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Building and Safety Division
Building and Safety Division

Retrofit Grants

The 2020-2021 application period for the Retrofit Grants Program is now open!  

The City of Berkeley has received a second 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 grant-eligible building types.

Projects will be prioritized based on the building's use and occupant load, size, number of stories, age, location on a commercial corridor with high foot traffic, building type, and the seismic hazard level of the building. The Building and Safety Division may authorize larger grant amounts for projects of significant community benefit. The table below shows maximum Design Grant and Construction Grant amounts for each eligible building type:

Building Type

Design Grant Maximum Size

Construction Grant Maximum Size
Non-Ductile Concrete  $10,000 (cap at 75% of  Design Costs)
 $25,000 to $150,000 (Cap at   40% of Construction Costs)
Tilt-up and other RWFD
Soft Story 5+ residential units, non-residential, and hotels/motels  $5,000 (cap at 75% of  Design Costs)       $25,000 to $150,000 (Cap at   40% of Construction Costs)
Unreinforced Masonry
Soft Story 3-4 residential units  $5,000 (cap at 75% of  Design Costs)  $15,000 to $20,000 (Cap at     40% of Construction Costs
Other Wood-Framed Buildings
5+ residential units
 $10,000 (cap at 75% of  Design Costs)  To Be Determined
Other Wood-Framed Buildings
3-4 residential units
 $5,000 (cap at 75% of  Design Costs) 

*The maximum Construction Grant size for any project cannot exceed 75% of the permit valuation or actual retrofit costs, whichever is lower. Grant maximums for each building type vary according to demand, occupancy, and square footage. If a seismic code enforcement case is open for the building, grants will be capped at $25,000. 

Collapsed Tilt UpSingle 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 within one year of a property sale.  

How to Apply   

  1. Confirm your building is one of the building types eligible for a grant.
  2. Read and follow the requirements in the 2020 Program Rules
  3. Complete and submit an Application Form by Monday, July 1, 2021. Apply before October 30, 2020 for earliest consideration.
  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 https://cityofberkeley.app.box.com/f/e47ff928099a4177add16e84437989d2.
Once applications are received, 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.

Retrofit Grant Conditions of Approval

Program Deadlines

Applicants must meet all program deadlines to retain eligibility for grant funding. If an owner does not meet the deadline to apply for a building permit, and has not been approved for a time extension, the City reserves the right to provide funding to a project on the waitlist instead.

Program Milestones Key Dates
Submit Retrofit Grants Program Application. Application period opens on September 1st, 2020. Apply before October 30th, 2020 for earliest consideration. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through July 1st, 2021.
City will notify applicants by email of their design grant status and tentative construction grant award level, subject to FEMA review. A review of initial applications will take place after October 30th and owners will be notified by November 23rd, 2020 of their status. Thereafter, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and awards will be made 4-6 weeks after applications are submitted.
Follow the requirements in the 2020 Program Rules and secure multiple bids from engineers and contractors. As soon as possible, start gathering bids from design and construction professionals.
Apply for a Building Permit and respond to any City issued correction lists. Within 6 months of receiving grant approval letter and no later than November 1st, 2021.
City staff will review drawings for compliance with City and FEMA's requirements, then confirm your Construction Grant award; Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) review performed either by FEMA or designated City staff. After a building permit application is submitted.
Obtain a Building Permit. Notify program staff of any changes to the City and FEMA approved scope of work. Eligible applicants can request reimbursement for a design grant once their permit is ready for issuance. Within 6 months of submitting a building permit application and no later than April 1st, 2022.
Complete construction and receive approved final inspection. Eligible applicants can request reimbursement for construction grants after obtaining an approved final inspection. Within 9 months of permit issuance and no later than October 3rd, 2022.

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

These 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 permit issuance may be delayed. If you anticipate exterior alterations will be included in your project's scope of work, please include elevation drawings clearly showing any exterior changes when submitting a building permit application, in addition to the structural drawings.

Grant Reimbursements

Grants will be paid as reimbursements for design fees paid to licensed design 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 funds, a Reimbursement Request must be submitted with copies of invoices and cancelled checks proving payment to design professionals and 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 has been approved.        

These costs are ELIGIBLE for grant reimbursement: These costs are NOT ELIGIBLE for grant reimbursement:
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 seismic retrofit design costs incurred after May 27, 2020. 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 seismic retrofit design expenditures and capped at either $5,000 or $10,000 depending on building type. Design Grant recipients must submit for reimbursement by June 1st 2022 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. Visit https://search.dca.ca.gov/ to confirm design professional's license is current.
  3. Submit a signed copy of the Retrofit Grant Conditions of Approval owner agreement and Engineer Provision.
  4. Obtain a Building Permit or a permit with a status of "ready for issuance".
  5. 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 recipients must submit for reimbursement by November 1st, 2022 to be guaranteed Construction Grant funding.

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 www.cslb.ca.gov to confirm your contractor’s license is current.
  3. Submit a signed copy of the Retrofit Grant Conditions of Approval (if not previously submitted) and Contractor Provision.
  4. Complete retrofit construction within nine (9) months of permit issuance, no later than October 3rd, 2022.
  5. Obtain all required City 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.
  7. Submit an Owner Certification Upon Completion form.

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 may contact staff to increase the permit valuation prior to permit issuance in order to maximize their grant size. Additional permit fees will apply and you may be subject to additional requirements.

Hiring Design and Construction Professionals

  • 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  

Construction Contracts Exceeding $250,000

For construction contracts exceeding $250,000, additional procurement methods and documentation may be required for Retrofit Grants Program participants. Please speak with program staff prior to selecting your contractor if you anticipate your construction contract will exceed $250,000.

 Program Forms and Documents


Email retrofitgrants@cityofberkeley.info or call Galadriel Burr at (510) 981-7475.


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