– The Following article was featured on AAGLA Magazine, written by our CEO Dee Soffer –
“Soft-Story” is the latest buzz word in the property ownership world throughout Los Angeles. Coming from 22 years of managing apartment buildings and working closely with many apartment owners, this mandatory requirement affected both me and my colleagues tremendously.
There is no doubt about it, community safety and earthquake preparatory programs are important and vital in earthquake-prone Los Angeles, but this new ordinance is a serious financial and time consuming challenge. Historically, apartment ownership has been considered an esteemed position and long-term investment. However, the new ordinance may be a game changer.
If you are spared of this order to comply, congrats!
The new ordinance, passed by Mayor Garcetti in October 2015, calls for structural modification and enhancement in apartment buildings that are 2-story and above, wood-frame construction, with tuck-under parking or open spaces, built prior to 1978. The new ordinance affects about 13,500 properties that are 4 units or more and orders property owners to comply to a strict and tight deadline.
As with any new market trend, retrofitting businesses popped up everywhere. Some have already been in a retrofitting sector of some kind, some may have been in the structural engineering or steel fabrication fields. Many are general contractors looking to expand services, or savvy entrepreneurs discovering an opportunity to establish another start-up. I’m sure that most are done with good faith and well-founded business intentions following the basic economical principal of supply and demand. However, some sophisticated yet often-times confused property owners may fall prey to companies and seismic compliance service providers, who sadly turned this niche into an opportunity to capitalize or even worse, abuse and scam the system. How does one really know?
Let’s start by understanding the basic components that this ordinance requires:
Step #1 – Identify if your property is on the LADBS list to comply.
Step #2 – Perform a site survey to verify retrofitting requirements.
Step #3 – Draft and design a practical and cost-effective Structural Engineering plan.
Step #4 – Complete the Tenant Habitability Plan with the LA Housing Dept.
Step #5 – Apply for a building permit.
Step #6 – Achieve tenant collaboration.
Step #7 – Implementation of construction process.
Step #8 – Obtain Final LADBS Approval.
Step #9 – Complete the Cost Recovery Application (Optional).
I will go in-depth into each one of these steps and explain the specifics in the next issue.
Yes, it is a very intricate process involving multiple city agencies, trade professionals, tenant management factors, and most importantly – your wallet!
I would advise researching and locating a company that has the experience and expertise needed to execute all of the required components. Don’t despair, none of this is impossible. As Tony Robbins says, “the only impossible journey is the one you never begin”.