Multi-Family Soft Story Residences

photo of damaged soft story apartment from Loma Prieta earthquake

22,000 Oakland rental units are in potentially soft story buildings. Severe damage or destruction to these units could result in personal injury, damage to possessions, loss of housing and potential loss of life for tenants, and property damage and loss of rental income to owners.


What is a Soft Story Apartment?

photo of soft story apartment building in Oakland

As defined by the City of Oakland, a soft-story apartment has the following characteristics:

  • Pre-1991 construction
  • 2+ stories
  • Wood framed
  • Open lower story parking or commercial spaces
  • Lower story walls/columns with inadequate lateral resistance
  • Identification as potentially hazardous in the California Health and Safety Code

Only buildings with 5 or more units will be eligible to participate under the Safer Housing for Oakland seismic retrofit grant program for Multi-Family Residences. However, owners of soft-story apartment buildings with less than 5 units may voluntarily participate.

Click here to use an online tool to see if your building is at-risk.


What Does a Seismic Retrofit to a Soft Story Building Entail?

drawing showing retrofit of soft story building by adding frame
drawing showing retrofit of soft story building by enhancing walls
Typical retrofits may include additional plywood sheathing the exterior walls and interior partitions, steel frames to be added at the open side of the building and perhaps at interior wall lines and any necessary foundation elements to support the new steel frames. See graphics at right.

Property owners are encouraged to retrofit their soft-story building, as doing so will:

  1. Make housing safer and save lives,
  2. Protect owner investment
  3. Facilitate emergency response and housing recovery,
  4. Keeps Oakland residents in Oakland, and
  5. Softens the economic blow of a major disaster.



Contact Us

 Technical Questions regarding Soft-Story:

Alain Garcia Placido
Planning and Building Department
(510) 238-7110

 Questions regarding Grant Funding for Soft-Story:

Housing and Community Development

Residential Lending and Rehabilitation Services


Telephone: (510) 238-6164