Seismic Retrofitting Law Impacts Many Oakland Real Estate Owners

Published: Oct 13, 2020

In early 2019, Oakland City Council passed a new law that requires many Oakland apartment building owners to seismically retrofit their rental properties. How can you determine whether your building needs upgrades? If your building was constructed before 1991, chances are high that you will have to comply with the new law.

Which Oakland Buildings Are Impacted?

The seismic retrofitting law applies to multi-unit, wood-frame buildings with a first story that lacks adequate strength or stiffness to prevent collapse in an earthquake, according to the City of Oakland. These properties pose a safety risk to tenants and occupants, and a financial risk to owners, the City's website explains. Many of these structures have slim columns with garages or storefronts underneath them. The law applies to buildings with five or more units, built before 1991.

Earthquake Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

According to Billy Wardlaw, Regional Construction Manager for MYND, the law affects between 1,600 and 2,000 soft-story Oakland apartment buildings standing two to seven stories tall. In all, the law impacts between 21,000 and 25,000 units.

How Property Owners Can Prepare for the New Law

There are several steps Oakland property owners should take to comply with this new earthquake retrofitting law. The first step is to obtain a structural engineering assessment from a structural engineer. “They can’t do anything – start any work – without those assessment drawings.”

The part of architectural project

Even though Oakland building owners are required to be compliant by 2024, Wardlaw says that they should start the process today. He expects the work to take many years to complete since general contractors across the region will be tied up and working on these projects for many years.

Follow This Timeline to Be Compliant

Here are some important steps owners should take in order to be compliant:

  • In 2019, building owners have to determine whether their property needs to be retrofitted.
  • Within two to four years, owners have to complete the mandatory building evaluation set forth by the City of Oakland.
  • Within three to five years, owners must obtain a retrofit permit from the City and submit a report that lays out the work they plan to conduct at their property.
  • Within four to six years, owners are required to fully complete the construction work.

Consultants Can Help Oakland Property Owners

Wardlaw recommends that owners start the fact-finding process themselves, so they don’t have to pay a third-party consulting firm. However, if they feel uncomfortable taking on that responsibility, MYND charges $105 an hour on a consultant basis. MYND will also provide owners with engineers to commence the retrofitting process.

Yellow helmet with blueprints to wood background

On the bright side, Wardlaw says the City of Oakland will provide some monetary incentives if owners complete the retrofitting themselves. But, he says, those incentives will be doled out on a case-by-case basis.If you have additional questions about how this law impacts your building, contact a structural engineer or MYND Property Management today.

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