San Francisco

Wood-Frame Soft-Story Structures

The city of San Francisco established a mandatory wood-frame soft-story program in April 2013. Building owners with properties affected by this ordinance were notified beginning in September 2013. The full text of the ordinance can be found here.


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

  • Wood-frame construction
  • Ground floor containing parking or similar open floor or basement space causing soft, weak, or open wall lines
  • Permitted for construction prior to January 1, 1978
  • Three or more stories (or two stories over a basement or an underfloor area with any portion above grade)
  • Five or more dwelling units

Building Tiers

San Francisco 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 I, II, III, or IV) determines the timeline for conformance as shown below.

Tier I Buildings that contain a Group A (assembly), Group E (educational), Group R-2.1, R-3.1, or R-4 (residential) occupancy on any story
Tier II Buildings with 15 or more dwelling units, except for buildings assigned to Tier I or IV
Tier III Buildings that do not fall within the definition of another tier
Tier IV Buildings that contain a Group B (business) or Group M (mercantile) occupancy on the first story or in a basement area with any portion extending above grade, and buildings that are in mapped liquefaction zones, except those assigned to Tier I


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

PROCESS BEGINS Ordinance passed
90 DAYS Timeline initiates
1 YEAR Deadline to submit screening form and optional form (all tiers)
2 YEARS Deadline to submit permit application with retrofit plans (Tier I)
3 YEARS Deadline to submit permit application with retrofit plans (Tier II)
4 YEARS Completion of work (Tier I)
Deadline to submit permit application with retrofit plans (Tier III)
5 YEARS Completion of work (Tier II)
Deadline to submit permit application with retrofit plans (Tier IV)
6 YEARS Completion of work (Tier III)
7 YEARS Completion of work (Tier IV) *Deadline extended to September 15, 2021
DECEMBER 31, 2020 Final deadline for completion of all work for which extensions were issued

*Deadline for completion of construction for Tier IV buildings was extended by one year in the September 15, 2020, City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors Meeting



Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Phone: 626.696.4650

San Francisco Department of Building Inspection
1660 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.558.6699