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Building and Safety Division
Building and Safety Division

Retrofit Grants

Owners of concrete, masonry, and soft story buildings can apply for seismic retrofit grants through Monday, June 25th.  

Retrofit Grants image

The City of Berkeley has received a Hazard Mitigation Grant from FEMA and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to provide seismic retrofit grants to owners of certain types of vulnerable buildings. The Retrofit Grants program reimburses a portion of seismic retrofit costs, helping Berkeley building owners increase safety and mitigate the risk of damage caused by earthquakes. See the program Flyer as well as the fact sheets below that provide more information on seismically vulnerable building types.

The table below shows maximum Design Grant and Construction Grant amounts for each eligible building type. Design grants may not exceed 75% of documented design costs related to the seismic retrofit of the building.

Building Type

Design Grant Maximum Size

Construction Grant Maximum Size
Non-Ductile Concrete $10,000 (cap at 75% of design cost)

$25,000 to $40,000  (cap at 40% of construction cost)

Tilt-up and other Rigid Wall -Flexible Diaphragm

$25,000 to $40,000  (cap at 40% of construction cost)

Soft Story 5+ residential units, non-residential, motels/hotels and   Unreinforced Masonry  $5,000
 (cap at 75% of design cost)
$20,000  (cap at 30% of construction cost)
Soft Story 3-4 unit building $15,000  (cap at 40% of construction cost)

Once applications are recCollapsed Tilt Upeived, staff will review them for eligibility. If more applications are received than can be funded, the City will place some applicants on a waiting list and may cap some grants for concrete or rigid wall - flexible diaphragm buildings at $25,000. Grants will be awarded based on criteria that include the building type, use, occupant load, number of stories, age, location and seismic hazard level.  

Single Family Homes and Duplexes

Retrofit Grants are not available for single family homes or duplexes. The Earthquake Brace + Bolt program is available for owner-occupied 1-4 unit residential buildings. The Seismic Retrofit Refund program (Transfer Tax Rebate) is available for all residential buildings for qualifying seismic work within one year of a property sale.  

How to Apply   

  1. Confirm your building is one of the building types eligible for a retrofit grant.
  2. Read and follow the requirements in the 2018 Program Rules
  3. Complete and submit an Application Form by Monday, June 25, 2018.
  4. Provide a minimum of three photographs of the building for FEMA's historic preservation review process, following the FEMA Photography Instructions. Upload photos electronically at

Program Deadlines (Round Two)

Milestones Deadline
Submit Application Form June 25, 2018
Late Applications may be considered, with lower priority July 11, 2018
City will notify owners by email of their design grant status and tentative construction grant award level, subject to FEMA review Aug 7, 2018
FEMA review of project (Construction Grant approval subject to City staff review of permit drawings.) Anticipated FEMA response: December 2018 - March 2019
Apply for a Building Permit (Applying earlier is preferable.) Apr 1, 2019
City staff will review drawings for compliance with FEMA's requirements and notify you of your Construction Grant approval Construction grant approval can occur once a building permit application is submitted and FEMA's review of your project is completed.
Obtain building permit or permit with a status of "ready for issuance" and request reimbursement for Design Grant Aug 1, 2019
Complete construction with an approved final inspection and request reimbursement for Construction Grant Within nine months of receiving notification of FEMA approval of your project.

Why Retrofit? Small soft storybuilding 

To learn more about the vulnerabilities of these building types and for answers to frequently asked questions, please review the program fact sheets:

Technical Guidelines

Technical Guidelines describe the retrofit design requirements for each building type. Please share these with your architect or engineer.

Projects that will result in substantial exterior alterations, or that will result in visible impacts to the exterior façade or other character-defining element of a potentially historic building, are subject to detailed review by FEMA and design drawings for such projects must be submitted for FEMA's review by the grant application deadline.

Grant Reimbursements

Grants will be paid as reimbursements for design fees paid to licensed professionals and construction costs paid to licensed contractors for seismic retrofits. FEMA mitigation payments that benefit property owners through the mitigation of their structures are not subject to Federal income taxation. See page 87, section D7 of FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Assistance Guidance.

To receive grant funding, a Reimbursement Request must be submitted with copies of invoices and cancelled checks proving payment to contractors. Design costs will be reimbursed after the building permit is obtained or the permit has a status of ready for issuanceConstruction costs will be reimbursed after the final inspection of the completed retrofit project.        

Grant Funding CAN be used for: Grant Funding CANNOT be used for:
Design costs paid to California licensed engineers or architects Permit fees 
Construction costs paid to California licensed contractors (including materials and labor) Design or construction costs unrelated to the seismic retrofit (such as remodeling an apartment)

Costs of special inspections and structural observation

Amounts paid in cash or to unlicensed entities

Design Grants

Design Grants are available for engineering and architecture fees for design costs incurred after September 22, 2015. Design fees incurred prior to this date are not eligible for grant funding. Design Grants are not available for projects that have already begun construction. Design Grants will be limited to 75% of actual design expenditures. 

Design Grant recipients must submit for reimbursement by the deadline in the table above to be guaranteed Design Grant funding.

How to Receive your Design Grant Reimbursement:

  1. Follow the instructions for seeking multiple proposals from design professionals and provide the required documentation to the City. You can use the Documentation of Engineer Proposals form to document your selection of a design professional.
  2. Obtain a Building Permit or a permit with a status of "ready for issuance".
  3. Submit a Reimbursement Request with copies of invoices for the full cost of the seismic retrofit design and copies of cancelled checks proving payment to design professionals. 

Construction Grants

Construction Grant applicants must wait for notification of FEMA approval before beginning construction on their retrofits. Projects that begin construction prior to FEMA approval will lose Construction Grant eligibility.

Please contact us if you applied for a Construction Grant in Round One of the program (spring 2017) and are uncertain of your FEMA approval status. 

How to Receive your Construction Grant Reimbursement:   

  1. Follow the instructions for seeking multiple bids from contractors, and provide the required documentation to the City. You can use the Documentation of Contractor Bids form to document your selection of a contractor.
  2. Visit to confirm your contractor’s license is current.
  3. Wait to be notified by the City of Berkeley that FEMA has approved your project to begin construction.
  4. Complete retrofit construction within nine months of FEMA approval (six months for Round One projects).  
  5. Obtain all the required inspections, including an approved final inspection.
  6. Submit a Reimbursement Request with copies of invoices for the full cost of the seismic retrofit construction and copies of cancelled checks proving payment to the contractor.

Permit Valuation

The amount of a Construction Grant will be determined based on a project cost equal to or below the stated valuation on the building permit application. If construction costs exceed the stated valuation, owners should contact us to increase the permit valuation and obtain a revised permit prior to the final inspection in order to maximize their grant size. Once the final inspection occurs and the permit is closed, it will not be possible to revise the valuation.

Hiring an Engineer

  • Visit Hiring Design Professionals and Contractors for guidance.
  • Referral Lists: The City of Berkeley makes no representation as to the qualifications of the engineers listed on referral lists. 
    • Soft Story: Several referral sources for engineers experienced with soft story retrofits are available on the Soft Story webpage under the heading Design Professionals.
    • Concrete: A number of engineers experienced with retrofits of concrete buildings served on an Expert Engineer Advisory Team convened by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute to assist the City of Berkeley with a preliminary survey of concrete buildings.
    • SEAONC Structural Engineer Referral List

Round One (2017) Program Information

Grant funding in Round One was limited to the following types of buildings: 

In Round One, owners could apply for up to $5,000 for Design Costs and either 30% or 40% of Construction Costs up to a total of $25,000. Grants awarded in Round One are subject to the 2017 Reimbursement GuidelinesThe information and forms above relating to the grant reimbursement process apply to all projects in the program.

Program Forms and Documents


Email or call Jonathan Cherry at (510) 981-7475 or Jenny McNulty at (510) 981-7451.


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