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 BuildingsOrdinance 13516 went into effect on January 22, 2019.

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)
  • Five or more dwelling units

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.



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

Requirement Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
Complete mandatory evaluation and submit initial affidavit of compliance 2 years 3 years 4 years
Obtain retrofit permit or submit target story evaluation report 3 years 4 years 5 years
Complete retrofit, obtain approval on final inspection, submit final affidavit of compliance 4 years 5 years 6 years