Coastal Management's Role in Seismic Safety—Political Lessons from California's 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

by William Travis, San Francisco Bay Conservation and, Development Commission, San Francisco, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) -- the first coastal management agency in the United States --has been involved in seismic safety since the Commission was established in 1965. As part of a comprehensive planning program, BCDC studied the physical characteristics of the bay and the major planning issues confronting the bay by preparing a series of technical reports. Four of these reports dealt directly with the issue of the safety of fills during an earthquake. The reports noted that structures built on bay fill are particularly vulnerable during earthquakes, but that sound engineering of both the placement of the fill and the design of the structures could significantly reduce these hazards. To assist the Commission in meeting its legal mandate, BCDC relies on the advice of an Engineering Criteria Review Board (ECRB) consisting of eminent geologists, structural engineers, architects, and geotechnical engineers. Over the years, as a result of the ECRB's review, the design criteria for many new bay fill projects have been refined to incorporate state-of-the-art concepts into the project designs. The effectiveness of the ECRB's review was demonstrated on October 17, 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay region. Other than minor cosmetic cracks, none of the ECRB-reviewed structures suffered any damage. Unfortunately, the Commission currently has regulatory jurisdiction only over new bay fill projects, and efforts are therefore underway to extend the authority of the Commission to old bay fill projects as well, which requires overcoming the opposition of some local governments.

Subject Headings: Bays | Fills | Coastal management | Seismic tests | Seismic effects | Safety | Earthquakes | Earthquake resistant structures | California | United States

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