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Information for City of Alameda Soft-Story Building Owners

In March 2009, the City of Alameda passed a soft-story ordinance to promote public safety and welfare by reducing the risk of death or injury resulting from the effects of earthquakes on soft-story buildings. The ordinance requires all soft-story building owners to file a seismic analysis engineering report prepared by a licensed structural engineer.

The cost of preparing this report depends on the size, complexity and type of construction of the building. If your building has been identified as a soft-story building, please call our office at (510) 272-9999 for a free in-office consultation.

If you have been notified that your building is on the City of Alameda Soft-story inventory list you will need to follow the timeline as outlined below and/or take the following action:

  • Within 60 days of notification building owners must install an earthquake-actuated gas shutoff valve in their building.
  • Building owners will have 60 days from the date of service to file an appeal with the Building Official to remove their building from the inventory of soft-story buildings. The documentation for the appeal requires engineering analysis using the the International Existing Building Code. If you think your building might be erroneously included on the inventory of soft-story buildings, Enginious Structures can help prepare the necessary documentation to file for the appeal.
    • If the appeal is denied, building owners have 10 days to appeal the decision of the Building Official to the Housing and Building Code Hearing and Appeals Board. Enginious Structures is available to provide you the engineering support as required for this hearing.
  • Within 18 months of notification, building owners must notify all tenants in writing that the building is included on the soft-story inventory list, and mail a copy of each tenant notification with proof of service to the Planning and Building Department of the City of Alameda. Building owners must also post a warning sign within five feet of each main entrance warning occupants and visitors that the building is a soft-story building.
  • Within 18 months of notification, building owners must submit a detailed seismic engineering evaluation report prepared by a qualified California licensed structural engineer which analyzes the structural ability of the building to resist the seismic effects of an earthquake.
    • If the report is submitted within 3 months of notification, the City of Alameda will waive 100% of the report review fees. Within 6 months of notification, 75% of fees will be waived. Within 9 months of notification, 50% of fees will be waived, and within 12 months of notification, 25% of fees will be waived. The amount of the report review fees is not known at this time.
    • The deadline for the submittal of the report is accelerated if the building undergoes a repair or addition valued at more than $100,000, the use of the building changes, or if the building is deemed to be unsafe. You must then submit a seismic engineering report at that time.

Presently, retrofit of your building is voluntary, but you must retrofit your building to have it removed from the City of Alameda soft-story inventory list. Additionally, if you choose to retrofit your building now, the City of Alameda will waive all plan review and inspection fees for soft-story retrofit projects if they are submitted within 18 months of notification. By retrofitting your building now, you are also protecting your property and tenants in the event of an earthquake.

Enginious Structures, Inc. has been working extensively with the City of Berkeley whose Soft-Story Ordinance has been used as a model by the City of Alameda. We can ensure that your building is in compliance with the soft-story ordinance. Out of the dozens of seismic reports Enginious Structures has prepared, all of them have been approved and many retrofits have successfully been completed to the full satisfaction of the building owners. For examples of our soft-story projects, please visit our Soft-Story Project Gallery.

By choosing Enginious Structures to complete your seismic engineering report, you can ensure that it will be cost-effective, innovative, practical and sustainable.

For more information about preparing a soft-story report, please email us at info@enginious-structures.com or call our office at (510) 272-9999 to speak with a structural engineer experienced in seismic analysis and retrofit design.

More information about the City of Alameda’s soft-story ordinance can be found on our Soft Story Blog or at http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/services/mcfann_softstory.html.

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