Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SOFT-STORY RETROFIT

SOFT-STORY RETROFIT

As you probably know the new mandatory "Soft Story Retrofit" ordinance took effect on Nov. 22, 2015 Our office is experiencing an increasing volume of this ordinance related work. We worked out the most effective, safe and economical retrofitting engineering to save money to the landlords. In many instances we proved with calculations only that no retrofitting work was necessary. We hired more people to handle the work load, so we're completely geared up for the engineering work of the mandatory soft-story retrofitting in Los Angeles.
Please recommend us to anyone who needs help with soft-story retrofitting.

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH OR THE "BOOMERANG BUYERS"

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH OR THE "BOOMERANG BUYERS"

Oh, no, no.... I'm not talking about the famous and classic Marilyn Monroe movie from 1955 but rather about current US laws of forgiving after seven years being in the doghouse for doing bad things. As you
know everybody deserves a second chance. (Try to explain that to your wife after forgetting to take out the trash one evening) But seriously, even if you had a bankruptcy the chances are that after seven years all the records (with a few exceptions like federal taxes) related to that bankruptcy will be erased from your record.
The "Great Recession" of 2008 has effected millions of homeowners. Many were 60 days or more past due on their mortgage loan, losing their mortgage through foreclosure, short sale or other non-satisfactory closure, or had a loan modification, etc. Borrowers must often wait for years, generally seven years following a short sale or foreclosure to qualify for a mortgage again. But for those who have repaired their credit, built up their credit score again many of these former homeowners likely will want a second chance at home ownership.

It's been a little over seven years since the beginning of the mortgage crisis in 2008 and this is significant because as I mentioned many derogatory items, such as foreclosures and short sales can prevent consumers for qualifying for a new mortgage for approximately seven years. Enter "The seven year itch" and the "Boomerang buyers"

A "Boomerang buyer" is a former home owner who experienced foreclosure or other negative impacts in the past but become eligible to re-enter the mortgage market after the "penalty years." They are the ones feeling "The seven year itch" to become home owners again. Realtors are experiencing these "Boomerang buyers" coming back to the market in droves. Based on a recent report by the National Associations of Realtors, within five years the number of "Boomerang buyers" wanting to become home owners again could swell to over 2 million, providing a significant pressure on the single family dwelling market. Add to the situation that the Federal Housing Finance Agency's new policy will permit many foreclosed home owners to purchase the homes back that they once had lost at fair market value, you can foresee the boom in the housing market.
So, what is the moral of the story? The American Dream of owning a home, providing stability for the family, is alive again.

Yes, "I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home..." (Motley Crue 1985)

THE TEARDOWN TREND

THE TEARDOWN TREND

There is nothing new about seeing a single family house being torn down and replaced by a larger, more modern house. When a homeowner has a house in a desirable neighborhood from which he doesn't want to move away and his circumstances require more space, he has two choices -- build an addition, usually a second story addition, or replace the entire house with a new one. It is really nothing new, I've made a living for 40 years designing and engineering such additions and remodels or even a new house for the home owner, but there is a new trend emerging and it is not only in the Los Angeles market.
According Census Bureau data, the housing stock continues to age and builders are hard pressed to find suitable lots, so the teardown trend is expected to grow. In 2013, about 47 percent of owner-occupied homes in the U.S. were at least 40 years old. The teardown trend is growing because the older homes in some communities are becoming "functionally obsolete" - the kitchens are enclosed, the ceilings are low, closets and windows are too small, the rooms are too small, they don't have enough bedrooms, etc.
The current trend is to create "Great Rooms" where the kitchen, dining room, den, and living room have no dividing walls. Of course this requires a great cook too, creating wonderful meals, so the good smell of the kitchen can fill the "Great Room".

This teardown trend has a new component lately. With the improving economy there are not just the home owners who are initiating these tear downs but developers, builders looking for profit. It is not unusual but rather the trend that a small two, three bedroom house in a desirable neighborhood is bought by a developer, who increasingly is a large national corporation. In lieu of the one story three bedroom house the neighbors will see a two, sometimes a three story "mansion" built. These homes will sell for millions of dollars. And there are lots of buyers!

So, here is the $64,000.00 question: Is this a good trend?

The answer is obvious for the developers, they make good profits. The state gets more property tax revenue. The construction industry employs more construction workers. And, for the neighbors, the value of their homes goes up, without spending a penny, because they will be in a more pricy neighborhood and without an increase in their property tax due to Proposition 13, at least in California.

So why is there an outcry from neighborhood activists to block this trend? These structures are built according to the newest building codes, complying with all the necessary property setback and height requirements, passed the scrutiny of the strict city Planning Department, they are designed by the newest structural engineering methods and analysis, therefore are more safe in case of earthquakes, they are more energy efficient, etc. Still, neighborhood activists are pressing for more and more "mansonization" laws in different cities to block larger homes. I agree if a neighborhood is a historic neighborhood to keep the "romance" alive and that's why there are "Historic Overlay Zones" created in different city neighborhoods. On the other hand, changes are inevitable in life and if they are for the better we should embrace them. We cannot cling to the status quo forever. Jealous neighborhood activists shouldn't get the upper hand. I came to this country because it promised me, my family and children a fair life and the pursuit of happiness. If for some people a larger house is the happiness within the law, they shouldn't be denied that.

As Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher famously said: "There is only one thing constant in life and that is the change."

EARTHQUAKE COMING? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

EARTHQUAKE COMING? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

When the earth shakes in California, the first place you are likely to hear about it is on social media. "Earthquake!" "Did you feel that?" "How big?" Are the common messages on Twitter and Facebook as Californians try to share information on cell phones in real time while heading under a sturdy table to protect themselves from falling objects? But wouldn't you rather to hear about the upcoming earthquake before it happens and prepare for it? Well, turns out there’s an app for that.

Not too long ago scientists unveiled an app that will test this idea with anyone around the world who wants to participate.  "MyShake", the free app, uses smartphone sensors to detect movement caused by an earthquake. You know earthquakes happen in one location and the waves start moving, much like you throw a pebble into a pond and the waves start moving in a circle of rings. Users who download the app will be sending data to scientists when an earthquake as small as a magnitude 5 hits. By harvesting information from hundreds of phones closest to the earthquake, scientists will be able to test a computer system that could, in the future, dispatch early warnings that shaking is seconds or minutes away to people farther away from the earthquake's origin, to give them a little time to prepare.

This is a citizens' science project, so you could become a bit of a scientist by participating. The app uses a common sensor found in smartphones, called accelerometers that detect which way the phone is oriented -- in a portrait or in a landscape position. The warnings will eventually give trains time to slow down, decreasing a risk of derailment before shaking arrives, sound an alert in hospitals to warn surgeons to halt surgery and have elevators open their doors at the nearest floor, preventing people from becoming trapped or really heading under a sturdy table. This is a welcome development for early earthquake warning and represents a great use of "Crowdsourcing" - using information gathered by the public - for science. "Crowdsourcing" data from citizen scientists are part of a growing trend in many fields of research. The popular software "Waze" is basically using "Crowdsourcing" to help drivers in real time avoid traffic jams and other driving hazards, for example.

So use your phone to help science!!!!