These are scary times, and for those citizens living in earthquake country, the times are not just scary, they are terrifying. For starters, a major earthquake is overdue along the Hayward Fault, in the East Bay area near San Francisco: It could happen at any moment. San Francisco has 120,000 buildings, at least 90% of them erected before the adoption of modern building codes in the 1970s. Most won’t flat-out collapse in a city-centered earthquake the size of 1989’s Loma Prieta, but there will be damage beyond repair from the quake and ensuing fire to about a quarter of the buildings, say San Francisco planners.
Yet the area’s earthquake-preparedness community says pleas for action to mitigate the impact of such a disaster fall on deaf ears in Sacramento and in City Hall because earthquakes are not the disaster of the day, but rather terrorism and the Great Recession. Nevertheless, a group of determined planners has initiated a campaign in San Francisco that could transform the paradigm for earthquake preparedness, impact and recovery.