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Los Angeles, California Announces New Plans in Anticipat...

Los Angeles, California Announces New Plans in Anticipation of “The Big One”

In a large metropolitan region like Los Angeles County, California, preparing for disasters, both natural and man-made, is a huge governmental concern. With a population of just over 10 million people, Los Angeles County is home to over 200,000 businesses. Specific to earthquakes, Mayor Garcetti has recently announced a new plan called “Resilience by Design” to help

Map of the Hollywood fault zone from Los Angeles Times

In a large metropolitan region like Los Angeles County, California, preparing for disasters, both natural and man-made, is a huge governmental concern. With a population of just over 10 million people, Los Angeles County is home to over 200,000 businesses. Specific to earthquakes, Mayor Garcetti has recently announced a new plan called “Resilience by Design” to help address some of the city’s greatest vulnerabilities to earthquakes. Scientists conclude that Los Angeles (along with other cities that borders the southern section of the San Andreas fault) is long overdue for a major earthquake that many call “The Big One.” Besides concerns for buildings that haven’t been retrofitted to withstand larger earthquakes, government officials are worried about major damages to electrical systems, gas lines, and water lines. Considering the severe drought that California is already in, earthquakes can be especially devastating. This is because water lines that transport 85% of Los Angeles’ water could break, with some sources stating that it could take months or even years to repair the broken water lines.

Downtown Los Angeles

It has always been the government’s role to protect peoples’ lives in disaster situations. Recently, however, attention has been given to protecting economic viability as well. Given that the economy of Los Angeles County is the 19th largest in the world, disasters like The Big One could seriously damage the economy. Dr. Lucy Jones, a renowned seismologist who is in charge of creating Resilience by Design, points out the fact that the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco effectively destroyed the city and its economy (which at the time was much larger than LA’s), forcing a mass migration of people southwards towards Los Angeles. The economy took decades to rebound, by which point other cities were economically better off.

Site excavation in Hollywood to test for active fault lines

This leads us to an interesting question: how do we construct a city that not only safeguards human life, but also its own economic vitality against natural disasters like earthquakes? This has been a point of much contention in recent development projects. Take the Millennium Hollywood project, for example. Proponents of this mixed-use project say that it will bring millions of dollars into the local economy, a necessary effort to revitalize Hollywood after several decades of blight. However, recent maps show that the development project lies directly on top of an active fault line (the first image showcases the site where active fault line testing took place), which has brought the project to a temporary halt as experts and government officials pour over the details. The developers of Millennium Hollywood have submitted their own geotechnical studies, and it's now up to government experts to make the call on whether to approve the project.

What sorts of initiatives can or should exist to safeguard the economic interests of LA in light of natural disasters? What is your city or community doing to prepare for natural disasters?

Credits: Images by Victor Tran. Data linked to sources.

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Victor Tran is a recent graduate from the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec. His post-graduate travels have brought him to Los Angeles, California where he works for a non-profit o...

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