A soft-story retrofit simply adds to and reinforces the structure of the building so it can hold up much better in an earthquake. The main goal is to make sure the building is still standing after an earthquake hits and ensure the safety of everyone in and around the building.
The retrofit typically aims to lessen the effect of side-to-side shaking because that’s what usually causes the first floor of soft-story buildings to collapse. Existing walls are strengthened, often by replacing stucco or drywall with much more solid plywood, as well as anchoring these walls to the foundation. New shear walls may also be added, as they are built to resist side-to-side shaking from the wind or earthquakes. If you want to keep the look and function of your building, a more expensive option is to add a steel frame. Depending on the unique conditions of the property, there are many other options an engineer can offer.
A soft-story retrofit is a necessary investment in the safety of everyone in and around these buildings. A property owner who does not retrofit their building within the given timeframe is breaking the law. There may be legal consequences of not complying with the retrofit ordinance. Contact a lawyer to discuss any legal questions.