Building and Safety
Building and Safety

Soft Story Program - Regulations for potentially hazardous buildings containing soft, weak or open front stories ("SWOF")

On December 3, 2013 City Council adopted Ordinance No. 7,318-N.S. amending Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 19.39 to require property owners of soft, weak or open front ("SWOF") buildings with five or more dwelling units to retrofit their buildings within the next five years. Owners have three years to apply for a building permit and two years to complete the work after submitting their permit application. The law applies to buildings constructed prior to 1978 and takes effect January 4, 2014. This is the second phase of the Soft Story Program.

Under the first phase of the soft story program, since 2005, SWOF building owners have been required to submit an engineering evaluation report identifying their building's weaknesses and ways to remedy those weaknesses, to post an earthquake warning sign and notify their tenants of the building's potentially hazardous condition.

A soft, weak or open front (“SWOF”) building is a wood-frame building with more than one story that typically has parking, a commercial storefront or other similar open floor spaces on the ground floor. This leads to a relatively soft or weak lateral load resisting system in the lower story and makes the building potentially hazardous in the event of an earthquake. 

Phase II of the Soft Story Program: Mandatory Retrofit Requirements (Effective January, 2014)

Design Professionals

If you are seeking an engineer or contractor, here are links to several lists of design professionals. The City of Berkeley makes no representation as to the qualifications of these vendors.

  • Roster of Engineers who attended a seminar on guidelines for the preparation of seismic analysis reports required by Phase I of the Soft Story Program, hosted by the City of Berkeley in 2007.
  • Design Professional: A list of engineers and contractors compiled by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).
  • Vendor List  Design professionals, contractors, and lenders who participated in the SF Earthquake Retrofit Fair, January 2014.  

Phase I of the Soft Story Program (Adopted in 2005): Engineering Evaluation Report

Presentations/Articles

City Council Reports

*If you believe a property should be added to the inventory of soft, weak or open front buildings, please let the Building and Safety Division know by filling out this form: REQUEST FOR SERVICE-Generic.  Please bear in mind, the ordinance applies only to wood frame buildings with 5 or more dwelling units, constructed prior to 1978. If you have photos of the building, you can email those to jmcnulty@cityofberkeley.info

For more information about the Soft Story program, contact the Building and Safety Division, at (510) 981-7451, or jmcnulty@cityofberkeley.info

 

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