Retrofit FAQs

What owners of San Francisco Soft Story buildings want to know

What is the San Francisco Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program?
The program was created in 2013 as a multi-year community-based effort. It is designed to ensure the safety and integrity of the City’s housing stock through seismic upgrades of its  older (permitted prior to January 1978) wood-frame, multi-family buildings with a soft-story construction.

How long does a soft story retrofit take?
After we receive your plans and permits, the project can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the scope of work.

Do tenants have to move out while the work is going on?
In most cases, people can continue to live and work in the building while the retrofit is taking place. However, if there is an occupied in-law unit on the ground floor, that tenant would need to move out until construction is complete.

What if I can’t afford the work? Is public financing available?
Yes, the City is offering a public financing option for building owners who wish to finance either a mandatory or voluntary seismic retrofit. Repayment terms of up to 20 years are available.

Can I raise the rent to cover the costs of the required retrofit?
Costs of all work within the scope of this ordinance may be passed along 100%. If rent increases due to the retrofit cause tenants financial difficulty, they may apply for the hardship appeal process for pass-through.

Is it possible to construct an in-law unit during a retrofit?  
Yes, this is an excellent opportunity to apply for a permit and begin work.

How much time do I have to apply for the permit? When must the retrofit be complete?
Compliance with the retrofit requirements depend on the tier your building falls under.
Click here to view chart showing the Tier and Timeline as determined by the Department of Building Inspection.

Where can I find more information on the requirements of the Soft Story Mandatory Retrofit program?
Visit the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection’s website.