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Building and Safety Division
Building and Safety Division

Retrofit Grants

The deadline to apply for the 2018 round of grants was June 25, 2018. 

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 grant-eligible building types.

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 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)

Collapsed Tilt UpThe City has reviewed all applications for eligibility. Some applicants have been placed on a waiting list and most grants for concrete and rigid wall - flexible diaphragm buildings have been capped at $25,000. Grants were awarded based on criteria that include the building type, use, occupant load, number of stories, age, location and seismic hazard level. Applications received during the late application period through July 11th received lower priority than on-time applications. 

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 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 Milestones (Round Two)

Milestones Date
Property owners were notified 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 building permit drawings.) Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) Review performed by either FEMA or by designated City of Berkeley staff Anticipated response: December 2018 - March 2019
Building Permit application deadline (Applying earlier is preferable!) Apr 1, 2019
City staff will review drawings for compliance with both City and FEMA's requirements and then confirm your Construction Grant award. After a building permit application is submitted.
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 (9) months of receiving notification of EHP 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 and presentation:

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 design drawings for such projects must be submitted for FEMA's review by the grant application deadline (June 25, 2018).

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.        

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 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 seismic retrofit 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

 2017 applicants: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 your project has cleared EHP review and been approved to begin construction. Projects that begin construction prior to EHP approval will lose Construction Grant eligibility.
  4. Complete retrofit construction within nine (9) months of FEMA approval (six months for Round One projects).  
  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.

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 us 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 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 (2017), owners could apply for up to $5,000 for Design Grants 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 rounds of the program.

Program Forms and Documents


Email or call Galadriel Burr at (510) 981-7475.


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