Standard Plan A is a seismic retrofit guideline that must be used to qualify for the $3.000 CEA Brace and Bolt grant.  A co-author of this guidelines produced this 45 minute video to point out many of its serious flaws that often results in an expensive, and at the same time, ineffective retrofit.   

In this 40 minute video you will find a detailed analysis Standard Plan A’s  plywood connection that makes Standard Plan A twice as expensive and half as effective as a scientifically produced plywood connection.


Bay Area Retrofit had done 177 retrofits using the CEA program starting on May 19, 2015 until it was kicked out of the program in this letter in September 2019 for publishing the videos above as well as this critique of Appenix Chapter A3 (which I published years before the EBB program).

Here are Some Things to Know when Navigating the CEA Retrofit Program

  • It  is very efficient in sending grant check, they say payment takes place within 15 days of final approval and that has been the case every time.
  • Their  staff has been helpful when called;but do have limited powers/access to handle more than basic items.Keep asking to go higher up until you reach someone with authority.
  • Grant funds are taxed as state and federal income.   You will be asked to fill out forms for the IRS before work can start.
  • On averages this tax is $1200.
  • The cost of the permit is $500-$900.  San Jose is one of the more expensive, usually $800 or so.
  •  Our charge to navigate the very onerous bureaucracy has gone from $250 to $475 to $800 based on the ever increasing complexity of compliance.
  • In the end you have about $1000 for construction.  Many people are surprised to discover their $3000 windfall changed into $1000.
  • You will be required to use Standard Plan A, or Appendix Chapter A3 of the California Existing Building Code.  Standard Plan A was written to supplant A3 because of A3’s many problems.  Please see the links in the first paragraph.
  • Many contractors find the program so onerous they won’t even bid on them or will do so sight unseen for very high prices
  • You have 12 weeks from the time you received your acceptance letter to get the permit and 8 months from the time you received your acceptance letter to finish the work.  No exceptions.
  • The permit must be in place BEFORE they do what they call a “preliminary review”.  This involves looking at 3 exterior and 3 under floor photos to see if the house qualifies to use pre-engineered approaches like Standard Plan A or Appendix Chapter A3 .  They also want to see the permit.
  • If the EBB decides your house does not qualify, this can happen because they read a photo incorrectly or decided a cripple wall was over four feet,  you will be put in the “needs an engineer” category and can expect to spend $4,000+ on an engineer for a design you cannot affor.
  • In other words, the contractor could have paid for the permit, uploaded the permit and photos, and then be told the house does not qualify.  At that point you will be required to reimburse the contractor for the permit, time he spent getting the permit, and be forced to hire an engineer you may not be able to afford.
  • Partial retrofits are not allowed.  If you have living area above a garage as well as a crawl space you must retrofit both parts of your house or you will not qualify.   The living area above the garage alone will require an engineer and ~$20,000 in construction.  This is not made clear in the initial application.
  • From the contractors point of view working with the program is quite onerous compared to our usual business practices for these reasons:
  • We cannot use our standard Invoice system and must use one tailored to the program.   These must reflect dates work was done, hours spent on the job, hourly rate, list of materials used and their(this changes day to day), include a declaration of receivership for payment.  This amount of time it takes for tracking all of this is extremely time consuming.
  • Contractor must take 3 exterior photos, and 3 under floor photos and submit them before work can be approved.  3 more photos of completed work, at the exact same angle as the pre-approval photos, must then be submitted along with 2 photos of the water heater and 1 photo of the crawl space access.
  • Remotely blurry photos , taken in a crawl space with zero lighting, upside down on your back, with dust floating in the air will be rejected and contractor must return to house and take them all over again.
  • Payment has been withheld because even clear photos were uploaded upside down.
  • Home owners and contractors have been locked out of their dashboard and/or the program with the note “call EBB staff”.  Staff informs homeowner or contractor they see no reason for the lock out and have no idea how to resolve it.
  • After endless emails from homeowner EBB staff tells homeowner their earthquake insurance premium has not been paid, even though it HAS been paid, and someone finally unlocks the dashboard.   Only upon receipt of proof of payment was dashboard unlocked.
  • CEA rejections do not automatically alert homeowner or contractor of need for action.  Homeowner and contractor must be on constant vigil watching the dashboard to make sure there are no glitches.
  • CEA will reject a proposal on very technical grounds such as saying “Work if in compliance with Appendix Chapter 3 of the California Building Code” on the permit instead of the required  “Work if in compliance with Appendix Chapter A3 of the California Building Code” The only difference being one says “Chapter A3” and one says “Chapter 3”  You can’t imagine what a headache it is working with an organization that has zero common sense.
  • Hopefully this information will help you navigate the program and I do hope you just don’t take our word for it, please speak with some other contractors or other clients of ours who forego the program once they found out it was tantamount to applying for food stamps.

For further confirmation please go to sections 1.8, a.8.2, and 1,8.3 from this guide found in the Brace and Bolt website