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The Oakland Soft-Story Ordinance Revisited

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the City of Oakland’s first training session for soft-story evaluators. It really helped to clarify the City’s intent in creating two levels of screening.

The purpose of the Level 1 Screening form is really to quickly and cost-effectively eliminate buildings from the inventory which are not soft-story. Level 2 evaluations will be required for all buildings determined to be soft-story buildings or suspected soft story buildings with complex plan layouts and/or buildings with the drop in ground elevation of more than 6 feet over the width or length of a building.

Additionally, the city officials encourage owners to complete the Level 2 evaluation immediately if their evaluator believes that the building will be subject to the Level 2 requirement. In this respect, it will be advantageous to hire a structural engineer to look at your building – a structural engineer will be able to let you know if you should submit a Level 2 evaluation in addition to the Level 1 screening form. There is no need for a Level 1 screening if an Engineered report is submitted instead.  If the owner needs more time to have an engineered report prepared, a truncated version of a Level 1 screening can be submitted indicating that a level 2 evaluation is in the works.  For such an abbreviated report, the filing fee will be waived.

The list of buildings on the soft-story inventory will not be available to the public until all of the notifications have been sent out. However, if you’re interested in finding out if your building is on the inventory, you can contact the City of Oakland building department. Finally, if you are interested having an engineer look at your building, please give us a call or email me at sasha at enginious-structures.com.  The first consultation is free.

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