Earthquakes are a part of life in Southern California. “The Big One” can hit anytime. Buildings with a “soft-story” are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. Soft-story buildings usually have a large, open ground floor space like a parking area, with one or more stories above it. Without shear walls and other seismic fittings, there’s nothing to prevent upper levels from collapsing into the soft-story.

In 2015, the Los Angeles City Council enacted two earthquake retrofit ordinances (183893 and 184081), which called for a survey of all buildings in the city that required a soft-story retrofit, along with a deadline for building owners to complete the retrofit process. Since then, Optimum Seismic has worked with many property owners on their Los Angeles earthquake retrofit projects.

It’s important to understand that each earthquake retrofit project is unique to each building. Depending on when the building was constructed, the materials that were used and the architecture of the structure, your soft story retrofit project may be more involved than another.

The most important thing about your seismic retrofitting project is that it’s done right. “The Big One” won’t care how much money you spend, or how long the project took, but you and your tenants will be greatly impacted depending on how well your building stands up to the next major earthquake.

Six Steps to a Successful Soft Story Retrofit

Step 1 – Free consultation. Optimum Seismic provides a fixed fee earthquake engineering proposal that will give you an idea about high and low construction estimates.

Step 2 – If an engineering contract is signed, Optimum Seismic surveys the property, prepares as built plans, performs engineering calculations, completes a design which meets the needs of your particular building and is both an efficient and constructible design. Plans get submitted to the building department and go through the plan check process.

Step 3 – Plans are approved and Permit Ready. We provide a copy of approved plans and a fixed guaranteed price for construction. At this point the client can shop for bids using these approved plans.

Step 4 – If a construction contract is signed Optimum Seismic will then complete the Tenant Habitability Plan process, obtain the permit and post notices to all tenants. We are required to give 21 days notice before we can start.

Step 5 – Optimum Seismic performs construction usually between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and covers all trenches safely at 5 p.m. so tenants can park as usual.

Step 6 – Cost Recovery Application the city of Los Angeles allows property owners to pass through portion of retrofit costs to tenants. Optimum Seismic can assist in this process.

If your soft-story building is required to have a retrofit, time is running out to comply with the city of Los Angeles’ soft-story retrofitting laws. Therefore, it’s critical to request a professional soft story retrofit consultation now.

Optimum Seismic has successfully guided building owners through the seismic retrofitting process since 1984, and we are ready to help make your apartment building earthquake resistant. Call us today at 833.978.7664 or visit