Oakland

Wood-Frame Soft-Story Structures

The City of Oakland has developed a program called Safer Housing for Oakland - A Retrofit Program for Soft Story Apartment Buildings. In 2007, Oakland passed a voluntary ordinance for seismic strengthening for residential buildings. In 2008, the City conducted a city-wide building inventory to identify the City’s inventory of potential soft-story buildings. In 2009, the City adopted an ordinance which mandated a screening program to verify the city’s inventory of potential soft-story buildings. 

Recently, a mandatory ordinance was developed, titled Mandatory Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Certain Multi-Unit Residential Buildings. Ordinance 13516 was approved by the City for final passage on January 22, 2019. As of February 2019, the effective date of this ordinance has not yet been released.

2008 Building Inventory and 2009 Mandatory Screening Program

In 2008, the municipality conducted 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. 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.

The full text of the ordinance can be found here. The results of the building inventory and screening are available here.

2019 Ordinance Scope

Ordinance 13516 states that the mandatory wood-frame soft-story program applies to existing buildings that have the following characteristics:

  • Wood-frame target story (“target story” generally includes any above grade or partially above grade level that is more vulnerable to damage than the level directly above)
  • Constructed or permitted for construction prior to January 1, 1991 (or designed under the 1985 or earlier editions of the Uniform Building Code)
  • Three or more stories (or two stories over a basement or an underfloor area with any portion above grade)
  • Five or more dwelling units

Proposed Ordinance Building Tiers

Oakland has established building-tier classifications to prioritize retrofit efforts in order of the apparent risk associated with damage to the structure based on occupant load. This classification (Tier 1,2, or 3) determines the timeline for conformance as shown below.

Tier 1

Buildings with 20 or more dwelling units which are not eligible for Tier 2 or Tier 3

 

Buildings whose owners failed to comply with the Mandatory Screening Ordinance on or before July 28, 2011, regardless of the number of dwelling units or nominal eligibility for Tier 2 or Tier 3.

Tier 2

Buildings not eligible for Tier 3 with between 5 and 19 dwelling units

 

Buildings legally permitted business or mercantile occupancy in a wood frame target story. May be reassigned to Tier 3 upon demonstration by the Owner that at least one commercial unit is non-vacant on the day one year from the effective date of the Ordinance, and has been occupied for at least one month.

Tier 3

Buildings with legally permitted residential occupancy in a wood frame target story not otherwise assigned to Tier 1 or Tier 2.

 

Buildings otherwise assigned to Tier 3.

   

Proposed Ordinance Timeline

The timeline (shown in years) for this program is dependent upon the compliance tier (1-3) established for each wood-frame soft-story building.

MILESTONE REQUIREMENT
PROCESS BEGINS Ordinance passed
30 DAYS Timeline initiates
1 YEAR

Deadline for Owners of non-subject buildings to document that the building is not a subject building

Deadline to document that building is eligible for a later compliance tier (optional, all tiers)

2 YEARS Deadline to complete mandatory evaluation and submit initial affidavit of compliance (Tier 1)
3 YEARS Deadline to complete mandatory evaluation and submit initial affidavit of compliance (Tier 2) Deadline to obtain retrofit permit or submit target story evaluation report (Tier 1)
4 YEARS Deadline to complete mandatory evaluation and submit initial affidavit of compliance (Tier 3) Deadline to obtain retrofit permit or submit target story evaluation report (Tier 2) Deadline to perform retrofit work, obtain approval on final inspection, and submit final affidavit of compliance (Tier 1)
5 YEARS Deadline to obtain retrofit permit or submit target story evaluation report (Tier 3) Deadline to perform retrofit work, obtain approval on final inspection, and submit final affidavit of compliance (Tier 2)
6 YEARS Completion of work (Tier III)

 

 

Contacts

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

City of Oakland Planning Commission
Phone: 510.238.62.83
E-mail: RMerkamp@oaklandnet.com
1 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
Council Chambers, 3rd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612