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Mandatory Soft Story Program (OLD)


The Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit program was created in 2013 as a multi-year community-based effort by the Department of Building to ensure the safety and resilience of San Francisco through the retrofit of all older, wood-framed, multi-family buildings in San Francisco with a soft-story condition.

As part of the Soft Story Program, all affected property owners were noticed beginning in September 2013 and were required to have submitted their screening forms to the Department of Building Inspection by September 15, 2014. As of October 6, 2014 although we have achieved a 90% response to the program, there are approximately 500 properties who have yet to submit their screening forms.  Buildings that have not complied with this requirement will be placarded and issued notices of violation.

We encourage property owners of soft story buildings to take the necessary first steps by submitting their screening forms to DBI as soon as possible to ensure their properties are seismically safe in anticipation of the next big quake.

For more information please check out the Ordinance and Informational Brochure (Chinese) (Spanish).

Contact Us
(415) 558-6699 or email at

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 1.    Subject Buildings

 2.    Submittal Procedures and Timeline

 3.    Engineering Criteria

 4.    Contractor and Engineer Selection

 5.    Appeals Process

 6.    Resources



All San Francisco buildings that are wood-framed, permitted for construction prior to 1978, contain five or more residential dwelling units and are three or more stories or two stories over a basement or underfloor area that have any portion extending above grade, and have not yet been seismically strengthened have been noticed as part of this program and will be required to complete and return a screening form. These buildings are not necessarily seismically unsafe, but rather fit the scope and criteria of buildings known to have weaknesses that the Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance wishes to address. This screening process will determine a building’s status within this program. 

The list below of buildings are ones the City believes, to the best of our knowledge, to be within the scope of the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Ordinance. These are not necessarily unsafe buildings, but rather buildings that need to be screened to ascertain if they are within this program or not. Buildings that are within the program will be required to retrofit and their status within that process will be noted in this database. The owners of these addresses may engage an architect, or an engineer, and have them complete the appropriate form to prove that this property should be exempt from the new ordinance. As DBI receives these completed forms, signed by the architect or engineer, with appropriate license number and/or engineering seal, the address may be removed by DBI from this soft-story building inventory, and this list will be updated accordingly.

Soft Story Program Database (Excel)




  1. You may submit your completed form via email as a PDF attachment to or as a hard copy by U.S. mail to Soft Story Program, 1660 Mission Street - 1st Floor,San Francisco CA 94103. The Department does not allow submittal by fax.
  2. Screening Forms must all be submitted by September 15, 2014.
  3. Please be sure your screening form is, if required, completed by a licensed design professional, as well as stamped and signed.
  4. Submit all three pages of the form, even if some sections are not required. Keep a copy for your records



AB-094: which set criteria for voluntary retrofits, went into effect on May 26, 2009. If you completed a retrofit in compliance with AB-094 prior to June 18, 2013, then you are in compliance with the requirements of this ordinance. Please follow instructions on screening form.

Other Retrofits: SFBC Section 3402B Exception 1 exempts retrofits completed within the last 15 years if they satisfied the requirements now found in SFBC Section 1604.11. However, because this exemption will likely require more careful review of various documents (plans, calculations, etc.), owners seeking this exemption must submit documentation together with the separate Optional Evaluation Form. Please fill out all sections of the Screening Form and submit. 


To obtain a permit, two sets of plans are required to be prepared by a licensed architect, civil or structural engineer. Drawings shall be a minimum size of 11”x17” with all character height to be a minimum of ?”. Each page of plans are required to be wet signed and stamped by the design professional of record and the submittal documents should also include two sets of structural calculations with the cover pages wet signed and stamped. The permit applicant should also complete the submittal requirement checklist included in SFBC AB-106.

To start the permit application process, start at the first floor information counter and complete an application form. Once the form is complete the first floor counter staff will check your application for completeness and if the property has any outstanding complaints or violations. After this step you will be directed to the Over-The-Counter (OTC) intake staff located on the 5th floor. The permit technician will review your plans for the minimum completeness standards and establish the required routing stations based on the proposed scope of work.

While not required, the Department strongly encourages the design professional to be present during this process. This will greatly assist the structural plan reviewer to address any questions or concerns with the design.




Tier I - Any building containing educational, assembly, or residential care facility uses (Building Code Occupancy E, A, R2.1, R3.1, or R4).

Tier II - Any building containing 15 or more dwelling units

Tier III - Any building not falling within another tier

Tier IV - Any building containing ground floor commercial uses (Building Code Occupancy B or M), or any building in a mapped liquefaction zone. For information about liquefaction please visit the CAPSS ESIP website.



The Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP) has worked with Code for America to develop an application to assist property owners and tenants to determine if their building is within a mapped liquefaction hazard zone. Please visit to use this application.



There are several options for design professionals to use to meet the requirements of the ordinance. The options are:

  • FEMA P-807, Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Multi-Unit Wood-Frame Buildings With Weak First Stories, as detailed in an Administrative Bulletin to be prepared pursuant to 3406B.3 of this ordinance, with the performance objective of 50 percent maximum probability of exceedance of Onset of Strength Loss drift limits with a spectral demand equal to 0.50 SMS, or
  • ASCE 41-13, Seismic Evaluation and Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings, with the performance objective of Structural Life Safety in the BSE-1E earthquake, or
  • ASCE 41-06, Seismic Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings, with the performance objective of Structural Life Safety in the BSE-1 earthquake with earthquake loads multiplied by 75 percent, or
  • For evaluation only, ASCE 31-03, Seismic Evaluation of Existing Buildings, with the performance level of Life Safety, or
  • For retrofit only, 2012 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) Appendix A-4, or
  • Any other rational design basis deemed acceptable by the Department that meets or exceeds the intent of the above standards.


The City is legally unable to recommend engineers and contractors at this time, however there are resources available, listed here:


For questions about appealing the issuance of any building permit please contact the Board of Permit Appeals at 575-6880.


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Interview with Director Hui on Soft Story Seismic Retrofit Program on Sound of Hope Radio, FM 96.1 and AM1400

Ready for the Next Big One? - July 21, 2014 (Video)

Soft Story Financing

Saving Buildings, Saving Lives: The Earthquake Retrofit Fair - January 28, 2014

Briefing/Workshop: Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program - November 21, 2013

Briefing/Workshop: Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program - October 28, 2013 (Video)

Brown Bag Lunch Talk: Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program - October 3, 2013

Seismically Sound by Tom Hui, San Francisco Apartment Association Magazine July 2013

U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 151-99, Understanding Earthquake Hazards In the San Francisco Bay Region - Progress Toward a Safer Future Since the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Are you prepared? In a major disaster, it might be several days before vital services are restored. Visit:

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). The regional planning and services agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. 

Applied Technology Council (ATC). Advancing Engineering Applications for Hazard Mitigation.

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