Catastrophes, such as the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, have shown us that soft-story buildings are extremely vulnerable due to the nature of their construction. With the ever remaining threat of “The Big One” looming over Southern California, the City of Los Angeles has taken proactive steps in preventing the loss of housing stock and most importantly, increasing the safety of our citizens. The newly adopted Seismic Retrofit Program will apply to all existing apartment buildings of wood-frame construction, two-stories or higher, built before January 1st, 1978 with four units or more. According to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, there are an estimated 12,000 possible buildings that match this criteria.
The Soft-story Seismic Retrofit Program aims to notify owners through a courtesy notice that their property may be in need of seismic retrofitting, and encourages the owner to take the necessary steps in preventing tenant displacement or having tenants live in uninhabitable conditions. The notice gives the owner the opportunity to prepare financially and provides time to locate a contractor to do the required work once a Notice to Comply (Order) is received. When the related building permits are applied for from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) is required. The THP, along with describing the anticipated scope of work, must also detail the steps the landlord will take in order to mitigate the impact to the tenant during the retrofit period. Once all work has been completed, an owner can recover 50% of retrofit costs through the Seismic Retrofit Cost Recovery Program.
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