February 28, 1994 - From the February, 1994 issue

TPR Readers Assess Region’s Post-Quake Priorities

After the devastating Northridge earthquake of January 17th, The Planning Report asked our readers to assess the land-use, transportation and urban planning priorities for a region that is recovering once again from a major disaster. We hope the following comments will help to lift the debate and focus the public discussion of appropriate responses.

A comprehensive examination of damaged structures and city building codes is a priority. However, endless equivocation will choke our recovery. Instead, government must facilitate, energize and initiate recovery efforts when and where it can. Sacrificing long range planning efforts in reaction to the immediate will only compound the crisis.

Anthony Zamora, Esq. Los Angeles Planning Commission

It's a loss: of detail, texture, lives. It's a risk: we're dumping millions of cars back onto surface streets. It's an opportunity: to build a transit system that might have taken decades otherwise.

Mark WinograndDirector of Planning and Community Development, Culver City

It is a challenge to turn a disaster into an opportunity - to rebuild communities based on the interdependence of people rather than their isolation. We need to respond with imagination and creatively use CRA, planning & zoning tools to stimulate mixed-use projects, to preserve the 'best' of the texture and fabric of our neighborhoods, and to protect the historic buildings which are a cornerstone of a livable city.

Brenda LevinAIA, Levin & Associates, Architects Chair, Urban Design Advisory Coalition

While the earthquakes both in San Francisco and Los Angeles caused major damage to freeways, highways, bridges and roads, crippling the transportation system, the rail systems came to the rescue of the daily commuters. My vision, articulated during my unsuccessful mayoral campaign, of mixed-use developments around the transit stations and corridors will, among other things, mitigate the interruption of our daily lives caused by earthquakes.

Nick Patsaouras, MTA Commissioner - Alternate

The Northridge Quake affords us an opportunity to rethink our infrastructure investment decisions; possibly, even to reprioritize MTA and DOT policies. Already the evidence clearly indicates we are utilizing (1000% increases) such underutilized resources as rail and ride-share lanes. There is, thank God, a silver lining in every crisis.

Robert Hertzberg, Esq., Chair, Urban Affairs Committee, American Jewish Committee

The earthquake has only highlighted critical faults in addressing housing and transit needs. We must urgently advance a comprehensive strategy to create safe housing and accessible transit while propelling economic development and safe­guarding the environment. Time is running out.

Peter B. ManzoCynthia D. RobbinsPUBLIC COUNSEL

We need help in rebuilding after the quake. But we also need to continue on the affordable housing projects in the planning. Let's not forget the people who were homeless or rent-burdened before the quake.

Joan LingCommunity Corporation of Santa Monica

While it is vitally important to assist neighborhoods that have been severely impacted by the riots and earthquake, for instance, we need to focus on neighborhoods that are in transitional decline. Stabilizing neighborhoods should be a first line of development triage in order to avoid the compounding effects of letting these areas slip into conditions found in some already impacted inner-city and other areas.


Historic Preservation has to be a priority. We have to preserve as many historic building as possible. There are also many questions surrounding the issue of rent control. How do we preserve the number of rent control units lost because of the quake? If a tenant is displaced from their apartment for over a year and doesn't pay rent, do they still have a right to their unit? On the other hand, this is a unique opportunity to bring together tenants and landlords to rehabilitate units and get rent flows started again.

John ZinnerSanta Monica Planning Commission

In order to promote rebuilding and facilitate business retention in the areas affected by the earthquake, real estate service organizations should offer free or limited fee information for rebuilding or relocation services. Also, people need to be informed about issues of non­conformance in the rebuilding process and the state should be looking modifying requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

John MessinaLos Angeles Community Development Department

With the anticipated mass rebuilding, Los Angeles will have the opportunity to implement building streamlining measures that have been talked about for years. If we fail, then rebuilding from the earthquake will become a very slow and frustrating process not only for developers, but for all Angelenos.

Ben ReznikAttorney for Reznik & Reznik

1. Expedite rebuilding of damaged structures by streamlining the permit process and waiving fees; 2. Reanalyze building codes, urban design guidelines, and zoning ordinances/general plans to improve seismic safety and promote development in areas of relatively less seismic risk and discourage development in areas of relatively greater risk; 3. Develop land-use policies to promote the use of mass transit to make the area less dependent on freeways; and 4. Because affordable housing was hit especially hard by the earthquake, promote the construction of new affordable housing which meets current seismic regulations and promote the retrofitting of the existing affordable housing stock.

Dale J. GoldsmithAttorney with Alschuler, Grossman & Pines

We should use the quake to shake us out of complacency about the consequences of sprawl. But rebuilding our cities after fires, riots or quakes shouldn’t obscure the basic truths - livable, sustainable cities are built around people, not cars.


Rick ColeMayor of Pasadena

Among our initial priorities has to be transportation. The Council must support the Mayor's initiatives to implement one way streets and reduced rush hour truck traffic.

O'Molley M. MillerMunger, Tolles & Olson

We should use the urgency of this situation to install long term innovative solutions to problems such as transportation congestion. One positive aspect of this unfortunate crisis may be that the residents of Los Angeles County realize a sense of community with their neighbors - that will be a most important factor in the success of all future land-use planning.

Anita Z. Cohenpartner in the law firm of Cohen and Cohen, and Legislative Advocate to the L.A. Assoc. of Realtors and the L. A. County Boards of Real Estate

The land-use elements of L.A.'s general plan ought to encourage a stronger concentration of commercial and industrial uses in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, as well as the accelerated development of cost effective mass transit systems.

Loren BlochCommunity Dynamics

Mobility has become a serious post-earthquake problem, affecting far more people in Santa Clarita than physical damage to homes and businesses. The emergency points out our need for completion of the planned highway system, increased public transit and an expanded local job base.

Gloria GlennNewhall Land Company

California has suffered droughts, fires, riots, floods, earthquakes and the brunt of a post-Cold War meltdown as the catalyst for losing 1 million jobs which have bankrupted government coffers. Government  policies should have three priorities… jobs, jobs, jobs.

Wayne Avrashow, Attorney

The problem isn't our current building codes; rather it's the grandfathering in, or lack of retrofitting, of existing structures to meet current standards that should be the focus of government officials.

Howard Katzlobbyist and land-use attorney

Despite the earthquake, priorities in terms of planning issues have not changed. The tragedy of January 17th should be viewed as an opportunity to focus on land use and planning issues given the increased need for descent and SAFE housing and businesses. The expediting of permits, elimination of bureaucratic "red tape" and forging of public/private partnerships is critical to insure rapid and significant recovery during this time.

Lori GayLos Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.

During this crisis we also need to retain a focus on economic development. As we rebuild, the retention of existing jobs, the creation of new jobs and the need to promote economic growth must remain important priorities.

George MihlstenAttorney, Latham & Watkins

The Northridge earthquake show us, through the “broken links" of our freeway system, that we need to develop mixed-uses so people will not have to move long distances to exercise their options. This way, they will be better able to cope with future natural disasters and not be isolated.

Mark PisanoExecutive Director, Southern California Association of Governments

Our immediate priority is to help residents and businesses rebuild. The Planning Department drafted and the City Council approved an emergency ordinance to expedite the rebuilding process. Longer term, the earthquake underscores the importance of investing in our infrastructure (e.g. two years ago we wouldn't have had Metrolink service). We must face up to the need for a system of consistent public financing.

Con HoweDirector of Planning, City of Los Angeles

The earthquake has left my San Fernando Valley District with a devastated housing stock. As we replace the thousands of lost housing units, we must turn tragedy into opportunity by creating a different - and better - kind of affordable housing for the San Fernando Valley. Unlike other areas of the city, the Valley lacks an experienced non-profit housing development community. Now is our opportunity to develop this network and transform the term ‘affordable hous­ing' from a negative into a positive. We need to create affordable housing that is attractive, compatible with surrounding areas, and seismically sound.

Laura ChickCouncilmember, 3rd CD, City of Los Angeles


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