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Alameda Soft-Story Ordinance Requirements

If you believe that your building is a soft-story building, it may be a good idea to have a licensed engineer take a look at your building before you receive a notification from the city, as the time line for appeals is tight, and requires engineering analysis. Your engineer should be able to tell you if your building is definitely subject to the ordinance, or if it may be worthwhile to file an appeal.

If you receive a notification that your building is on the soft-story inventory, you will need to 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 will likely require preliminary 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, your engineer 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 determines the presence of the soft-story condition and 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.
This information is also available on our website’s Soft-Story Alameda page , along with information regarding the requirements of other Bay Area soft-story ordinances.

How much will the engineering report cost?

The cost of an engineering report will vary depending on the size of the building, the number of units, stories, and areas where repair may be required. Costs also depend on whether existing or as-built drawings are available, and specific municipal report requirements.

Of the 15 reports we completed for the City of Berkeley’s soft-story ordinance, fees ranged from $1250 per unit for an engineering report and as-built drawings for a small two-story building, to $500 per unit for a report, soft story seismic upgrade drawings and calculations for a 51,000 square foot, three-story building with both residential units and commercial spaces on the ground floor. However, as costs per building can vary greatly, have us prepare a free estimate for your building.

In our next post, we’ll talk about the benefits of completing a seismic retrofit voluntarily, and typical construction costs.

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