City of Santa Monica Passes Mandatory Seismic Ordinance


The City of Santa Monica has been an active proponent of seismic safety since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Previous ordinances have either been voluntary or triggered by major renovations to a building. In a wide-spread effort to improve the safety of Santa Monica, Degenkolb Engineers was hired by the city in 2014 to help them understand the potential vulnerabilities and construction types of their existing building stock. From this information, the city was able to craft a comprehensive seismic program that will seismically strengthen five critically vulnerable building types in a proactive time frame.

What types of buildings are targeted by the mandatory seismic ordinance for existing buildings?
• Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Buildings
• Concrete Tilt-Up Buildings
• Wood Soft-Story Buildings
• Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings
• Pre-Northridge Steel Moment Frame Buildings

What is the time frame to comply with the mandatory ordinance?
The first notification letters are expected to be sent out in May of 2017 for URM buildings. Notifications for other building types will be released at various intervals through August of 2018. Once a notification is received, the building owner has from 3 months to 3 years, depending on the type of building construction, to complete and submit an evaluation report.  Depending on the size and type of building construction, a licensed structural engineer may be required to perform the evaluation. If a retrofit is deemed to be required, then the mandatory time frame to comply with the retrofit will vary from 2 to 20 years depending on building type.

What does it mean if a building owner receives a seismic ordinance notification for their building?
Receiving a seismic ordinance notification means that a building has been identified by a preliminary, visual examination as being potentially vulnerable to significant damage in an earthquake, and therefore targeted by a mandatory seismic ordinance. Not all buildings receiving a notification will require a seismic retrofit. An engineer, hired by the owner, may determine that the targeted building does not require retrofitting. If that is the case, then the engineer will provide the owner a report that can be submitted to the city stating as such. If the building is determined to be vulnerable, the services of an engineer and/or architect and a general contractor will be required to develop retrofit drawings and complete the required seismic retrofit work.

Where can I get further information on seismic ordinances in my area?
Click here for further information regarding the City of Santa Monica’s ordinance.
Click here for further information on the targeted building construction types, and their vulnerabilities and other seismic ordinances in California and the Pacific Northwest.

For questions please contact:
Daniel Zepeda, Principal at Degenkolb Engineers  213.596.5014