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.

July 26, 2019 Update

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

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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