Santa Monica Seismic Retrofit Ordinance

The city of Santa Monica developed a seismic retrofit plan following the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It was the first city in the Southern California region to establish aggressive regulations targeted toward wood-frame soft-story structures. However, many buildings within Santa Monica did not comply with this ordinance.

To update the outdated ordinance, the city of Santa Monica passed a comprehensive seismic retrofit program on March 28, 2017.  In addition to wood-frame soft-story structures, the program also addresses unreinforced masonry, concrete tilt-up, steel moment frame, and non-ductile concrete buildings. Amendments to the seismic retrofit program regarding wood-frame soft-story buildings can be found in Chapter 8.72 of the Ordinance.


Santa Monica’s mandatory wood-frame soft-story program applies to existing buildings that have the following characteristics:

  • Wood-frame construction
  • Built under building code standards enacted before November 10, 1980
  • Ground floor containing parking or similar open floor or basement space causing soft, weak, or open wall lines where there exists at least one or more floor levels above

Ordinance compliance for single-family homes is voluntary. Buildings which have already completed all required seismic retrofit work prior to the adoption of this ordinance, with lateral load resisting analysis, structural design plans, and valid final approval from the City of Santa Monica, are exempt from the ordinance requirements.  However, previously retrofitted buildings with the following characteristics are subject to the ordinance requirements despite previous retrofit work:

  • Buildings with pole structures supporting the soft, weak, or open front wall lines
  • Buildings of three or more stories with horizontal structural irregularities of Type 2, 3, 4, or 5 in ASCE 7-10 Table 12.3-1

In total, over 2,000 buildings in Santa Monica have been identified to fall within the scope of the City’s comprehensive seismic retrofit plan.  The inventory of wood-frame soft-story buildings has been made public by the Santa Monica Planning and Community Development Department (updated January 31, 2017).

Building Owner Noticing Schedule

Implementation of the Santa Monica wood-frame soft-story ordinance will be carried out in phases. The timeline for compliance for each unique structure begins following distribution of the Order from the Building Official. Orders will be issued according to the priority levels outlined below.

More than 2 storiesJuly 24, 2017
16 or more dwelling unitsOctober 16, 2017
2 stories with 7 to 15 dwelling unitsNovember 27, 2017
2 stories with less than 7 unitsFebruary 19, 2018–August 6, 2018

Building Owner Completion Timeline

The city of Santa Monica requires that wood-frame soft-story building retrofits adhere to the timeline shown below. The timeline for each building type is initiated following service of the Order to the Owner. Orders will be delivered according to the phases outlined above.

BEGIN PROCESSService of the Order to the Building Owner
2 YEARS AFTER ORDER Deadline to submit structural evaluation report
3 YEARS AFTER ORDERDeadline to submit application for building permit and plans
6 YEARS AFTER ORDERDeadline for final approval

Seismic Retrofit Compliance Time Frame

The following table shows the five types of buildings and compliance time frames. These buildings exhibit characteristics that make them less resilient to earthquakes. Please note that compliance dates will be calculated from the date the owner receives notice from the Building Officer.

Potentially Seismically Vulnerable Buildings TypeStructural Evaluation Report DueRetrofit Must be Completed Within
Unreinforced Masonry Buildings3 Months2 Years
Concrete Tilt-Up Building4 Months3 Years
Soft-Story Buildings2 Years6 Years
Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings3 Years10 Years
Steel Moment Frame Buildings3 Years20 Years
Single FamilyN/A (Voluntary)N/A (Voluntary)

Santa Monica Seismic Retrofit Program Media

Santa Monica Seismic Retrofit FAQ

How do I know if my building is included in the program?

The City has prepared a list of buildings included in the program that will be required to complete a structural analysis. Inclusion of a building on the list is not confirmation that the building is structurally deficient, hazardous or unsafe.

Buildings owners will also receive a notice from the City that it is included in the program, with timelines for compliance. To verify if your property is included, explore our searchable map.

Does being on the List mean that my building is hazardous or vulnerable?

No. Appearance on the List is the City’s best analysis in identifying the building in one of the five major categories. Appearance on the List does not necessarily mean that your building is unsafe, or will require retrofit.

How much time do I have to retrofit my building?

Compliance timeframes are based on the type of building and begin from the date that you are issued a notice from the City. Notices will be issued between May 2017 and August 2018 based on the following priorities, outlined in proposed noticing schedule:

Priority 1: Unreinforced Masonry Buildings and Concrete Tilt-Up Buildings
Priority 2: Soft-Story Buildings with 3 or more stories
Priority 3: Soft-Story Buildings with 16 or more units
Priority 4: Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings and Steel Moment Frame Buildings
Priority 5: Soft-Story Buildings with 7 to 15 units
Priority 6: Soft-Story Buildings with 6 or less units

Note: All notices issued by the City to property owners City will include actual compliance dates.

If my building is on the List included in the program, what steps do I need to take to ensure compliance?

Step 1: Notify Tenants
Step 2: Complete a Structural Evaluation.Step 3: Submit the Structural Evaluation to the City by the deadline provided in your notice.
Step 4: Prepare and submit a retrofit plan to Building and Safety for plan check if the Building Officer determines that your building requires a seismic retrofit.
Step 5: If the building is a residential rental building, complete a Means and Methods plan and notify tenants in accordance with the City’s Tenant Protection During Construction guidelines.
Step 6: Obtain construction permits.
Step 7: Complete the seismic retrofit.

Who can complete a Structural Evaluation for me?

A California licensed civil or structural engineer or registered architect must perform the structural analysis. Their subsequent report must report the findings and deficiencies of the building and their recommendation for a retrofit. These professionals may be found through several professional and government resources:

Registered Professional Licensed Engineers:
Registered Architects:
Structural Engineering Association of So Cal:

If the Structural Evaluation determines that a Retrofit is not required, am I done?

The Evaluation still must be submitted to Building and Safety for review. If the Building Officer confirms that a Retrofit is not required, the City will issue you a letter acknowledging that your building is in compliance. At this time, no further work is required related to the retrofit program requirements.

Will I get verification from the City after I complete the Seismic Retrofit of my building?

After City Building inspectors have approved the completion of the work, the City will issue a “Certificate of Completion of Seismic Retrofit Work” for your records. All property information in the City’s database will identify the property as being compliant with the 2017 Seismic Retrofit Program.

Can I appeal an order that declares my building Potentially Seismically Vulnerable?

Yes. After receiving an Order, it may be appealed by completing an Appeal Request Form within 60 days of the date on the Order. An appeal form will be included with the order. Appeals are heard by the Building And Fire-Life Safety Commission whose decision is final, except for judicial review. The Commission will decide on any Appeal within 90 days after the filing of the Appeal.

If your building is on the City’s List of Potentially Vulnerable Buildings, and therefore scheduled to receive a notice, you may also file for reconsideration with the Building Officer.

To file for reconsideration, please contact the Building and Safety Division at 310-458-8355 or

Important Note: The reconsideration is an administrative review, which is intended to achieve a quick resolution when an owner has clear evidence that a building has either been retrofitted, or does not meet the conditions required to be included in the program.

To ensure that a determination can be completed within enough time to still meet compliance deadlines, you should provide copies of any documentation that verifies the retrofit and/or have a licensed engineer or registered architect write a letter stating that the building is in compliance or that it does not meet the characteristics established by the Seismic Retrofit Ordinance as requiring evaluation. The letter of the licensed professional must bear the stamp and signature of this professional.

Seismic Retrofit Ordinance Number 2537 (CCS)

To read the full ordinance, click here.

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