Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance

With an aging building stock in a seismically active region, Pasadena has recently begun to explore the need for a local ordinance requiring seismic retrofits to certain categories of potentially vulnerable buildings. Previously, the State of California mandated unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs) to be seismically retrofitted, or vacated and boarded up, or demolished, and Pasadena was successful in attaining full compliance prior to the 2007 deadline. But several other categories of vulnerable buildings remain and the most effective tool available to reduce the risks associated with structural vulnerabilities is to adopt a local ordinance which mandates retrofits. One such category of vulnerable buildings are soft-story buildings. Soft-story buildings are wood-framed buildings with more than one story that typically have extensive ground story windows, garage doors, or open-air spaces (such as parking) with little or no solid walls. In the 1989 La Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, soft-story buildings accounted for significant human loss and property damage. As such, under the direction of the Public Safety Committee, the City is currently in the process of adopting a Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance which is anticipated to go into effect by Spring 2019.

City staff has estimated that there are 493 wood soft-story buildings that require evaluation and possible retrofit. To develop the retrofit ordinance, staff has contracted with Degenkolb Engineers. Degenkolb has worked with several cities in Southern California including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood to develop soft story ordinances specific to each city.

Available Documents

The Soft-Story ordinance was approved and adopted by the City Council on May 20, 2019. Updates on the implementation of the ordinance will be posted on this page. Available documents are listed below.


Projected Date Action
September – October 2018 Conduct second meeting with the Soft-Story Advisory Group to obtain public input on the timelines, prioritization and applicability of the ordinance
October – November 2018 Meet with the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) to review the technical portions of the ordinance
October – November 2018 Conduct a community outreach meeting to solicit input on the draft regulations.
December 2018 – January 2019 Present draft regulations to the Public Safety Committee for review and comment
January – February 2019 Present draft ordinance to City Council. Formal adoption of ordinance shall follow.

Prioritization of Retrofits

Pursuant to Ordinance No. 7345, enforcement of the soft-story retrofit ordinance is as defined below:

  • Priority 1: Parcels containing buildings with 3 or more stories, or containing 25 or more dwelling units total, or Qualified Historic buildings (any size or number of units)
  • Priority 2: Parcels containing 10 to 24 units total
  • Priority 3: All parcels containing non-historic, 2-story buildings with 5 to 9 units total

As of August 2020, notices have been sent to owners of affected properties in Priority 1 only.  Notices to Priority 2 and Priority 3 parcels have not been scheduled to be sent.

Time Limit Extension for Priority 1 Properties

Pursuant to Resolution No. 9774, certain time limits related to land use matters have been extended. For owners of properties in Priority 1, the time limit to submit plans and obtain the building permit(s) has been extended from 3 years to 4 years from the date of the Notice. All other deadlines remain the same.

License Lookup

For your convenience, we have provided links (see below) for you to look up a license of any licensed contractor or engineers in the State of California.

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