Welcome to SeismicOrdinances.com, an informational site maintained by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE). This page serves as a knowledge base for information regarding seismic assessment and retrofit requirements and relevant deadlines that pertain to seismic ordinances in various cities throughout California. It is intended for use by individuals and building owners seeking an introduction to seismic ordinances.

The information provided on SeismicOrdinances.com is general in nature and is subject to change as local authorities amend their current ordinances and adopt new ordinances. Persons requiring specific information on seismic ordinances should contact their municipality.

What is a seismic ordinance? 

A seismic ordinance is a law passed by local authorities requiring the evaluation and retrofit of specific building types proven to be vulnerable to seismic events. These ordinances were created in response to poor performance of certain classes of structures during previous earthquakes, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. These ordinances outline minimum requirements for mandatory evaluation and structural improvements intended to reduce earthquake-induced damage to classes of buildings identified to be particularly vulnerable to earthquake damage. These ordinances are generally not intended to strengthen buildings to a level of seismic performance equivalent to that of a new building designed using current building code requirements. Rather, these requirements address critical safety concerns by increasing the likelihood that occupants are able to safely exit the building in the event of an earthquake.

Is your building type included? 

The new generation of seismic ordinances is categorized by one of two building types: (1) Wood-Frame Soft-Story Structures and (2) Non-Ductile Concrete Structures. Most of these newer ordinances apply to structures permitted for construction before January 1, 1978, although the specific cut-off date varies by municipality. Follow the links on this page for more information on each building type and the associated ordinance(s).

In California, there are also other types of mandatory seismic ordinances that apply to structure types such as unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings. The California URM Law was passed in 1986 and required local governments in high seismic zones to develop an inventory or URM buildings and establish a loss reduction program. For a handful of California cities, ordinances requiring seismic retrofit were passed, but in the majority of cities, the local ordinances only required that owners identify buildings as being vulnerable. Typically, mandatory compliance dates for URM buildings in California covered by this older generation of seismic ordinances have passed, meaning that most of the buildings in California covered by these older ordinances should be in compliance. Because of this, SeismicOrdinances.com does not address URM ordinances in California. Persons requiring specific information on URM ordinances in California should contact their municipality directly.

 

Don’t See Your City?

Please note that SeismicOrdinances.com may not include all cities within California that have seismic ordinances in effect. Contact your local government officials for more information on future seismic ordinances, earthquake preparedness, and voluntary retrofits. 

 

Interested in seeking seismic consultation for your building?

WJE is an interdisciplinary firm of structural engineers, architects, and materials scientists specializing in the investigation, analysis, testing, and design of repairs for distressed conditions in historic and contemporary buildings and structures. Over the last sixty years, WJE has successfully completed more than seventy thousand investigative, testing, and repair projects involving virtually every type of construction material, structural system, and architectural component. WJE is currently engaged in seismic-related projects worldwide, with several structural engineers and architects actively involved in committees and task groups that develop seismic-related building codes and local ordinances. Visit wje.com to learn more about WJE’s seismic assessment services. To reach WJE directly regarding seismic retrofit consultation, e-mail seismicordinances@wje.com.

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The information provided on SeismicOrdinances.com is general in nature and should not be relied upon as fact. Persons requiring specific information on seismic ordinances should contact their municipality or e-mail seismicordinances@wje.com.