By Rosanna Xia
When Los Angeles officials begin an ambitious effort to comb the city and check which buildings might be at risk in a major earthquake, they will also examine how efficiently the structures use water and electricity, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday.
The comment came as Garcetti pledged to appoint a “chief resilience officer” who would search for ways to improve the city’s ability to recover from man-made or natural disasters such as earthquakes. At a conference on what it takes to make a city bounce back from disaster, the Rockefeller Foundation also committed to paying the first two years of salary for whoever Los Angeles hires for the job.
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“When disaster strikes, we must be prepared now to keep our water, communications and other key infrastructure operational,” said Garcetti, who emphasized that preparing for earthquakes goes hand in hand with preparing for long-term problems such as drought for a city like Los Angeles. “Why should we be going and looking at buildings on their seismic safety if we don’t also look at the energy that they’re consuming and the water that they consume?”
Last fall, The Times reported that by the most conservative estimate, as many as 50 of the more than 1,000 concrete buildings in the city built before 1976 would collapse in a major earthquake, exposing thousands to injury or death. In January, Garcetti appointed Lucy Jones, a prominent U.S. Geological Survey seismologist, to spend a year talking with community leaders, scientists, building owners and tenants and coming up with recommendations on how to tackle retrofitting and preserving the city’s water and telecommunications systems during a major quake.
Once Jones’ work is done, the resilience officer would take it from there.
L.A. was chosen as one of 100 cities that will get money and other help from the Rockefeller Foundation to develop ways to minimize damage and recover economically from disasters. Out of 372 cities around the world that have applied to become one of the Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, 32 have been selected so far.
The program has already kicked off in New Orleans, Berkeley and San Francisco, which recently expanded the duties of its earthquake czar to include chief of resilience.
Michael Berkowitz, president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, said L.A. has many complex challenges, and he was “really impressed by the innovative and visionary leadership that the mayor was providing on these issues.”