Those who follow my periodic newsletters will remember my rants criticizing the so called 50% rule in the 2011 City of Los Angeles building code. Just to refresh your memory, this rule states, in Section 3403.1.1 under replacement, retention and extension of original materials, the following:
“Whenever the aggregate value of the addition, alterations, repairs or rehabilitation of the existing portion is in excess of 50% of the replacement cost of the building or structure, the entire building or structure shall be made to confirm to this code.”

This rule means that if there was an addition, alteration, repair or rehabilitation to an existing one, or even a two story, building on one side or wing in excess of 50% of the original aggregate value, the entire existing and untouched original building has to be upgraded to current building code, including shear walls, connections and the very expensive foundation work. It is totally unreasonable in cases where the new addition does not affect the original building or structure. Adding insult to injury, it is up to the individual plan checker to determine what is 50%, and it is almost impossible to fight it without a clear set of rules. It’s a very subjective decision by the individual plan checker, a very gray area.

Many additions were cancelled by the owners because of the unnecessary and very costly structural upgrade that would be incurred. In this forum of my newsletter I called on the building officials to revisit this issue in the next edition of the building code.

To my surprise, this particular section of the building code was fully deleted from the 2014 Building Code. I personally verified this code change with building officials in the Building Department, asking specifically that this was not an accidental omission? The answer was that they no longer enforce this rule, so it is official.

Is our little newsletter so powerful to influence the people who write the Building Codes? Of course not, but it was so out of place, that I’m sure lots of people complained and the change happened. Yahoo!!!

Originally posted in our email newsletter on 7/24/2104

Leave a Reply