Breaking News: City of Oakland to become the next city to implement a mandatory seismic ordinance

On January 22nd 2019, the City of Oakland joined other Bay Area cities by passing a resolution to institute a mandatory soft-story retrofit program. The resolution, introduced by Council member Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf, is designed to save lives and reduce the potential for housing displacement in Oakland in the event of a major earthquake. The legislation requires that soft-story wood frame buildings with two to seven stories, five or more residential units, and built prior to 1991, be seismically retrofitted. The new program is similar to programs already implemented in San Francisco, Berkeley, Alameda, Fremont, and San Leandro.

Which types of buildings are targeted under this ordinance?
The ordinance covers multi-story wood soft-story buildings built before 1991 with tuck under parking. In 2008, the City and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) identified 24,273 residential units in 1,479 potential soft-story buildings in Oakland based on criteria representing the greatest seismic risk.

What is the time frame to comply with the mandatory wood soft-story ordinance?
The City of Oakland already had a screening ordinance in place so most of the buildings on the list have already been screened here. For buildings not screened, the city will issue notices to owners of potential soft-story buildings. Once a notification letter is received, the building owner is required to submit a screening form. In some cases, a licensed structural engineer, or qualified architect may be required to perform an evaluation. If a retrofit is deemed to be required, the mandatory time frame to comply with the retrofit will be four to six years from the time the first notice was received depending on the number of dwelling units as shown below:

Building Group or Compliance Tier Document that building is not a subject building Document that building is eligible for a later compliance tier Complete mandatory evaluation and submit initial affidavit of compliance  Obtain retrofit permit or submit Target Story evaluation report Perform retrofit work and obtain approval on final inspection; submit final affidavit of compliance
Non-subject buildings 1 Year NA NA NA NA
Tier 1 (Buildings with 20 or more Dwelling Units) NA 1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 4 Years
Tier 2 (Buildings with between 5 and 19 Dwelling Units)  NA 1 Year 3 Years 4 Years 5 Years
Tier 3 (Buildings with legally permitted Residential occupancy in a Wood Frame Target Story) NA 1 Year 4 Years 5 Years 6 Years


What does it mean if a building owner receives a seismic ordinance notification?
Receiving a seismic ordinance notification means that a building has been identified as being potentially vulnerable to significant damage in an earthquake. Not all buildings receiving a notification will require a seismic retrofit. Evaluation by a licensed engineer, hired by the building owner may determine that the targeted building does not require retrofitting. If that is the case, then the owner or hired engineer will provide the city with suitable documentation in order to remove the building from the list. If the building is determined to be vulnerable, the services of an engineer and/or architect, and a general contractor will be required. They will then develop retrofit drawings and complete the necessary seismic retrofit work as required by the ordinance.

Where can I get further information on the Oakland seismic ordinances? 
For more information, click here.

For information on other city seismic ordinances, please click on the Degenkolb website.

If there are any further questions, please contact:

Lucie Fougner, Associate Principal at Degenkolb Engineers  510.250.1219

Kirk Johnston, Principal at Degenkolb Engineers  415.354.6408

Daniel Zepeda, Principal at Degenkolb Engineers  213.596.5014