Process 2019-10-30T17:21:35+00:00

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1. Engineering

When you call the soft-story seismic retrofit structural engineers and construction experts at American Retrofitters, the first thing we will do is verify whether or not your apartment building falls within the Los Angeles Seismic Retrofit Program. If it does, we will schedule a time to have one of our field investigators inspect your property as soon as possible, and at a time that is most convenient for you.

American Retrofitters will conduct a brief investigation, taking a combination of pictures and measurements to evaluate the seismic strength of your Los Angeles apartment building. Because some of the buildings that have been included in the Soft-Story Retrofit Program may already meet or exceed the requirements of Los Angeles Ordinance No. 183893, we may recommend appealing the Order to Comply. Appeals must be made within 60 days of receipt of the Order, so it is important to act quickly!

If your apartment building does not meet the minimum requirements of the Los Angeles Retrofit Program, the experts at American Retrofitters will value-engineer the best design to bring it into compliance with the lowest construction cost possible, and will provide you with a no risk, no obligation, design-build proposal, absolutely free.

Once the proposal has been accepted, American Retrofitters will return to conduct a more thorough analysis, sample some of the exterior finish, and obtain the as-built measurements necessary to complete the plans, accurate calculations, and pass the permitting processes.

Key Takeaways

  • FREE Inspection
  • FREE Estimate
  • Value-engineering
  • Lower Cost of Construction

2. Tenant Habitability Plan

Once engineering has been completed, American Retrofitters will develop the Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) as required by the Tenant Habitability Program of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA). The legal requirements of the program can be found in Section 152.00 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC).

The Los Angeles Tenant Habitability Program requires the development of a Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) in order to mitigate the impact on tenants during seismic retrofit work (which qualifies as major construction). The goal of the Los Angeles Tenant Habitability Program is to ensure that tenants can safely remain in place during the seismic retrofitting and construction, and if they can not, to ensure that tenants are provided temporary relocation when construction makes their apartments untenantable.

The THP must include ownership information, property identification, a list of tenants and rent rolls, and an estimate of the duration of the seismic retrofitting and construction. It should describe the anticipated impact that seismic retrofitting and construction will have on the apartments and common areas, and it should propose plans to mitigate that impact. For example, the THP must cover planned temporary disruptions to utilities such as water, electrical, gas, and sewer services.

  • The THP will only be accepted if it adequately mitigates the impact of seismic retrofitting and construction.
  • Once accepted, a copy of the THP must be served on the tenants.
  • Tenants have 15 days to appeal the THP.
  • If appealed, HCIDLA will conduct an appeal hearing.

American Retrofitters, we will take care of the entire THP process for you, including tenant notification, plan application, and any potential appeals and hearings.

Key Takeaways

  • A THP Is Required
  • THPs Must be Served onto Tenants
  • Tenants Have 15 Days to Appeal
  • If Appealed, HCIDLA Will Conduct a Hearing
  • Once Approved, Permit(s) Will Be Issued
  • American Retrofitters Will Handle the Entire THP Process

3. Permitting & Plan Checks

Los Angeles soft-story property owners should hire or contract with a State of California licensed structural engineer, like American Retrofitters, to prepare all the technical documents necessary to show compliance with the Los Angeles Retrofit Ordinance. Building owners have 2 years from the receipt of the Order to Comply to submit proof of previous retrofit or plans to retrofit. American Retrofitters will submit the permit documents to the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) for review by plan check staff.

American Retrofitters will also obtain clearance from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) for the tenant habitability plan, from the Department of City Planning if the building is historical and/or in a Historical Preservation Overlay Zone, and from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) if means of egress will be altered.

Depending on the size and scope of the work, the plan check process can either proceed through Expanded Counter Plan Check Service (ECPC) or the Regular Plan Check Service (RPC). The ECPC offers the convenience of an over-the-counter plan check review on the same day a project is submitted for plan check review. The projects that qualify for ECPC are typically minor in complexity and can be plan checked in 90 minutes or less. Larger or more complex projects must proceed through the RPC  wherein the plans will be reviewed within weeks.

After the submitted permit documents have been reviewed by LADBS plan check staff, they will be returned along with a Plan Review List and a Clearance Summary Work Sheet. American Retrofitters will address all the items on the Plan Review List, if any, via written responses referencing the revised set of plans and/or structural analysis, and return for plan check verification. Once reviewed and approved for compliance, building permits will be issued allowing seismic retrofitting and construction to begin. Los Angeles soft-story building owners must obtain permits to start construction within 3.5 years from receipt of the Order to Comply.

To learn more about the permitting process, please read American Retrofitters’ Permitting Process Guide.

Key Takeaways

  • Proof of Previous Retrofit or Plans to Retrofit Must Be Submitted Within 2 Years From Receipt of the Order to Comply
  • American Retrofitters Will Prepare and Submit All Technical Documents
  • LADBS Plan Check Staff Will Review All Permit Documents
  • American Retrofitters Will Obtain All Clearances From Other Departments
  • Once Reviewed and Approved, Permits Will Be Issued and Retrofitting Will Begin
  • Permits to Begin Construction Must Be Obtained Within 3.5 Years From the Receipt of the Order to Comply

4. Retrofitting & Construction

After engineering is complete and all the permits and clearances have been obtained, American Retrofitters will retrofit your Los Angeles soft-story building quickly and efficiently, ensuring the highest quality of work while guaranteeing minimal disruption to you and your tenants.

Because American Retrofitters are expert structural engineers and contractors with over 34 years of experience, specializing in seismic retrofitting, our designs are value-engineered and custom tailored to meet the specific needs of each apartment building. Our plans are always designed with the most current construction costs in mind because we aim to substantially reduce those costs and pass the savings onto you.

Although Los Angeles apartment building owners have 7 years from receipt of the Order to Comply to complete construction, there are many reasons why we strongly advise against waiting until the last minute.


  • You Will Save Money
    • As the deadlines approach, and more building owners begin to take action, the cost of labor and materials will rise substantially.
    • Because apartment building that have been seismically retrofitted will sustain less damage from an earthquake, earthquake insurance premiums and financial interest rates for recently retrofitted buildings will be significantly lower.
  • You Will Lessen Your Liability
    • It is not a matter of if a major earthquake will strike Los Angeles, rather it is a question of when.
    • Knowing that this scenario is a certainty, it would be wise to protect one of your biggest financial assets now, and prevent or reduce any potential liability that could result (e.g. loss of rental income, cost of tenant relocation, loss of assets).
    • Retrofitting your Los Angeles soft-story apartment building will help shield you against costly lawsuits that will result after an earthquake.
  • You Will Attract More Tenants
    • By retrofitting your Los Angeles apartment building now, you can attract prospective tenants more easily and you can justify higher rents.
  • It Is the Right Thing to Do
    • The most compelling argument, however, is the ethical one: retrofitting your apartment building sooner rather than later is the right thing to do to protect your tenants and help guard against potential injury or loss of life in a major earthquake.

Acting now will not only ensure that you meet the deadlines set by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS), but it is sure to save you thousands of dollars and peace-of-mind in the process.

Key Takeaways

  • American Retrofitters Are Expert Structural Engineers and Contractors
  • Construction Must Be Complete Within 7 Years From Receipt of the Order to Comply
  • Acting Now Will Save You Money
  • Seismic Retrofitting Will Reduce Your Liability
  • Seismic Retrofitting Will Help Attract Tenants
  • Acting Now Is the Right Thing to Do

5. Inspection & Compliance

Our team of Los Angeles experts work closely with the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) inspector and deputy inspectors to ensure your building’s compliance with the Los Angeles Retrofit Ordinance.

All retrofitting and construction work will follow the approved set of plans and will be subject to inspection by LADBS inspector and deputy inspectors. American Retrofitters will notify the inspector and deputy inspectors as soon as any phase of construction is ready for inspection. Retrofitting work is generally inspected and approved in succession and, as a rule, no construction can continue beyond the point indicated in each successive inspection without obtaining the approval of the inspector first. The approved set of plans must be readily available and provided on-site.

Phases of construction for which an inspection will be required include, but are not limited to:

  • Pre-Construction Meeting
    • After excavation and exposure of the existing structural elements and connections, and before installation of any new structural elements or members, American Retrofitters, as the engineers and contractors responsible for the structural design, will arrange a pre-construction meeting with the building inspector. The purpose of the meeting is to identify the major structural elements, connections, and existing conditions that affect the vertical and lateral load systems of the structure and to review scheduling of the required observations.
  • Foundation & Groundwork
    • American Retrofitters will call for an inspection after reinforcement steel, anchors, and forms have been completed, but before concrete is poured.
  • Rough Framing & Steel Frames
    • American Retrofitters will call for an inspection after framing (including plates, clips, and straps) have been installed and completed, but before the sheathing or any cover has been installed.
  • Plywood Sheathing & Fire Proofing
  • Final Inspection

The Certificate of Compliance (CoC) will be issued after the final inspection has been completed and approved.

Key Takeaways

  • We Work Closely With LADBS Inspectors
  • We are the Engineer and Contractor Responsible for the Structural Design
  • We Will Call for and Coordinate All Inspections
  • Inspections Are Approved in Succession
  • The Certificate of Compliance Will Be Issued After Final Inspection

6. Cost Recovery Program

American Retrofitters will submit the cost pass-through applications to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) on your behalf, allowing you to pass up to 50% of the total seismic retrofit costs through to your tenants. Program applications must be submitted within 12 months of completion of the retrofitting and construction work. The following items must also be submitted along with the application:

  • A copy of the Tenant Habitability Plan (THP);
  • Documentation that supports of the costs (e.g. contracts, invoices, proof of payments, etc.); and
  • Rent roll that includes tenants’ move-in dates and current rents.

How the Los Angeles Seismic Retrofit Cost Recovery Program Works

  • If approved by the HCIDLA, up to 50% of the total seismic retrofit costs may be passed through to tenants.
  • The maximum rent increase is $38 per unit per month for a period of 120 months. The recovery period may be extended as far as necessary until the approved recovery amount is collected in full.
  • Seismic retrofit costs are divided among all the units, regardless if they are affected or not.

How the Los Angeles Cost Recovery Applications Are Processed

Once the application has been submitted, a Case Analyst from HCIDLA will be assigned to review it. Landlords and tenants will then receive notification that the cost recovery application has been filed. The Case Analyst will review the submitted documentation and determine the correct pass-through amount. Because both landlords and tenants have a right to appeal the decision, a final determination form and an appeal form will be mailed to both.

American Retrofitters will take care of the entire cost-recovery process, including any applicable appeals and hearings.

Key Takeaways

  • Up to 50% of the Total Retrofit Cost Can Be Passed-through to Your Tenants
  • Cost Pass-through Applications Must Be Submitted Within 12 Months of Completion of the Retrofit Work
  • American Retrofitters Will Take Care of the Entire Cost-recovery Process, Including Any Applicable Appeals and Hearings

As Seen In

You know you’ve seen us before, but you’re not quite sure where. Aside from the spiffy banners and signs that don some of the buildings we’re working on, here are a few other places where you might’ve seen American Retrofitters.

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