7
Recovery, Mitigation, and Planning

George G. Mader

It is indeed a humbling experience to attempt to write a keynote address on the broad subject I have been assigned. All of us attending have impressions of what was learned from the Loma Prieta earthquake, but how much do we know in detail about all of the lessons that can be gleaned from the event. What worked and what didn't work? Seven other speakers will address this same topic as discussants of this paper or in a panel this afternoon. Some of these individuals were directly involved in the recovery process after the earthquake, and others have carried out intensive research projects focused on aspects of the recovery. They can speak with more authority than I with regard to many aspects of the topic. I am certain they will add much to my comments and will probably provide different points of view and also corrections to what may be erroneous statements on my part. With these qualifications, I will now embark into dangerous waters.

I will attempt to do two things. First, I will try to provide at least an overview of what I believe to be seven important topical areas in which a considerable amount was learned from this earthquake. Second, I will try to emphasize those lessons that may not be covered by others addressing this same subject area. The topics I will address, listed in order are funding, recovery plans and regulations, mitigation actions, state laws, demolition, housing, and business recovery.

Of the various reports and papers I have read regarding the Loma Prieta earthquake that address the practical aspects of rebuilding after the event, I have to single out the California Seismic Safety Commission's report Loma Prieta's Call to Action, as an outstanding contribution (California SSC, 1991). The



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council 7 Recovery, Mitigation, and Planning George G. Mader It is indeed a humbling experience to attempt to write a keynote address on the broad subject I have been assigned. All of us attending have impressions of what was learned from the Loma Prieta earthquake, but how much do we know in detail about all of the lessons that can be gleaned from the event. What worked and what didn't work? Seven other speakers will address this same topic as discussants of this paper or in a panel this afternoon. Some of these individuals were directly involved in the recovery process after the earthquake, and others have carried out intensive research projects focused on aspects of the recovery. They can speak with more authority than I with regard to many aspects of the topic. I am certain they will add much to my comments and will probably provide different points of view and also corrections to what may be erroneous statements on my part. With these qualifications, I will now embark into dangerous waters. I will attempt to do two things. First, I will try to provide at least an overview of what I believe to be seven important topical areas in which a considerable amount was learned from this earthquake. Second, I will try to emphasize those lessons that may not be covered by others addressing this same subject area. The topics I will address, listed in order are funding, recovery plans and regulations, mitigation actions, state laws, demolition, housing, and business recovery. Of the various reports and papers I have read regarding the Loma Prieta earthquake that address the practical aspects of rebuilding after the event, I have to single out the California Seismic Safety Commission's report Loma Prieta's Call to Action, as an outstanding contribution (California SSC, 1991). The

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council commission held eight hearings on the earthquake from October 1989 to January 6, 1990. These hearings were held in Sacramento and in the locales where major damage occurred including San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and San Jose. In addition, the communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Los Gatos and the county of Santa Cruz were invited to prepare their own recommendations for improving policies and programs. These recommendations are included at the end of the commission's report. The comments appear to represent views valid as of the early part of 1991, something over a year after the event. I will rely extensively on this report for my paper. FUNDING My impression of the major recurring theme in the community reports that are contained in the Seismic Safety Commission's document is of the extreme frustration experienced by public and private interests in obtaining financial assistance critical to their recovery and reconstruction. This is certainly not news, but the vital role of assistance in recovery cannot be denied. Also, the intense problems of funding agencies in administering programs cannot be underestimated. Those administering programs are put in the unenviable position of having to see that funds are spent according to dictates of programs. Not only do they have to see that funds match detailed requirements, they also have to make certain that claims do not falsely describe the conditions of damage. They are open to intense criticism because they often have to say "no." I do not pretend to be an authority on funding programs, but the comments by jurisdictions need to be considered. San Francisco in its report stated: The time involved for individuals applying for individual assistance was sometimes excessive because of the large number of different agencies and regulations involved. For example, because of confusion about the scope of the authority and responsibility between the Office of Emergency Services (OES), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Transportation, it took nine months to determine whether expenditures to repair a possible landslide affecting private homes, public land and streets were eligible for reimbursement, and by what agency . . .. They are still displaced at the time of this writing—a year and a half after the earthquake. San Francisco's report details many other examples of concern. For instance, it states that since the California Natural Disaster Assistance Program (CALDAP) funds are available only to those who have been denied federal aid, it was necessary to go through the process of being denied by a federal agency, even though the outcome was a forgone conclusion, in order to be considered for CALDAP aid. The report indicates this delay of up to six months simply discouraged many from applying. The report also states that frustration with feder-

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council al programs was so high that the U.S. representative for the district had to assist over 200 constituents through the process. Other jurisdictions had other concerns. For instance, the city of Santa Cruz cited the fact that FEMA aid is for replacing "in kind" what was lost. The city points out that where improvements were inadequate to begin with, there needs to be funding for "betterment" through some kind of a loan program, perhaps by the state. Many other criticisms have been made. For example, it is reported that estimators for FEMA, often from another part of the country, were unfamiliar with local building costs and therefore did not properly value the cost of rebuilding. The horror stories regarding obtaining financial assistance are legendary. I believe that no one thinks it is a simple problem and that most would agree that funding agencies try to carry out a difficult task in a fair and reasonable manner. Given this very brief glimpse of some of the types of problems that occurred, what practical lessons have been learned? Or phrased another way, what suggestions have been put forward for improvements? Let us consider a few. The report of Los Gatos indicates that those who had earthquake insurance were the ones who, in general, were most successful in obtaining financing to rebuild. If this is representative, it appears that additional attention to earthquake insurance is still an avenue that needs to be pursued by individuals and at the national level. Something akin to flood insurance appears needed. Oakland indicates that in most instances FEMA field representatives were from out of town. The city recommends that FEMA adopt a policy of assigning the same personnel to work with the jurisdiction on a regular basis so that familiarity is established. Also emphasized was the need to have representatives fluent in the languages of residents of the city. San Francisco pointed out that it had no prior experience or preparation in dealing with federal disaster response. The city then "... hired one full-time, experienced federal recovery expert to train and coordinate other City staff who were to be involved in federal and State programs. About twenty City staff people devoted full time to these programs for about nine months." This highlights the need for local jurisdictions to have at least one staff member who is up-to-date on federal and state funding programs so that the jurisdiction will have its own expert when disaster strikes. Such a person would be invaluable when the jurisdiction is confronted with complex funding programs at the same time the city is in chaos after an earthquake. The problems with funding programs provide an argument for considering major changes in how they operate. San Francisco has suggested, for instance, that the "Administration of the federal Public Assistance Program could be considerably simplified by changing the character of the program from one of reimbursement for exhaustively detailed expenses, to one that distributes 'block' grants to local agencies. State and federal agencies could establish granting

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council criteria which measure the magnitude of a disaster... and the estimated damage. Assistance would occur quickly and without a detailed application process. Local governments could establish their own priorities for short-term and long-term recovery assistance and then make a full accounting of expenditures" (California SSC, 1991). At the Bay Area Earthquake Preparedness Project (BAREPP) conference "Putting the Pieces Together" (BAREPP, 1990), held one year after the earthquake, Dianne Guzman, Planning Director for Santa Cruz County during the earthquake, made what she called two "critical recommendations" with respect to the repair and replacement of housing. One of her recommendations states: "There is a need for clearer expectations on the level of long term state and federal assistance for all aspects of repair and rebuilding of housing." This comment could be extended to buildings other than housing. Based on this brief review of the funding problem, the following lessons have been summarized: Consideration needs to be given to major simplifications in the federal and state funding programs. Funding programs need to be more clearly defined so as to provide guidance to local communities for long-term recovery. FEMA needs to be better oriented to the communities it is going to assist. Local jurisdictions need to have in-house experts in federal and state funding programs. Insurance has proven effective in getting money to the insured and needs to be pursued as a major recovery tool. I should add that even with what I have written, I have only addressed the tip of the iceberg. The matter of funding is fundamental to the recovery and rebuilding process and requires much additional consideration. The Seismic Safety Commission's report states: "In short, the disaster assistance application and review processes needs a thorough overhaul." RECOVERY PLANS AND REGULATIONS A manager of the firm that contracted with Santa Cruz County to provide repair and reconstruction permitting services summed up the challenge to government when he said: Governments should focus on and formalize the process they want to have in place when disaster strikes rather than trying to reinvent or tweak or get around or ignore normal procedures when you're trying to move as quickly as possible to help your community. California SSC, 1991

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council In the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) journal devoted to the Loma Prieta earthquake, the problem was further emphasized with the statement: The lack of recovery planning in all jurisdictions is glaringly obvious. There are no preplanned programs, and all decisions appear ad hoc and characterized by linear thinking rather then systematic approaches. Benuska, ed., 1990 It is clear that after an earthquake the normal ways of doing business are not adequate to accommodate both the pressure for speed in approving projects and the volume of applications. Also, the event brings to light the defects in the environment that have been ignored over the years, such as areas of ground failure and weak buildings. As a result, the jurisdiction is faced with not only the damage but, at that late date, attempting to impose stricter regulations than had been in place prior to the earthquake. To property owners, this amounts to putting a greater burden on the unfortunate. Most of the experience seems to point to a need to consider the recovery and rebuilding process long before the earthquake. Indeed, the report of the California Seismic Safety Commission recommends that the state should require local jurisdictions to develop community recovery plans with at least as much emphasis as is placed on emergency response plans. Given this perspective, what are some specific recommendations based on the lessons from the Loma Prieta earthquake? Some special organizational structure and guidelines appear necessary. In Los Gatos, one of the first actions of the city council after the earthquake was to establish the Earthquake Restoration Committee and policies governing demolition, repair, and reconstruction of damaged buildings and unreinforced masonry. The council also established procedures for allowing use of a motor home or trailer as temporary housing. Los Gatos and Santa Cruz both adopted similar policies with respect to reconstruction of buildings. In Los Gatos, if a building was to be replaced with another building identical in size and use as previously existed and for which no more than 100 square feet of floor area were to be added, the approval process was simplified and normal fees were not required. On the other hand, if the replacement structure was to be substantially different or more than 100 square feet larger, it had to go through the regular development review process, and fees were not waived. This policy backed up the council's desire to get the town back to the condition it was in prior to the earthquake. Problems inherent in changing regulations, especially when the changes are more restrictive, are pointed out by Santa Cruz County's report. It states that existing policies allowed response with relatively few surprises but that when new technical information indicated a need to modify policies and make them more restrictive, major difficulties arose. Most notably this occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains where large landslides occurred. Proposals by county

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council staff to prevent residents from repairing and rebuilding homes in this area became politically explosive. Dealing with the uncertainties of large landslide areas in the calm of a non-disaster is hard enough, but it is easier than dealing with them in the aftermath of a disaster. Policies established in advance of the earthquake to govern reconstruction in such areas would have been very useful in the aftermath of the earthquake. Such high risk areas and related policies need to be in place well before the damage occurs. Given the intense pressures local jurisdictions are under after an earthquake to allow rebuilding in hazardous areas, the Santa Cruz County report goes further and recommends state support in establishing regulations to govern building in hazardous areas and also in financial measures to help solve difficult situations through engineering remedies and relocation of development. Organizational approaches to directing the rebuilding of damaged areas varied in cities. Los Gatos appointed the Earthquake Restoration Committee already mentioned. The city council of Santa Cruz, about two months after the earthquake, appointed a 36-member citizen group, Vision Santa Cruz, to develop an overall concept for rebuilding the downtown. The city council of Watsonville appointed a Downtown Recovery Committee. While the nature of problems differed between the three communities, two moved ahead rather rapidly with putting things back as they were, while Santa Cruz undertook an extended debate with community involvement to determine what type of a rebuilt downtown was desired. Some thought in advance of a major earthquake as to the organizational structure to put in place to guide the rebuilding would seem to pay off in the aftermath. One of the rather surprising aspects of the earthquake was not the result of direct damage but rather the major community controversies that arose indirectly from the damage in several areas. The two most notable examples are the Cypress Structure failure and the Embarcadero Freeway failure. In the case of the Cypress Structure, the community through which the freeway passes opposed its reconstruction, as they argued it divided the community and was not compatible with the residential uses in the area. In the case of the Embarcadero Freeway, those who had long considered the structure to be a blight on the San Francisco waterfront argued that the structure should not be replaced. In each instance, there followed periods of intense controversy and major changes to plans for rebuilding. The new solutions are generally perceived to be more consistent with local desires. The foregoing observations and many others that relate to this topic indicate a need to carefully consider the rebuilding process that a community will have to go through after a major earthquake, but such consideration needs to be well in advance of the event. Based on the comments of the cities, the following lessons appear to be evident. Well in advance of an earthquake, local jurisdictions need to establish overall programs for handling the recovery and rebuilding that will take place

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council after the earthquake. These programs need to have a number of components as suggested below. The organizational structure needed to guide intensive rebuilding efforts needs to be defined and the rules for its operation established. Options seem to include the elected body itself, a committee, or possibly a redevelopment agency. Also, staff needs for the body need to be considered and met. Ordinances need to be prepared that will become effective automatically upon declaration by the governing body of the jurisdiction. These ordinances should cover a range of topics, some of which are applications deemed routine should be exempted from time-consuming reviews and normal fees; permission should be given to use recreation vehicles, campers, etc., for normal living for short periods; provisions should be established for temporary use of non-commercial buildings by displaced businesses; and provisions should be made on how to handle repair and rebuilding in areas that experience ground failure. Any plans for organizational structure and procedures to be followed after an earthquake need to take into consideration that unforeseen controversy might arise. This argues for carefully anticipating where major damage might occur and then evaluating the various potential impacts on the rebuilding process. As an assist in developing the organization and procedures to respond to an earthquake, earthquake scenarios might be used by those who would be involved in rebuilding to help them understand the various problems with which they will be confronted. In this way, they would be better able to be prepared. This approach is similar to that used by emergency-response personnel but aimed at the first several years after an earthquake rather than the first several days. Arrangements should be made to obtain additional personnel and expertise to handle the large increase in applications for repairing and replacing structures. This pertains to building inspectors and engineering geologists especially. MITIGATION The major lesson with respect to mitigation is that where mitigation steps were taken, damage seems to have been light. One can't help being impressed by how much went right in the earthquake rather than how much went wrong. Most buildings stood up, and relatively few land failures caused damage to structures. The failures that occurred are well documented and by and large were the result of old buildings built to inadequate standards or buildings located in potentially hazardous areas, such as areas subject to landslides, liquefaction, and enhanced ground shaking. Most of these problems could have been solved through better land-planning decisions or engineering. The major structural failures, such as the freeways already mentioned and the Bay Bridge, were mostly

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council due to engineering that was not equal to the task. In short, we know how to evaluate land for construction better than we did in the past; we know how to engineer solutions to ground failure better than we did; and we know how to design buildings better than we did. The problem, of course, is that much of the environment was built before the state of the art and practice had advanced to where they are now. If this is the case, then what are the concerns at this juncture in history? The major challenge is to use current knowledge in an effective manner. In those jurisdictions where there is a lag, practice needs to be brought up to date. The major lessons include the following: Hazardous buildings should be strengthened or removed, especially unreinforced masonry buildings. Old houses should be bolted to foundations, shear bracing added to cripple walls where needed, and mobile homes properly tied down. Lands should be planned and zoned so as to avoid hazardous areas, or solutions to provide safety should be engineered and provided. Subdivisions and building permits should be subjected to rigorous requirements for geologic information, and that information should be reviewed by qualified geologists on behalf of local jurisdictions. None of the foregoing suggestions are new or startling; however, they are not uniformly carried out. These are minimal requirements if significant improvements are to take place. Carrying these out probably requires state legislation, a topic addressed next in this paper. IMPORTANCE OF STATE LEGISLATION Patricia Bolton and Carlyn Orians, in their report Earthquake Mitigation in the Bay Area, Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake, address the question of whether the earthquake caused local jurisdictions to take a more aggressive approach in mitigating earthquake hazards (Bolton, 1992). Their conclusions, based on evaluations of 39 jurisdictions in seven counties, was that by and large no significant advancements took place. They point out that some jurisdictions reported a heightened awareness of earthquake hazards and that over one-third "indicated increased attention to emergency response preparedness, but not to loss reduction measures." Since the aftermath of an earthquake is generally deemed to be the most likely time to obtain agreement for improvements in earthquake safety, this is perhaps a discouraging commentary. On the other hand, what was the record at the state level after the Loma Prieta earthquake? The California Seismic Safety Commission reports that 443 bills in the 1989-1990 legislative session and the 1989 extraordinary session included the terms "seismic safety" or "earthquake" and that 137 were signed into law by the governor. In the 1991-1992 legislative session, an additional

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council 139 bills were introduced, and 55 were signed by the governor into law. All but eight of these bills can be broken into the following groups (California SSC, 1992): Category 1, Existing Vulnerable Facilities 61 Category 2, New Facilities 24 Category 3, Emergency Management 22 Category 4, Disaster Recovery 61 Category 5, Research and Information/Education 16 When one considers the major advancements in seismic safety throughout California, it becomes clear that most of the actions that have been taken in the hazard-mitigation area are a direct result of state legislation. Bolton and Orians point out that the most common strategies both before and after the earthquake with respect to mitigation were application of the Uniform Building Code for Seismic Zone 4; the inclusion of a safety element in the general plan, which identifies seismic hazards and recommends programs for reducing hazards; and conformance with the California Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Law (SB 547). There are instances, on the other hand, where local jurisdictions have made improvements in hazard mitigation through changes in planning requirements or through an increased awareness of the reality of earthquake hazards, which causes them to pay more attention to the problem. Bay Area Earthquake Preparedness Project (BAREPP) and the Southern California Earthquake Preparedness Project (SCEPP) have been major catalysts in enhancing the level of awareness and providing mitigation instruction and informative publications. These efforts take considerable time to pay off, but on balance have been, in this writer's opinion, almost "the only game in town," in these areas. On balance, however, it appears abundantly clear that the general level of mitigation throughout the state is largely a result of state-mandated requirements. Political pressures at the local level against imposing increased requirements in controlling the use of land and buildings are intense. The state legislature, however, is more isolated from these parochial pressures. As Bolton and Orians point out, the shifting of the political pressure from the local level makes a difference. They state: "Once a measure is required by state law, adoption of the program becomes more of an implementation issue rather that a political issue." So, what are the practical lessons learned from this experience? Continued focus must be placed on developing appropriate state legislation that will further advance earthquake-hazard mitigation at the local level. Local governments cannot be left to their own devices. Even with state-mandated requirements, local jurisdictions should be encouraged to develop local programs attuned to their particular needs. The past work of BAREPP and the SCEPP made major strides in this area, and these types of efforts should be continued.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council DEMOLITION The handling of demolition was a major problem facing cities that experienced significant amounts of building collapse or partial collapse in the earthquake. Considerable experience was gained, and some important insights were developed with respect to various aspects of the problem. That demolition is a significant concern is emphasized by the fact that of the seven major recommendations from local governments with respect to community recovery (California SSC, 1991), two address the problems of demolition, and they recommend the following: Standards are needed for the repair of damaged buildings, including historical buildings. Criteria are needed for the demolition of severely damaged buildings, including historic buildings. On the surface, the question of whether a building should be demolished might seem rather simple. Is it more economical for the owner to demolish the building or rebuild it? The problem immediately becomes more complex as the owner begins to face the question of what the jurisdiction may demand, or allow, and what financing might be available. The entire demolition process, from the first building evaluations to the more detailed ones and finally to decisions to demolish or repair is indeed complex. One aspect, however, stood out in the earthquake—the question of historic buildings. The EERI Loma Prieta Reconnaissance Team (Benuska, 1990) points out that while the percentage of buildings considered historic that were damaged in the earthquake was small, these buildings were individually significant and were often grouped in older areas where they tended to constitute a historic area. To illustrate the small numbers, consider that in the of city of Santa Cruz, 53 of the 1,025 damaged buildings, or 5 percent, were classified as historic. Probably, the major controversy in the city in the aftermath of the earthquake was over the fate of the historic St. George Hotel. The hotel, while listed in the city's Historic Building Survey and named as a contributing building in a historic district, was not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several groups, Friends of St. George, the California Preservation Foundation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, filed a suit to prevent demolition after the city council had authorized the demolition being sought by the building owner. The basis of the suit was lack of compliance with a bill passed just after the earthquake (SB3x) and the California Environmental Quality Act. The city's decision was based on an engineer's report that the building presented an imminent threat to public safety. Ultimately, the court upheld the city's decision, but in the interim, the building remained and delayed planning and rebuilding for an important part of the badly damage downtown area (Cronin, undated).

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council As pointed out in the EERI report (Benuska, 1991), one FEMA rule tends to act against preservation. The rule provides that FEMA will pay for demolition that takes place within 30 days of the earthquake. After that time, the building owner must pay for the demolition. It is argued that this time pressure does not allow adequate time to properly evaluate the building and the various options for preservation. As pointed out in the report: ''Owners need to be made aware of the importance of their historic buildings and encouraged to repair rather than demolish them.'' One of the ancillary aspects of this topic is the need for building standards to which historic buildings must be restored, a topic presumably addressed by others at this symposium. What are some of the practical lessons learned in this subject area? Cities and counties, before an earthquake, should have in place a well-defined program for assessing damage and making determinations as to demolition decisions, especially with respect to historic buildings. Standards for repair of damaged buildings, especially historic ones, should be in place well before an earthquake. Building owners and local jurisdictions should be well aware of the impact historic building designations will have on reconstruction after earthquakes or other disasters and consider the appropriateness of retaining the buildings. HOUSING It is estimated that approximately 24,000 residential structures sustained damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake. In Santa Cruz County, approximately 14,100 housing units were damaged, and of these about 900 were destroyed. Thus, of the county's 90,000 housing units, 16 percent were affected. In Oakland, approximately 1,000 units were destroyed, while in San Francisco about 500 were permanently lost and an additional 500-600 were severely damaged and were not restored as of early 1991 (California SSC, 1991). It appears that most of the damaged housing units have been repaired using federal loans, conventional loans, or insurance payments. The majority of the affected owners and residents have been rehoused even though it may have taken a considerable amount of time. The major problem, and one that remains, is handling the needs of the low-income population, the population that typically occupies old housing of poor construction, most notably URM hotels and apartment buildings. The U.S. General Accounting Office, assigned to investigate the adequacy of the federal response to the earthquake, noted that the Loma Prieta earthquake was the first large-scale disaster in a major urban area where the problem of repairing or replacing low-income housing occurred (California SSC, 1991). The problem was compounded by the fact that in the Bay Area there was a large homeless population and an inadequate supply of housing for low-in-come persons before the earthquake.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council Repair and reconstruction of low-income rentals is not normally feasible using conventional financing. The cost of repairs typically results in increased rents, which exceed the resources of the low-income occupants. After the earthquake, FEMA took the position that it could not provide funds to restore or replace damaged units. Neither did HUD take on the responsibility. The SSC report states very clearly: "The basic conclusion related to damaged-housing replacement is that federal disaster-assistance programs do not provide adequate assistance to state and local governments to reconstruct damaged rental units." Only Small Business Administration (SBA) loans were available, but they were not adequate. In order to help address this problem, the state had previously established the California Natural Disaster Assistance Program for Rental Properties after the Whittier Narrows earthquake to provide low-interest, deferred loans for rehabilitating rental units. The record indicates, however, since these loans are a measure of last resort, assistance was very slow and favored nonprofit housing groups (California SSC, 1991). What is the practical lesson learned from this experience? The SSC report puts the problem as well as it can be stated: The State of California urgently needs to focus on the issue of low cost housing replacement especially when contemplating response to the expected urban earthquakes that are likely to permanently displace tens of thousands. Also, as has already been mentioned: There is a real need to solve the easier problems including tying down mobile homes, bolting old houses to their foundations, and adding shear strength to cripple walls of old houses. Also, there is the need to solve the more difficult problems of URM residential buildings. BUSINESS RECOVERY A first order question is: How did the Bay Area business community fare as a result of the earthquake? The Association of Bay Area Governments report Macroeconomic Effects of the Loma Prieta Earthquake provides some answers to this question (ABAG, 1991). The report leads off with the statement that the "The Loma Prieta earthquake produced minimal disruption to the overall economy of the Bay Area and its environs." This assertion is backed up with research on employment and taxable retail sales. A few key statistics will suffice to make the point. The estimated loss of 7,100 jobs, when extended for a four-month period amounts to a loss of less than a quarter of one percent of the economy, which has more than three million jobs. The report also points out, however, that the effects are felt differently in the region. For instance, San Francisco lost approximately $73 million in taxable sales in the fourth quarter of 1989. The report attributes this loss to damage to transportation and infrastructure. In Santa Cruz County, unemployment claims jumped from 3,910 to 7,246 for the period

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council between the third week of October and the second week of November in 1989 as compared with 1988. It is clear, therefore, that while the region faired rather well, certain areas felt the economic impact to a much larger extent. Richard Wilson, City Manager of Santa Cruz, in his report The Loma Prieta Quake, What One City Learned (Wilson, 1991), described the vulnerability of local economies very clearly: A disaster does not fundamentally change the larger economy; it simply takes out the most vulnerable parts of the pre-disaster economy. The economic trends that were in place before the disaster will continue. The major change will be that the economic activities lost in the disaster will be resumed elsewhere. He describes the damage as follows: For all practical purposes, Santa Cruz's downtown—the source of about 20 percent of the city's sales taxes—was destroyed by the earthquake. The city's two department stores, at either end of the downtown mall, had to be demolished, as did thirty other buildings. Few of the buildings that remained were fit for occupancy, and in any event access could not be gained to the streets and sidewalks adjacent to buildings. Some of the businesses, those that could afford to do so, moved to locations outside of Santa Cruz, where space was available. Some businesses, the more marginal ones, simply ceased to exist. Others moved into some empty buildings near the downtown, and still others were relocated into rapidly erected "pavilions" on downtown parking lots. After the initial clean-up and the commencement of the use of temporary quarters, the replanning of the downtown started with the appointment of the 36-member Vision Santa Cruz. Today, the downtown is slowly being rebuilt. Based on this intense and instructive experience, Mr. Wilson lists a number of practical lessons that have general applicability, including the following: The first priority is to protect against the immediate loss of economic activity to other places. This requires that pre-disaster plans identify locations for temporary business structures such as public parking lots and private properties. Pre-disaster plans should identify key parties that will represent business, government, and community interests in the aftermath of an earthquake, and such groups should meet periodically. Pre-disaster recovery planning should contemplate the potential financial realities that will be faced and should be prepared in advance. This can include having local expertise in federal and state aid programs as well as other sources of financing. A governmental structure should be defined that will take charge of managing the rebuilding process. While the exact expected damage cannot be forecast and therefore a detailed plan for rebuilding cannot be prepared, "the framework within which a city will work can be defined."

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council CONCLUSIONS In the area of mitigation, the Loma Prieta earthquake appears to have reconfirmed that basic urban-planning techniques, when they take into consideration seismic factors, can provide a reasonable level of safety from ground failure. This is based on the observation that most ground failures occurred in areas developed in the past when the recognition of seismic problems in the urban-planning process was less. Large areas of ground failure in new developments were not recorded. On the other hand, some of the newer developments may not have been adequately tested simply because the intensity of ground shaking at the site and the duration of shaking were not sufficient. Also, in the area of mitigation, the earthquake reconfirmed what has been known for a long time, that older, weak buildings fail unless they have been properly reinforced. The earthquake did point out, however, that an adequate job of carrying out such reinforcement activities is not being done. Even this was known before the earthquake, as local policy makers refused to face up to the problem. As suggested in this paper, probably the major practical lesson was what was learned about the failings of the funding process. Financial resources are the fuels that drive the rebuilding engines after an earthquake. It appears that the entire funding process needs a review, and major changes are warranted. Also, it is clear that a number of communities learned through experience that they had to develop organizational structures, procedures, and regulations to deal with rebuilding in the heat of the post-earthquake rebuilding process. There appears to be unanimity that these matters need to be attended to prior to a major earthquake. Unfortunately, it appears that local governments left to their own devices by and large will not adopt the seismic safety regulations necessary to protect local populations and improvements. The record seems to show that the most successful mitigation efforts were a direct result of state legislation. This again brings attention to the state level for developing and adopting the most critical items of legislation. In the area of demolition, the problems presented by historic buildings came into sharp focus. These buildings can be both an asset and a curse. They provide historic context for a city but also can stand in the way of a coordinated rebuilding effort after an earthquake. Much more attention needs to be paid to historic designations so that on balance they play a proper role in the city and the reconstruction process. Finally, the loss of housing emphasized the plight of low-income persons who typically occupy old, weak buildings. This provides urgency to efforts to strengthen old residential buildings and to develop better financing mechanisms to be available immediately after an earthquake. The examples of lessons included in this paper are admittedly a selected list

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council based on my readings and personal observations. Others should add to the list based on their perspectives. It is clear, however, that there is still a long way to go in responding to the challenges in the areas of recovery, mitigation, and planning. REFERENCES ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments). 1991. Macroeconomic Effects of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. ABAG. BAREPP (Bay Area Earthquake Preparedness Project). 1990. Proceedings: Putting the Pieces Together. BAREPP. Benuska, L., Technical Editor. 1990. Earthquake Spectra. Supplement to Volume 6, Loma Prieta Earthquake Reconnaissance Report, May 1990. Bolton, P.A., and C.E. Orians. 1992. Earthquake Mitigation in the Bay Area, Lesson from the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Summary Report, Batelle. Cronin, T.G. Undated. Overview of Legal Issues Attending the Loma Prieta Earthquake. California Seismic Safety Commission. California SSC (Seismic Safety Commission). 1992. California at Risk: Reducing Earthquake Hazards, 1992-1996. Report SSC 91-08, Seismic Safety Commission. California SSC. 1991. Loma Prieta's Call to Action. Seismic Safety Commission. Wilson, Richard C. 1991. The Loma Prieta Quake: What One City Learned. International City Management Association, Washington, D.C.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council DISCUSSANTS' COMMENTS: RECOVERY, MITIGATION, AND PLANNING Kenneth C. Topping, Independent Consultant I would like to underscore everything that George Mader has just said. First, for context, I would like to expand the term "recovery" to include two parts: short-term and long-term. The words that are missing are "reconstruction" and "land-use." Ultimately, there are three major principles of reconstruction—land-use, land-use, and land-use—to paraphrase the old real estate terminology. The idea that a city can be better after a disaster is something that has been practiced in only a few cities around the world—such as Nagoya and Hiroshima, Japan. Yet there are examples that wise rebuilding can lead to a better community. Here in San Francisco we have the traditional phases of the disaster. From the Presidio collection of photographs of the 1906 earthquake, there are examples of the destruction, the housing issue (emblematic of recovery stage), and the reconstruction—ceremonializing what you have at the end (the Palace of Fine Arts—the one piece from the exhibition that memorialized the earthquake and then ultimately announced that the reconstruction was over). Daniel Burnham's plan to rebuild San Francisco quite differently was rejected in the process—the monument remains, but many of the problems were recreated. I would like to briefly focus on the contrast between that vision—of being able to make a better place and to show through physical symbols that it is better—and the reality. The reality is born out by the fact that although hazard mitigation should shape development, hazards exist in the built environment that are very substantial—not just earthquake hazards but others as well. For example, Oakland has learned from its experience of the earthquake and the fires in just four years. The built pattern dictates what can and cannot be done to a considerable degree in the mitigation area. This is an area where there is a linkage between the planners and the engineers—for issues such as how to de-sign-in safety (as embodied in the Stafford Act, Sections 404 and 409) and how to reconcile the fact that people need to get back into their homes quickly. From the Loma Prieta earthquake (in the Santa Cruz mountains, in particular) and from the Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire, a series of special recovery considerations have emerged. One consideration is that of the nature of the recovery organization, if any. You can plan, set in place, and adopt an ordinance that would automatically authorize by the governing body a recovery organization that would run parallel with the emergency organization. It would extend well beyond the emergency period, through the years that it takes to reconstruct a community. This is fundamental to the major change that is needed in this area of recovery and reconstruction planning. We just are not looking far enough into the future. We have seen some form of ad hoc reconstruction organization emerge in every major catastrophic situation. Mr. Mader is correct—if we learn

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council nothing else, it is that a reconstruction organization must be planned for so that it can be activated by the declaration of the emergency. Another critical consideration is building moratorium ordinances, along with hazard-evaluation procedures. Hazard (not damage) evaluation is critical as it has to do with whether or not permits are issued in areas where they shouldn't be. Other considerations include: temporary site uses, repair standards, and permit expediting; nonconforming buildings and uses; illegal buildings and uses; the potential for resubdivision (currently there is no way to reassemble land quickly, with private incentive, as other countries do). Mr. Mader's point that urban planning can help in these disaster reconstruction situations fundamentally gets down to land-use planning—not just building design. It involves such things as paved road widths and fire-safety measures. In Oakland, they formed a Benefit Assessment District, which is something that ought to be looked at in relation to earthquake hazards. There is a law on the books for geologic-hazards assessment districts, but it is very cumbersome. In Oakland, the Benefit Assessment will bring in $20 million a year over the next 10 years (the sunset period), which will be used for vegetation management and fire suppression. This Assessment District just happens to straddle the Hayward fault—so there is a fundamental seismic safety issue in the replanning of this area. The replanning has to be incremental, practical, and within the scope of what is feasible in terms of overall policy. I'd like to close with the idea that a globally applicable technology of reconstruction planning is needed. Thank you. Patricia A. Bolton, Battelle Seattle Research Center Yesterday we heard from Gary Johnson that there is going to be greater federal-level emphasis on a national mitigation strategy. We also heard Tom Tobin's eloquent call to advocacy—what the people in this room can do to promote earthquake mitigation. This call to advocacy recognizes that we have increasingly precise information on how to prevent damage. But it has continually proven to be difficult for local jurisdictions to get earthquake mitigation to the top of the political agenda so that agencies can commit resources to doing mitigation. George Mader mentioned findings from my research on mitigation planning following the Loma Prieta earthquake. I would like to make three further observations based on that research and other findings and observation. Looking at the registration list, there are at least 50 officials from local-level agencies registered here. Most of the rest of you are consultants and academics. I am talking to all of you about how to use your expertise to be advocates. I am going to talk about getting mitigation programs "off the shelf," using best sellers in mitigation planning, and "boxing up" mitigation planning. Although I am going to spare you the jargon of my discipline and address them in

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council this somewhat light-hearted way, each of these topics is a serious matter for enabling local jurisdictions to move forward with mitigation. These topics are related to using incentives, using technical assistance, and developing organizational strategies for implementing mitigation. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, included in the Staff Act, was implemented after the Loma Prieta earthquake to provide matching funds to communities for mitigation projects. Some experienced problems coming up with mitigation projects for their proposals, but our observations indicated that those who had some type of project on the shelf had an easier time with their proposal. As a community, you can ask if you have some project that was "left on the stump," that is, provided by some consultant but never acted on. You might find you already have several projects on the shelf that never got funded. Also, the Mitigation Grant Program legislation requires that you have a mitigation plan and update it annually. This is an opportunity to "rotate your stock" of mitigation projects out to the front to see what might sell at this point. With respect to "best sellers" in mitigation-planning assistance, our research proposed a list of sources of mitigation-planning-assistance documents that had been made available over the years to California planners. Two sources came to the fore as familiar and useful to local agency staff: The Bay Area Regional Earthquake Preparedness Project assistance and technical guides and the opportunities to learn about problems and solutions through one's own professional association's seminars and material. Local officials like technical assistance that is easily accessible, continuously available, locally relevant, and provided by credible sources. The last topic is how to package mitigation programs, or the "boxes" we found mitigation programs in when we talked to these communities. Different boxes have different consequences for what gets done. In some places, mitigation was still in the jury box—"we're still weighing the evidence for the hazard." Another situation might be referred to as the Pandora's Box—the program was viewed as "a prolific source of troubles." Then there is the sandbox—a playing around with projects with no internal structure for when or in what order we do things. Another model to consider is the Whitman Sampler Box—where you create a new box with the choice pieces out of all our other boxes. There seems to be a tremendous value in taking an interagency perspective on mitigation planning. It will take all of us to reduce earthquake losses. Jerold H. Barnes, Salt Lake County Planning I have learned a great deal from the Loma Prieta earthquake. When I first started in the hazards-mitigation business, I thought that this goal of ours was a big elephant that we had to eat, but we could only do that a bite at a time. This was the way were progressing. The Loma Prieta earthquake convinced us that the beast is much larger, but that our ability to take larger bites hasn't grown.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council We've always looked to California for the state of the art in planning and things that we should do. In Utah, we haven't experienced a really large damaging earthquake, although the scientists tell us that we have a good chance of a 7.5 in the not so distant future somewhere along one of the segments of the Wasatch fault. Utah is a different world regarding hazards mitigation than California. The Utah Seismic Safety Council was active from 1977-1981. When work was completed, the State Legislature was given a report with a set of recommendations for legislative needs to address. The following are two examples. (1) The state should adopt the Uniform Building Code for the whole state. That recommendation was not followed until the late 1980s—8 or 9 years later. The jury is still out on how the small communities are dealing with that building code. (2) Legislation should be adopted that would give definite authority to implement a hazard-reduction program. That recommendation took until 1990 to happen. The legislation, however, simply allows that environmental plans may have an environmental element, which, in turn, may have some geologic-hazard mapping. Nevertheless, important work is being done through universities, the State Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management, the Utah Geologic Survey, some engineering firms, and local governments. In Utah, it is the local governments that are leading the way—not the state. In Utah, we need to learn from your experience. If I take any of the scientific lessons that I have heard here to my county commission and say this is what we need to do, it will just go on a pile somewhere. We need to have translated information in simple terms from the scientists so that we can put that to work and bring it to the attention of those who make decisions on programs and budgets. Thank you.

OCR for page 219
Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake: Report from a Symposium Sponsored by the Geotechnical Board and the Board on Natural Disasters of the National Research Council This page in the original is blank.