Soft Story Program - Regulations for Potentially Hazardous Buildings Containing Soft, Weak or Open Front Stories
The City of Berkeley requires owners of owners of soft, weak or open front (SWOF) buildings with five or more dwelling units to retrofit their buildings per Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 19.39. Owners have until December 31, 2016 to apply for a building permit and two years to complete the work after submitting their permit application. The law took effect January 4, 2014 and applies to wood frame buildings constructed prior to 1978.
Read about our new Retrofit Grants available for owners of soft story buildings.
SWOF building owners must also post an earthquake warning sign and notify their tenants of the building's potentially hazardous condition. Under the first phase of the soft story program, starting in 2005, SWOF building owners were required to submit an engineering evaluation report identifying their building's weaknesses and ways to remedy those weaknesses.
What is a Soft, Weak or Open Front Building?
A multi-story wood-frame building in which the first floor has large openings in places where a shear wall would normally be required for stability as a matter of earthquake engineering design. SWOF buildings typically have parking or a commercial storefront on the ground floor, leading to a relatively soft or weak lateral load resisting system in the lower story, which makes the building potentially hazardous in the event of an earthquake.
Soft Story Irregularity
|Weak Story Irregularity
Where a level is less than 70% as stiff as the floor above it or less than 80% as stiff as the average stiffness of the three floors above.
|Where a level has less than 80% of the lateral strength as the floor above it.
Mandatory Retrofit Requirements
Complying with the Program
- Learn about the PACE program, a new financing option for seismic retrofits now available in Berkeley.
If you are seeking an engineer or contractor, see links below for lists of design professionals. The City of Berkeley makes no representation as to the qualifications of these vendors.
- Structural Engineer Referral List - maintained by the Structural Engineer's Association of Northern California. To use this search, click on Project type to reveal a drop-down menu, then select multi-unit residential. Do not enter Berkeley as the name of the city, or the search will only provide engineers located in Berkeley. If the city is left blank, the search will generate a list of all engineers in the Bay area with experience with design for multi-unit residential buildings.
- Roster of Engineers who attended a seminar on guidelines for the preparation of seismic analysis reports required by Phase I of the Soft Story Program, hosted by the City of Berkeley in 2007.
- Vendor List 2016 Design professionals, contractors, and lenders who participated in the SF Earthquake Retrofit Fair, January 2016.
- Vendor List 2014 Design professionals, contractors, and lenders who participated in the SF Earthquake Retrofit Fair, January 2014.
For more information regarding Phase I of the Soft Story Program, Council adoption of the program and presentations about soft story buildings, please see Additional Information Regarding the Soft Story Program.
*If you believe a property should be added to the inventory of soft, weak or open front buildings, please let the Building and Safety Division know by filling out this form: REQUEST FOR SERVICE-Generic. Please bear in mind, the ordinance applies only to wood frame buildings with 5 or more dwelling units, constructed prior to 1978. If you have photos of the building, you can email those to email@example.com.
For more information about the Soft Story program, contact the Building and Safety Division, at (510) 981-7451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.