Santa Monica

Wood-Frame Soft-Story Structures

The city of Santa Monica developed a seismic retrofit plan following the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It was the first city in the Southern California region to establish aggressive regulations targeted toward wood-frame soft-story structures. However, many buildings within Santa Monica did not comply with this ordinance. 

To update the outdated ordinance, the city of Santa Monica passed a comprehensive seismic retrofit program on March 28, 2017.  In addition to wood-frame soft-story structures, the program also addresses unreinforced masonry, concrete tilt-up, steel moment frame, and non-ductile concrete buildings. Amendments to the seismic retrofit program regarding wood-frame soft-story buildings can be found in Chapter 8.72 of the Ordinance.

Scope

Santa Monica’s mandatory wood-frame soft-story program applies to existing buildings that have the following characteristics:

  • Wood-frame construction
  • Built under building code standards enacted before November 10, 1980
  • Ground floor containing parking or similar open floor or basement space causing soft, weak, or open wall lines where there exists at least one or more floor levels above

Ordinance compliance for single-family homes is voluntary. Buildings which have already completed all required seismic retrofit work prior to the adoption of this ordinance, with lateral load resisting analysis, structural design plans, and valid final approval from the City of Santa Monica, are exempt from the ordinance requirements.  However, previously retrofitted buildings with the following characteristics are subject to the ordinance requirements despite previous retrofit work:

  • Buildings with pole structures supporting the soft, weak, or open front wall lines
  • Buildings of three or more stories with horizontal structural irregularities of Type 2, 3, 4, or 5 in ASCE 7-10 Table 12.3-1

In total, over 2,000 buildings in Santa Monica have been identified to fall within the scope of the City’s comprehensive seismic retrofit plan.  The inventory of wood-frame soft-story buildings has been made public by the Santa Monica Planning and Community Development Department (updated January 31, 2017).

Building Owner Noticing Schedule

Implementation of the Santa Monica wood-frame soft-story ordinance will be carried out in phases. The timeline for compliance for each unique structure begins following distribution of the Order from the Building Official. Orders will be issued according to the priority levels outlined below.

SOFT STORY BUILDING CATEGORY

START DATE FOR ISSUING ORDERS

More than 2 stories

July 24, 2017
16 or more dwelling units October 16, 2017
2 stories with 7 to 15 dwelling units November 27, 2017
2 stories with less than 7 units February 19, 2018–August 6, 2018

Timeline

The city of Santa Monica requires that wood-frame soft-story building retrofits adhere to the timeline shown below. The timeline for each building type is initiated following service of the Order to the Owner. Orders will be delivered according to the phases outlined above.

MILESTONE REQUIREMENT
BEGIN PROCESS

Service of the Order to the Building Owner

2 YEARS AFTER ORDER Deadline to submit structural evaluation report
3 YEARS AFTER ORDER Deadline to submit application for building permit and plans
6 YEARS AFTER ORDER Deadline for final approval

In the News

LA Times: Santa Monica Adopts Nation's Most Extensive Earthquake Retrofit Plan

LA Times: Santa Monica Offers L.A. a Cautionary Tale on Quake Vigilance

Infographic: Look at How Apartments Can Collapse During an Earthquake (LA Times)

 

Contacts

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

Santa Monica City Clerk
1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: 310.458.8355
E-mail: clerk@smgov.net