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A. This Chapter shall be known as the "Soft Story Ordinance."

B. The Council finds as follows:

1. A survey of Berkeley buildings in 1996 identified nearly 400 wood frame buildings with five or more units with a ground level containing large openings such as storefronts, garages, or tuck-under parking.

2. The openings on the ground floor of such buildings can create a soft, weak or open front condition.

3. Buildings with soft, weak, or open front ground stories are recognized by engineers and other seismic safety experts as having the potential for sustaining serious damage including collapse in the event of strong earthquakes.

4. Earthquakes in California and elsewhere have demonstrated such damage, injuring and killing people, displacing residents, and causing severe economic loss and disruption to communities.

5. The City of Berkeley conducted an assessment project in 2001 that identified approximately 5,000 residential units in buildings that may have such stories.

6. A sidewalk assessment was done of 150 identified buildings by professional engineers and found that 46% have severe or considerable vulnerability to damage in a major earthquake and that another 49% had moderate vulnerability.

7. Advances in the design of construction and retrofit of structures to better withstand seismic forces have occurred since such buildings were constructed and resulted in new requirements in current codes.

8. The establishment of an inventory and notification to owners and residents is a necessary first step in developing a mitigation program and will provide the basis for obtaining input from affected parties for such a program.

9. Although the general vulnerability of such buildings is known, determining the seismic adequacy of each of the structures and the appropriate elements of a retrofit to remedy vulnerabilities requires a detailed evaluation by an approved licensed engineering design professional.

10. Such an evaluation is also necessary for the City Council and staff to identify more fully the risks to the City and its inhabitants and to determine the feasibility of programs to address the vulnerabilities.

11. Model codes have been developed for analyzing and retrofitting such structures to provide for risk reduction with less design effort, construction cost, and tenant disruption than the California Building Code.

12. While these codes are not intended to provide structural performance equivalent to that provided by new construction built to the current Building Code, they identify and provide for improving the structure’s more vulnerable portions and, if improvements to the identified vulnerabilities are made, can be expected to substantially reduce the likelihood of excessive building drift or collapse and substantially lessen the loss of human life.

13. In 2005, Health and Safety Code Sections 19162 and 19163 were amended to expressly authorize cities to adopt ordinances requiring building owners to comply with a national recognized model code relating to the retrofit of existing buildings or substantially equivalent standards.

14. Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 19160(m), the current nationally recognized model code for the retrofit of existing buildings with soft, weak or open front walls is Appendix Chapter A4 of the International Existing Building Code as published by the International Code Council. However, it is not the intent of the Legislature, if other model codes relating to retrofit of existing buildings are developed, to limit the local government to adopting a particular code.

15. Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 19162(d), "seismic retrofit means either structural strengthening or providing the means necessary to modify the seismic response that would otherwise be expected by an existing building during an earthquake, to significantly reduce hazards to life and safety while also providing for the substantial safe ingress and egress of the building occupants immediately after an earthquake."

16. Health and Safety Code Section 19161(a)(2) has set January 1, 1978 as a benchmark date for characterizing wood-frame, multi-unit residential buildings with soft, weak or open-front wall lines. Under the Health and Safety Code, buildings constructed after January 1, 1978 are considered to have been designed to meet acceptable seismic standards.

17. The date of January 1, 1978 supersedes the date of the adoption of the 1997 Uniform Building Code as amended by the State of California that was previously used by the City of Berkeley to distinguish obsolete structural designs from acceptable structures of this building type.

18. The City Council has determined that it is essential for the safety of its residents to make this Chapter’s seismic hazard mitigation standards mandatory for multi-unit residential buildings falling within the scope and applicability of this ordinance as set forth below and to require that these buildings be retrofitted to comply with the adopted standards within the timetable set forth herein.

C. The purposes of this Chapter are to protect the public health, safety and welfare, to alert the general public and the owners and residents of certain types of existing multi-unit residential buildings to the vulnerability of such buildings in strong earthquakes, to determine the specific seismic vulnerabilities and necessary improvements for each such building, to inform decision making about needed mitigation measures, to promote such efforts, and to require buildings to be retrofitted to comply to the standards as established herein.

D. This Chapter requires the establishment of an inventory of potentially hazardous buildings that contain a soft, weak or open front condition on the ground floor and that have at least five residential units, provides for notification to the owners, residents and users of such buildings, adopts the International Existing Building Code, requires owners to provide an analysis of their building’s seismic adequacy, and requires owners to perform retrofit work to comply with the standards established herein. (Ord. 7318-NS § 1 (part), 2013: Ord. 6883-NS § 1 (part), 2005)