Seismic Safety in Santa Monica: Understanding the Seismic Retrofit Grant Program



Santa Monica, California, is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant community, and iconic pier. However, the city is also situated in a region with significant seismic activity. To ensure the safety of its residents and preserve the structural integrity of buildings, the City of Santa Monica has implemented a Seismic Retrofit Grant Program. This initiative aims to support property owners in retrofitting their buildings to withstand earthquakes, thereby enhancing the overall resilience of the community.

The Need for Seismic Retrofitting

California's seismic activity poses a continuous threat to the structural stability of buildings. Earthquakes can cause catastrophic damage, endangering lives and leading to substantial economic losses. In response to these risks, the City of Santa Monica has mandated seismic retrofitting for certain types of buildings, particularly those identified as vulnerable during an earthquake, such as soft-story buildings, unreinforced masonry, and non-ductile concrete buildings.

Soft-story buildings, commonly featuring open ground floors used for parking or commercial spaces, are especially susceptible to collapse during seismic events. Unreinforced masonry buildings, often constructed of brick or stone without adequate reinforcement, and non-ductile concrete buildings, lacking sufficient steel reinforcement, also pose significant risks. By retrofitting these structures, the city aims to minimize damage and ensure the safety of its residents.

Federal Support and Funding

In a significant development, the City of Santa Monica has been awarded a federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist owners of qualifying multi-family soft-story residential buildings. Grant funding will be used to reimburse property owners for a portion of the design and construction costs associated with qualifying retrofit work. This federal support underscores the importance of the retrofit program and provides crucial financial relief to property owners undertaking these essential upgrades.

Overview of the Seismic Retrofit Grant Program

The Seismic Retrofit Grant Program is designed to provide financial assistance to property owners required to perform mandatory seismic upgrades. The program alleviates the financial burden associated with retrofitting, making it more feasible for property owners to comply with city regulations and enhance the safety of their buildings.

Key features of the program include:

  1. Eligibility Criteria: The program is available to owners of buildings identified as requiring seismic retrofitting under the city's seismic retrofit ordinance. This typically includes soft-story, unreinforced masonry, and non-ductile concrete buildings.
  2. Financial Assistance: Grants cover a portion of the retrofit costs, reducing the out-of-pocket expenses for property owners. The amount of financial assistance is determined based on the type of building and the scope of the retrofit work required.
  3. Application Process: Property owners must submit an application to the city, providing details about their building and the proposed retrofit project. The application is reviewed by city officials to determine eligibility and grant amount.
  4. Technical Support: In addition to financial assistance, the city provides technical support to property owners throughout the retrofit process. This includes guidance on selecting qualified contractors, understanding retrofit requirements, and navigating the permitting process.

How SKS Construction Can Help

Navigating the complexities of seismic retrofitting can be daunting for property owners. This is where SKS Construction can play a pivotal role. As a reputable construction firm with extensive experience in seismic retrofitting, SKS Construction offers a range of services to assist property owners in Santa Monica:

  • Expert Consultation: SKS Construction provides expert consultation to help property owners understand the specific retrofit needs of their buildings and the requirements of the city's retrofit ordinance.
  • Design and Engineering: SKS Construction offers comprehensive design and engineering services, ensuring that retrofit plans are compliant with all relevant standards and regulations.
  • Project Management: SKS Construction handles all aspects of the retrofit project, from initial planning and permitting to construction and final inspection, ensuring a seamless and efficient process.
  • FEMA Grant Assistance: SKS Construction can assist property owners in applying for FEMA grants, ensuring that all necessary documentation is properly prepared and submitted to maximize grant reimbursement.

Benefits of the Seismic Retrofit Grant Program

The Seismic Retrofit Grant Program, supported by federal funding, offers numerous benefits to both property owners and the broader Santa Monica community:

  • Enhanced Safety: Retrofitting reduces the risk of structural failure during an earthquake, protecting residents and potentially saving lives.
  • Economic Resilience: By preventing extensive damage to buildings, retrofitting helps to minimize the economic impact of earthquakes on the community. This includes reducing repair costs and limiting disruptions to businesses and housing.
  • Increased Property Value: Buildings that have been retrofitted are often more attractive to buyers and tenants, potentially increasing property values.
  • Community Preparedness: The program fosters a culture of preparedness and resilience within the community, encouraging residents and property owners to take proactive steps towards earthquake safety.


The City of Santa Monica’s Seismic Retrofit Grant Program, bolstered by federal FEMA funding, is a crucial initiative aimed at enhancing the seismic resilience of the community. By providing financial and technical assistance to property owners, the program facilitates the retrofitting of vulnerable buildings, ensuring the safety of residents and protecting the city’s infrastructure. SKS Construction stands ready to support property owners throughout the retrofit process, making it easier to access grants and complete essential upgrades. As seismic activity remains an ever-present threat in California, proactive measures like this grant program are essential in safeguarding the future of Santa Monica.

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