For Property Owners

The Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit program requires property owners to seismically strengthen vulnerable buildings that have an increased risk of danger during an earthquake. These buildings are older, wood-framed, multi-family buildings with a soft-story condition. 


Deadline for Tier 4 Properties to Complete Seismic Retrofit Work is September 15, 2021

Finance Options for the Mandatory Softy Story Program
For Design Professionals & Contractors
For Property Owners
For Tenants
Received a Violation?
Soft Story FAQ




Soft Story Properties List

Soft Story Properties Map

This program has been designed to increase the safety of your building and your tenants, as well protect your investment, during an earthquake. It requires that, if your building has been determined through a screening process involving the Department of Building Inspection and a licensed design professional to be a part of this program, your building undergo a seismic retrofit. This will require work be done to the lower level (only) of your building, and this work will be started and completed according to the tier in which your building has been screened.

We cannot predict when the next earthquake will strike, but we can work together to protect ourselves and our properties. To comply with this program, follow these steps:

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Does my Building Qualify? 

Properties identified under this Program have been divided into four tiers. Please find below a guide to property tiers:

  • 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 City’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP) website. 

Your building may be exempted from this Program, if:

1. Building that has been seismically strengthened to meet or exceed the standards of Section 1604.11 of the San Francisco Building Code or its predecessor provisions within 15 years prior to the operative date of Chapter 34B of the San Francisco Building Code is exempt if work is

shown to be properly permitted and completed.

2. Building that has completed voluntary seismic strengthening under the provisions of Administrative Bulletin AB-094. (The building owner can complete the screening form for ONLY this instance.)

Note: Construction is limited to the ground floor where large openings such as garages or commercial storefronts take away the shear walls of the building.

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Steps to Comply with Program Requirements 

STEP ONE: SCREEN YOUR BUILDING – All participating properties screening forms were due on September 15, 2014. 

All Screening Forms are past due, as of September 15, 2014. All owners who have not completed this form, do not complete this form, or fail to remedy failing to complete this form are in violation of the San Francisco Building Code (See our Violation section below).


As stipulated by law, you will need to take the next steps to ensure your property is seismically retrofitted by the timeline below.

soft story compliance

Deadline for Tier 4 properties is September 15, 2018. Failure to submit permits and plans to DBI by the deadline will result in code enforcement action and monetary penalties.

Tier  1 and 3 properties are urged to act now and follow the FOUR STEPS below to obtain the permit to complete the required seismic upgrade.

STEP 1: Work with licensed design professional to obtain plans & calculations prior to permit application submittal.

Before you visit our offices, you’ll need to have two sets of plans prepared by a licensed architect, civil or structural engineer. Drawings shall be a minimum size of 11”x17”and drawn to scale at minimum of 1/8"=1'0". The first page of plans is required to be wet-signed and stamped by the design professional of record. Following pages may have a signature facsimile and professional seal with valid registration number. The submittal documents should also include one set of structural calculations with the cover pages wet-signed and stamped. 

STEP 2: Visit DBI at 49 South Van Ness Avenuet to file the permit application.

Once you have the plans completed, visit DBI at 49 South Van Ness Avenue and complete permit application Form 3/8. Once the form is complete, staff will check application for completeness and direct you to the required routing stations based on the proposed scope of work.

STEP 3: Proceed with work accordingly once permit is issued. 

It is important to know that as construction work begins, you will need to keep track of required inspections. Before the construction work has begun, you will need to contact the district inspector and ensure that any and all special inspections are completed and signed off by the special inspector prior to your Final Inspection.  All inspections must be completed and signed off before the compliance tier deadline.

STEP 4: Completion in compliance of the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program.

You will need to request the issuance of the Certificate of Final Completion (CFC) once the job card is signed off after a Final Inspection by the building inspector. A copy of the CFC document will then need to be submitted to the Soft Story Counter Window at 49 South Van Ness Avenue, or emailed to in order to complete your participation in the Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program.

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Other Resources


The City is currently offering a public financing option, developed in partnership with the City Administrator’s Office, Mayor’s Office, and AllianceNRG-Deutche Bank, for property owners wishing to finance their retrofits. Please visit our finance options page.


Are you a property owner that has been cited for non-compliance to this Program? Please visit the Received a Notice of Violation page for more information


The City is legally unable to recommend engineers and contractors at this time, however you can visit these online resources for more information: