Don’t Wait for Disaster: Southern California Residents Can Now Safeguard Their Homes with a New Earthquake Protection Program
California, with its nearly 40 million residents and diverse range of homes, faces unique challenges when it comes to earthquake preparedness. Soft-story homes, characterized by one or more floors of living space built above an attached garage and ground floors, are particularly susceptible to collapse during strong earthquakes due to weaknesses in their lower stories. These types of homes are prevalent in densely populated cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where an estimated 180,000 residents reside in soft-story structures in San Francisco alone. Recognizing the vulnerability of these homes, cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others have implemented mandatory soft-story retrofit programs for office buildings, multi-story apartments, and other residential structures. Now, it is crucial to extend similar protection to homeowners living in soft-story residences across California.
The vulnerability of soft-story homes stems from their open ground floors and large garage door openings, as the existing garage walls are often not designed to withstand seismic forces. To fortify these homes against earthquake damage and prevent potential collapses, homeowners should consider implementing soft-story retrofit solutions.
In an encouraging development, the California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP) has launched a pilot program designed to help eligible homeowners in select cities safeguard their soft-story residences from the threat of earthquakes. Homeowners residing in 82 different ZIP Codes within Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley can now apply for grants to retrofit their soft-story homes. The program aims to award a total of 375 grants initially, with funding covering up to 75% of the retrofit costs, up to a maximum of $10,000 or $13,000 depending on the house type and retrofit requirements. The registration process is currently open and will continue until the end of May. To learn more about the application process, homeowners can visit www.EarthquakeSoftStory.com.
Soft-story retrofitting typically involves adding new hold downs, anchor bolts, and plywood sheathing to enhance the home’s structural integrity. Additional reinforcement may require bracing the front wall with a new concrete foundation and installing either a new steel column or proprietary shear wall.
Given the technical nature of this work, it is crucial to engage trained contractors for soft-story retrofit projects. To support this program, contractors in eligible ZIP Codes must undergo training and register on the CRMP website to participate. The website provides essential resources to help contractors get started in the program.
The CRMP has previously demonstrated its commitment to seismic resilience through the successful Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) retrofit program, which provided grants for seismic retrofits of older homes with crawlspaces, benefiting nearly 20,000 Californians. Building on this success, the soft-story program is expected to play a vital role in safeguarding homes.
Living in California means that the question is not if, but when the next major earthquake will strike. By applying for grant funding and retrofitting your soft-story home, you are making a proactive and long-term investment in protecting one of your most valuable assets. This preventive measure can potentially save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in future damage repair costs following a major earthquake. More importantly, it ensures the safety of your family. We urge all eligible residents to take advantage of this opportunity and apply before the registration window closes.