Many of you know that LA is in the process of adopting stringent earthquake retrofit rules intended to prevent the collapse of so-called soft-story apartment buildings.
So I thought you’d appreciate this story from the front lines:
We are in the process of renovating a building with a soft-story for a partner.
Here’s a picture of a soft-story building, so you know what I’m talking about. Note that it’s held up by skinny little poles:
The problem with the design above is that, in a strong earthquake, the poles collapse, dropping the apartments above onto the cars.
Knowing the new rules are coming into force (and wanting to protect the building!), we sent an engineer to get plans approved to do the relevant retrofit.
The way you do this is to build one or more strong steel structures called a “moment frames” in the parking area. The frame(s) are anchored right where the painted lines separate the parking spaces, so that people can still park there.
Should be simple, right?
Wrong. The plan checker rejected our proposal, because it reduces the width of the parking spaces by six inches, so that they no longer conform to code.
In other words, the city is about to mandate moment frames of the exact type we are proposing to build and some plan checker is refusing to allow us to build them, because of the impact on parking (which is notional, anyway – the spaces will still be plenty big enough to park in).
Obviously, the plan checker will be over-ruled by a superior. But this will add a few weeks to the project. And we could have avoided the delay simply by not retrofitting.
Total, utter insanity.