Wood-Frame Soft-Story Structures

The city of Oakland does not currently mandate seismic retrofit of wood-frame soft-story buildings, but the city does mandate a screening-style structural evaluation for some structures. In 2008, the municipality did a preliminary survey of multifamily residential buildings. With the results of that survey, Oakland passed a mandatory ordinance in 2009 requiring owners of certain buildings identified in the 2008 survey to undergo a structural screening of the ground floor. The screening was intended to provide the municipality with more information on the construction of the ground floor to determine whether it is considered a wood-frame soft-story building. The full text of the ordinance can be found here.


Oakland’s mandatory screening program applied to existing buildings identified in a 2008 survey that have the following characteristics:

  • Wood-frame construction
  • Permitted for construction prior to the adoption of the 1988 Uniform Building Code on January 1, 1991
  • Five or more dwelling units
  • Two or more stories
  • Ground floor containing parking or commercial space

Screening Levels

The ordinance specifies two levels of evaluation. A Level I screening is defined as a prescriptive, nonengineered analysis that may be written by a registered design professional, a licensed contractor, or a certified inspector. If the building official determines that the conditions of the structure are beyond the scope of the ordinance’s standards, a Level II screening is required. A Level II screening involves a nonprescriptive engineered analysis to be completed by a registered design professional.


All building owners who received a notice from the building official indicating that their building falls within the scope of the 2009 mandatory screening program were required to submit a structural screening to the building official within two years of the day the ordinance was passed on July 28, 2009.



Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Phone: 626.696.4650
E-mail: seismicordinances@wje.com

Oakland Building Services Division
250 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510.238.3941