retrofit ordinance mandates structural upgrades for concrete structures constructed prior to the 1976 Uniform Building Code, and any buildings with concrete floors supported by concrete walls and columns constructed under permits filed prior to January 13th 1977. The concrete building ordinance is listed under Division 95 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

The time limit for compliance for non-ductile concrete buildings is as follows:

Within 3 years after the order is given that a building is required to be upgraded under the retrofit ordinance, the Building Owner must submit to the Building Department a completed checklist for the Department to review and determine if the building is in fact a non-ductile concrete structure.
Within 10 years submit a detailed evaluation of the building documenting whether the building meets or exceeds the requirements of the ordinance, a detailed structural upgrade plan, or proof that prior retrofit work meets the Division 95 requirements.
Within 25 years complete all necessary demolition or retrofit work.

Defining the financial burden of required retrofits and available financing options will be critical for local property owners and investors, as well as lenders and brokers to understand the full impact the ordinance will have.

We will provide updates and clarification of the mandatory retrofit ordinance as they become available, so be sure to check back here. In the meantime, please see the following valuable resources on the requirements and impacts of mandatory retrofit ordinances: