Soft Story San Francisco: A Guide for Property Owners

soft story san francisco

What is a Soft Story building?

A soft story building is a multi floor building in which one or more floors are “soft” due to the structural design of the property. A typical soft story building has three or more stories and the ground level has large openings, like large windows or a parking garage. Buildings are classified as having a “soft story” if one level is less than 70% as stiff as the level immediately above it OR less than 80% as stiff as the average stiffness of the three floors above it.

The design of soft story buildings makes them particularly vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake. In fact, soft story failure was responsible for nearly half of all homes that became uninhabitable in Northern California’s 1989 earthquake. In the event of a more significant earthquake in the Bay Area, experts predict that soft story buildings may cause severe damage and possible destruction of 160,000 homes.

Because of these risks, the City of San Francisco introduced the Soft Story Retrofit Program in 2013.

What is the San Francisco Soft Story Retrofit Program?

The Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program (MSSP) was created by the City of San Francisco with the purpose of ensuring the safety and resilience of the cities properties by retrofitting older, wooden frame, multi-family buildings that have a soft story condition.

Who does the program effect?

The program effects property owners of soft story buildings in San Francisco. Soft story buildings must be seismically strengthened to comply with the city ordinance. All effected property owners were notified in September 2013 and were required to submit screening forms to the Department of Building Inspections by September 2014. More specifically, the ordinance applies to wood-frame buildings with three of more stories or two stories over a basement or underfloor area that have any portion extending above grade, and containing five or more residential units where the construction permit was applied for before January 1978, and where the building has not yet been seismically upgraded. The final deadline for completion of work is September 2020.

Here is a more detailed timeline:

Soft Story San Francisco Compliance

How long does a Soft Story Retrofit take?

The construction timeframe of a Soft Story retrofit can vary depending on the building size and footprint. Current Construction are highly experienced with soft story retrofits in San Francisco and our retrofits generally take between 6 to 10 weeks. Please contact us for a more accurate time estimate.

How much does a Soft Story Retrofit cost?

A soft story retrofit is relatively cost effective when compared to the overall property value. Like the timeframe, the cost of a retrofit also varies depending on building size and footprint. In our experience, the typical cost falls between the $60,000 to $150,000 price range. Again, please contact us for a more accurate cost estimate. You can use our estimate form to reach us. Quiet often, an ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit) can help offset the cost of a soft story retrofit.

Current Construction has vast experience with Soft Story Retrofits in the Bay Area. We're available today to help with your property.

Contact us today with any questions or concerns that you have. We're happy to chat!

You may also get an estimate from us regarding any structural or seismic projects.