A 32-unit apartment complex at 260 S. Sycamore Ave. is among the soft-story buildings that will have to be retrofitted to meet new earthquake-safety laws. (photo by Justin Sayles)
The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety released the addresses of more than 1,200 so-called "soft-story" buildings in Greater Wilshire, Hancock Park, Miracle Mile and Hollywood that will be subject to a new law requiring retrofitting to withstand the impact of major earthquakes, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis.
Citywide, 13,500 soft-story buildings will be subject to retrofitting ordinances, which grew out of Mayor Eric Garcetti's 2014 "Resiliency by Design" plan. Largely built before 1979, the buildings accounted for more than 171,000 units in the city.
While the biggest impact of the retrofitting orders will be felt in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, among the listed properties are the 90-unit Hollywood Off-Vine complex at 6212 W. La Mirada Ave., the 82-unit Camelot Apartments complex at 6446 W. Lexington Ave., a 32-unit property at 260 S. Sycamore and the Beverly Inn at 7701 Beverly Blvd.
Approximately 310 soft-story properties in the 90004 zip code are subject to the retrofitting ordinance, with 175 in 90020, 41 in 90036, 289 in 90038, 240 in 90046, 177 in 90048 and 45 in 90069.
Soft-story buildings generally have large openings in the first-floor walls to accommodate garages, under parking or even large windows. Sometimes referred to as "dingbats," the buildings are particularly susceptible to collapse during an earthquake.
That scenario came to pass in the 1994 Northridge earthquake which killed 57 people and damaged about 200 soft-style buildings.
According to Marissa Aho, chief resilience officer for the mayor's office, most soft-story buildings can be retrofitted by adding elements such as steel moment-resisting frames.
"We know that by doing some minimal structural work, they can be reinforced," she said.
The city's Department of Building and Safety engineers spent two years determining which properties could be subject to retrofitting, Aho said. That process included building-records reviews, aerial mapping and site inspections.
The city will begin the process of notifying potentially affected property owners in the coming weeks, Aho said. Owners of buildings with 16 units or more will be the first to receive notices, followed by buildings with three or more stories but fewer than 16 units and finally buildings with two stories and fewer than 16 units.
After receiving the notice, building owners will have two years to submit their retrofit plans and structural analyses to the city. They have three and a half years after receiving the initial notice to obtain all necessary permits and seven years to complete the construction.
Owners must also notify tenants that their buildings will be retrofitted. The work should not displace most existing tenants, Aho said.
"Every building is different, but that is what's expected," she said.
The city has been working to help property owners with the retrofitting process, Aho said. It hosted the Seismic Retrofit Resource Fair at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 7, providing owners with access to contractors, architects and financial resources. According to Aho, more than 2,000 property owners attended the event.
More resources can be found online at lamayor.org/resilience-design-building-stronger-los-angeles/.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), said his tenants' rights organization supported the public release of the addresses of buildings subject to retrofitting. Existing and potential tenants should be aware of a building's safety.
"It's a basic right to know," he said.
While not every tenant will be displaced by retrofitting, there are other issues they may face, he said. He highlighted potential concerns such as noise factors, construction on buildings containing lead paint and water and utilities being turned off.
"We want to make sure tenants are aware of their rights and exercise them," Gross said.
After the soft-story retrofits, the city will turn its eyes to concrete structures. Due to the high costs and complexities associated with those projects, the city has allowed 25 years to strengthen those structures.
It's estimated that 1,500 buildings – including Park La Brea apartments – will be affected by that process. Chris Scroggin, senior vice president of operations at Park La Brea apartments, said in February that management is in the early stages of figuring out what retrofit measures, if any, must be taken to comply with the ordinances.
That's a process that Gross is monitoring closely, adding he hopes that complex's 4,255 units will not require displacement.
"That's the elephant in the room," he said.