Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Hello Everyone:

Just a quick addendum, we hit 3500.  You all are amazing.  I love the fact that there are people all over the world who are interested in what on this blog.  It tells me that the topics covered here are important to you.  I hope you continue to follow along.  I'm truly grateful to you.  Please show the same kind of love for Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard.  Please go to and sign the online petition to preserve the building.  Email Stephanie Reich at and the West Hollywood City Council at to share your memories and why it's important to save it.


Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram

What is "Downtown?"

Manhattan, New York
Hello Everyone:

Over the past several months we've intermittently talk about downtowns but we've never really defined them. What makes up a downtown?  Is it the number of people who live and/or work there?  The concentration of businesses?  In the article "The Problem With Defining 'Downtown,'" posted on The Atlantic Cities, writer Emily Badger attempts to come up with a definition of what a downtown is based on census data.  Ms. Badger also looks at the concentration of jobs and the number of residents living and commuting in and out of the presumed center of a city.  It's a good attempt to define what a downtown is and the concepts put forth are applicable to major cities around the United States and the rest of the globe.

Downtown Baltimore, MD from Federal Hill
In 2012, the United States Census Bureau ( released a report on American population trends in downtowns.  This was a useful step toward establishing claims made by many cities that residents and jobs are moving into downtowns by the drove.  The Census Bureau's report showed that between 2000 and 2010, metropolitan areas with populations of 5 million or more people experienced double-digit demographic increases in their downtown areas (i.e within a two-mile radius of city hall) at more than double the rate.  Ms. Badger points out that this produced complaints of over- and and under-counts of local populations.  For example, cities such as Baltimore, Maryland and New York City, New York are surrounded by water and, in Baltimore's case, neglected neighborhoods.  So, that two-mile radius limitation doesn't hold.  New Yorkers will tell you that their definition of "downtown" also includes a piece of New Jersey.  Don't tell Governor Chris Christie.

Downtown Philadelphia. PA
 Emily Badger states, "It's a little hard to blame the Census.  There is actually no single definition of what 'downtown' means across the country."  Also, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't actually keep count on the number of jobs in America.  Does that mean actual jobs where people are on a payroll or do they include jobs where employees get paid in cash?  Naturally this complicates the efforts of business improvement districts and city officials to support what's supposed to be one of the great urban success story of the millennium and the main topic at The Atlantic City Lab summit on urban innovation, held October 6-8, 2013.  The big story is the migration of employers and residents back downtown, remaking it from a dead zone to a full-service 24/7 neighborhood.  With this problem in mind, the Center City Philadelphia Business Improvement District released a report on October 7, 2013, prepare for the International Downtown Association which measures where the people  who hold those jobs actually live and enabling comparisons.

Downtown Seattle, Washington
The report's authors, Paul R. Levy and Lauren M. Gilchrist, relied on fairly mew Local Employment Dynamics dataset produced by the Census Bureau and state labor market information agencies.  This tool made it possible to crate heat maps of job density and outline irregularly shaped districts around them.  The data included information on home and work location of employees, making it possible to establish which downtowns actually have a nighttime population.  The heat maps revealed that many cities don't have a downtown, per se, with a single downtown employment center.  Seattle, Washington is an example of a city that, by and large, does have a single downtown employer. The city of Cleveland, Ohio had a downtown and
Cleveland, Ohio
separate node around an "anchor institution," the Cleveland Clinic.  Atlanta, Georgia has multiple equal job centers, while Jacksonville, Florida is decentralized with no single job center.

 This brings us back to Baltimore.  If we take the data one step further and apply it to "Charm City," we get a "downtown" employment within a one-mile radius of city hall.  Baltimore is a very compact city so, truthfully, this not all that surprising.  Using this methodology, Mr. Levy and Ms. Gilchrist counted 231 major employment centers in America's 150 major cities that, collectively, contain 14.4 percent of all the country's jobs.  It's now possible to compare them, using various measures, 28 of the job centers have more than 100 per acre-national average is 0.05 jobs per acre.

Downtown Chicago from Lake Michigan

Chicago, Illinois has an impressive 52.3 percent of workers who live near the "Windy City's" downtown, actually work there.  For comparison sake, Midtown Manhattan has 48.2 percent of workers who live near the downtown area where they work.  The database also counts workers living within a half mile of these jobs.  If you'd like more information please go to  This is a work in progress.  The definition of what is a downtown is relative to demographics and employment.  For now, we have to rely on establishing a boundary for downtown based on short radius from city hall.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Future of Bell Labs

Aerial view of Bell Laboratory Holmdel, New Jersey

Hello Everyone:

Today we move from post-Hurricane Sandy New York City to Holmdel, New Jersey and the proposed redevelopment of the former Bell Laboratories site. Bell Labs functioned for nearly forty-four years as the research and development facility for Bell Systems. The campus was one of the final projects designed by Eero Saarinen between 1959 and 1961.  Bell labs were responsible for developing the technology that helped usher in the digital age.  The 472-acre (1.91 sq. km.) site has been closed since 2007.  Now, may get a new lease on life.  In August 2013, Somerset Development bought the mirrored glass building and the surrounding property from its former owners, Alcatel-Lucent, for $27 million after the Township Holmdel approved a redevelopment proposal that includes plans for a health care center, residences, hotel, and retail space.

Exterior of Bell Labs building

The sale of the site concludes a long debate over the fate of the vacant building located in a wealth rural area, just what to do with all 1.9 million square feet of space may prove to be a more difficult task.  The Garden State is already saturated with aging office parks, similar to the Bell Labs site.  A prospective tenant looking to lease space in a large commercial building in Monmouth County has his or her choice of almost 2.53 million square feet of available space to choose from, according to data provided by commercial real estate brokerage firm, CBRE.  The plethora of available space in rural communities, such as Holmdel, is not likely to be filled so quickly as American work habits have changed and companies relocate to urban centers.  It seems that the former Bell Labs campus has fallen victim to its own success.

Interior of Bell Labs
The research and development, once performed at Bell Labs that helped bring about tablet computers and smartphones, helped untether workers.  The ubiquitous cubicle was no longer necessary.    Somerset Development has commissioned architect Alexander Gorlin to design into the atrium urban amenities such as coffee shop or bank.  However, the building needs more than another Starbucks or P.F. Chang's to support it.  What is just as necessary is a critical mass of commercial tenants to support retail enterprises.  "It's very difficult building for adaptive reuse,"  according to Suzanne Macnow, a broker for CBRE.  "It's set up with this gigantic center area, like the Mall of America in Minneapolis...."

Bell Labs atrium
As far back as the thirties, the campus was the research center for AT&T (Atlantic Telephone and Telegraph).  The scientists who worked there were among the first to develop the transistor, cellphones, touch-tone dialing, and fiber-optics communications.  In the process, they amassed seven Nobel Prizes.  The property has been closed in 2007 by Alcatel-Lucent, an off-shoot of AT&T, and the fate of the campus has been up in the air.  At one point, another developer suggested demolishing the building, setting off a maelstrom of architects and scientists who feared the loss of a piece of intellectual and architectural history.  According to James W. Hughes, the dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, "Bell Labs is such a great historical and architectural icon...It's one of the few buildings that I worry about."  Signs of decay at the massive building are quite evident-plastic buckets catch water leaking from the glass roof under which scientists developed satellite communications.  In 2007, Preservation New Jersey named it one of the state's top ten most endangered historical properties.

Horned-antenna satellite
 "Personally, I find it difficult to drive by it and see it abandoned, I worked there.  My friends worker there," said Janet Jackel , a former Bell Labs physicists.  "You see it as representing the American forward-looking attitudes of the last century, and that's all been abandoned."  The proposed redevelopment plan, which could cost over $100 million, has the potential to transform the campus into a commercial center for Holmdel, a central New Jersey community with a population of 17,000 people.  Homdel has no downtown, most of the town's retail sites sit along the busy Route 35.  The six-story building would house 50,000 of retail space, the town library and a hotel.  The grounds would have pedestrian trails, bicycle paths, and eventually an outdoor exercise complex.  Part of the property is protected wetlands.  Ralph Zucker, the president of Somerset Development promises that the property will be a "...virtual city" with multiple uses.  So many, in fact, that it will have its own identity.

Atrium garden
The Township of Holmdel hopes the plan will also restore its tax base.  Previously, Alcatel-Lucent paid $5 million in property taxes.  Since the site has been vacant, the tax bill has plunged to $475,000.  Mayor Patrick Impreveduto estimates that the township could gain $7 million in payments in lieu of taxes once redevelopment is completed.  First thing, though, the building needs tenants.  Community Healthcare Associates, a healthcare developer, plans to purchase up to 400,000 square feet of building from Somerset.  Community Healthcare Associates  has plans to build an ambulatory surgical center, an assisted-living facility, medical offices and services.  Finding people interested in buying large luxury homes planned for the site will be a simpler task.  Data provided in August 2013 by Heritage House, Sotheby's International Realty, show that thirty-eight percent of homes on the market in the township listed for over $1 million.

Somerset Development plans to sell half of the land, 237 acres, to Toll Brothers, a luxury home builder. Toll Brothers will build about forty single-family homes with prices beginning at $1 million for a 4,000 square-foot house to $2 million for a square-foot residence on a 2.5 acre lot.  The company also plans to build 185 high-end town homes for residents aged fifty-five and older.  However, the scale of the proposed housing development irritates some of the residents and preservationists who are concerned that it will detracted from pastoral appeal of the land.  "I don't care for an excessive number of residential units that sprawl all over the property," says Ralph B. Blumenthal, a founding trustee of the Friends of Holmdel Open Space.  "They could have accomplished something different that could have been more compact."  Reservations about the Somerset proposal aside, supporters of the building are relieved to see the architectural icon survive.  Michael Calafati, the chair person of the American Institute of Architects New Jersey Historic Resources Committee and an advocate of the property declared, "We're all going to come and go, but these buildings are out legacy."

The opposing views presented by Messrs. Blumenthal and Calafati highlight the sometimes antagonistic relationship between preservation and development.  Mr. Blumenthal questions why a sprawling housing estate is necessary when more compact housing-i.e multi-resident buildings-could provide housing without taking up a lot of open land.  Mr. Calafati seems to take a more romantic view of building.  It is true that people come and go while buildings remain, I wonder if this is the right approach to development of the former Bell Labs property.  Also problematic is attracting retail and commercial tenants.  Holmdel is not near any metropolitan area, thus the ability to attract retail clients, i.e Gap or J.Crew, would be limited.  Therefore, any retail/commercial ventures would have to focus on servicing the employees of the health care facilities and the residents in the immediate area.  The prospect of rehabilitating the former Bell Labs property looks promising but what direction it takes will be the product of both developers and residents concerned with preservation of the site working together.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Next Time?

Hello Everyone:

In yours truly's ongoing efforts to find some sort of respectable employment, I have decided to take up Planetizen's challenge and write a summary on a recent New York Times article, "Could New York City Subways Survive Another Hurricane?" written by Robert Sullivan and published on October 23, 2013 (  Let me elaborate.  In my daily perusal of email, I came across an interesting job opening on Planetizen's online newsletter.  The newsletter advertised an opening for an Associate Editor.  In addition to sending a .pdf copy of my CV, they laid down the challenge of summarizing the afore mentioned article as a way to impress them.  Far be it from me to let this one slide.

Natural or man-made disasters can often bring out the very best in people.  It can also lead to short- and long-term policy and planning that can mitigate loss of life and property.  The disastrous Hurricane Sandy struck New York on October 29, 2013, the super storm killed seventy-three people, flooded streets and subway tunnels, knocked out power to half the city, and caused about $65 billion of damage.  Images of the areas affected by the Category 3 hurricane resembled cities destroyed in war.  If one good thing came out of the trail of destruction and devastation, it planted the seeds for a more comprehensive and coherent disaster plan.  What remains to be seen is how this experience will translate into inter-agency cooperation and effective policy.  Can New York subways survive another hurricane?  That depends on what New York State and City transit planners take away from Hurricane Sandy.

When news of the impending storm first reached New York City, a week before Sandy's arrival, the Metropolitan Transit Authority its began implementing own hurricane plans.  Without waiting for the go ahead from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office, MTA workers began setting up emergency shelters, covering subway grates and covering the entrances of low-lying subway entrances with plywood and plastic sheets.  As the storm gathered strength over the weekend before and Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that it was time to take action, crews were already at work shutting down the trains and taking steps to mitigate the water.  Despite the patchwork quilt of upgrades, the New York City subway system survived, this time.  What lessons can be drawn from this experience?  What about the next time?

Lesson number one: take immediate action.  MTA officials didn't wait until the Sunday before the storm hit and Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare the subways closed, the began immediate shut down procedures.  The MTA's priority became do whatever was necessary to mitigate the flooding and get the trains running as soon as possible.  Lesson number two: modern technology isn't always the answer.  When inspectors went into the tunnels after the first surge they encountered eery silence.  The dead calm was broken by the sound of pneumatic pumps, unaffected by Con Edison's power outage, draining the water out of the tunnels.  The blackout shut down electricity in half the city.  People needed to get back to work after the storm but could not.  The outage cut the middles of five of the lines that travel through Manhattan.  The railroad needed a terminal in which to turn around-i.e be guided off its downtown tracks, onto an uptown line.  While Grand Central Station is a mighty station, it's only suitable for smaller commuter trains.  The solution, create a makeshift terminal in Midtown to reroute the trains quickly onto tracks not intended to reroute trains.  Temporary terminals were created at 34th Street and Herald Square use the Fastrack operation.   Fastrack completely suspends on one line over a period of time while passengers are diverted to other lines.  Lesson three: human capital.  New Yorkers are resilient and tough.  Everyone from maintenance workers bus drivers, the police, and so on pitched in to get the city back on its feet and lend a helping hand to passengers.

What about the next time?  Perhaps there will be a stronger plastic replacement for plywood or a new type of vent and entrance cover.  One thing that won't be present is futuristic gadget, New York Transit Authorities would like to strengthen the existing system, albeit piecemeal.  Is this a good idea?  In terms of cost-efficiency and time-efficiency, strengthening the existing system would probably cost less and take less time to repair.  The drawback is finding manufacturers that still make the parts necessary or doing a replacement in kind.  Transit officials are also considering long-term solutions such as tunnel plugs, dams, watertight doors.  They are also looking at something called a "tiger dam."  A "tiger dam" is a large bladder filled with water, anchored to the ground, and designed to temporarily block flooding. Officials are also studying transit systems around the world that have canopied entrances and retractable gates with ventilators and fans elevated on towers, like snorkels.  While all of these ideas seem plausible, one thing that will be implemented the next time is the tried and true plywood and plastic solution.  Why?  Because it works and "if it aint broke, don't fix it."  The key solution that will be evident the next time is experience.

Every disaster, natural or man-made, brings a new body of experiential knowledge.  That knowledge sometimes translates into policy and planning.  For example, after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, policy was introduced to identify concrete buildings that were vulnerable destruction in the event of the a seismic activity.  While this initiative was voted down, it highlighted the fact that a long-term solution was necessary if the city and county of Los Angeles was going to mitigate damage and preserve human life.  Thus, New York City and state transit planners must find a way to turn their experience with Hurricane Sandy into a long-term disaster mitigation policy.  This would require multiple agencies coordinating efforts.  This is possible, if officials are willing to set aside personal agendas and politics in order to devise a coherent, cohesive strategy.  New York City was lucky this time because of the effective advanced planning by MTA authorities and the sheer will power of New Yorkers.  Experience is a powerful teacher, let's hope everyone was paying attention.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Poet of the Underworld

Hello Everyone:

Today the world is sadder because the poet of the underworld, Lou Reed, has passed away.  The great Mr. Reed leaves a legacy of haunting and evocative music and poetry that chronicled the people and place that lived beneath the slick urban surfaces.  They were the people that were just trying to get by.  They were people used, abused, spit out by the urban experience.  We are deeply saddened by his passing.  It's comforting to know that while Lou Reed has gone to the great beyond, his music and poetry will live forever.

Please honor his memory and go to and sign the online petition to save the Tower Records building on Sunset Boulevard.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest

Google+ and Instagram

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"The Greenest Building Is The One Already Built"

Hello Everyone:

I just wanted to give a quick update on the campaign to save the Tower Records building on the Sunset Strip.  A hearing before the West Hollywood City Council has been set for Monday November 18, 2013 at 6:30p.m at West Hollywood Library's first floor City Council Chambers located at 625 North San Vincente Boulevard West Hollywood, Ca 90069.  If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to speak, please email Stephanie Reich  at and to city council at  If you prefer snail mail, send your letter to Stephanie Reich, 8300 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, Ca 90069.  Of course don't forget to please go to and sign the online petition.

Bradbury Building exterior
Is it possible to learn from Los Angeles?  Yes, it is, when it comes to adaptive reuse.  If you're looking for innovative ways to encourage reuse of vacant buildings, then look no further than the City of Angeles.  No, I'm not tooting L.A's horn because I live there.  Through creative public policy and private development (no irony here), Los Angeles is showing how older buildings can be repurposed to serve the new creative economy and help reduce the number of carbon emissions.

Downtown Los Angeles is a virtual textbook for early twentieth century architecture.  Most of these architectural gems sat for decades unused or under used until the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance was passed in 1999.  This carefully targeted ordinance removed regulatory barriers, provided incentives, and helped make it possible to recycle more than sixty historic buildings over the last fourteen years into hotels, new apartments and lofts.  If you'd like to read about the Adaptive Reuse Program please go to  However, many more buildings in the surrounding communities remain empty or under utilized.

Bradbury Building interior
A recent report release by the National Trust's Preservation Green Lab ( and the Urban Land Institute ( records how over 10 million square feet of space in Los Angeles' urban core is currently vacant.  The report, an reference to Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's seminal work Learning From Las Vegas, "Learning From Los Angeles," was given to Mayor Eric Garcetti at an event organized by ULI Los Angeles District Council. The report outlines strategies that build on the foundation of the ARO which could help unlock the economic and community development potential of underused buildings.  It also documents the demolition, building and vacancy trends throughout Los Angeles and recommends ways for removing regulatory barriers, streamlining the approval process, and providing incentives for making building reuse an easier goal to accomplish.

The Roosevelt Apartments
"Learning From Los Angeles" is the first in a series of new research and policy reports being developed by the Preservation Green in conjunction with the Partnership for Building Reuse, a joint effort launched in 2012 by the National Trust and ULI Los Angeles.  The Partnership for Building Reuse is intended to foster market-driven building reuse in major cities throughout the United States.  Something like Adaptive Reuse Program could have positive impact in a city like Detroit where there are pockets of vacant buildings waiting to be brought back to life.  The project brings togethers two national organizations and local preservation groups to begin a dialogue with community stake holders about the challenges and opportunities that building reuse presents.  With a network of of fifty-two District Councils across the country, ULI is the nation's premier real estate development organization.  ULI staff and members bring together leadership in critical areas of real estate and public policy.

Gas Company Lofts
For the L.A. pilot project, the Preservation Green Lab researched building demolition and construction trends across the City of Angels.  Maps generated from this research informed a series of discussions organized by ULI Los Angeles in order to identify the key roadblock to building reused and recommend solutions to overcoming them.  The Los Angeles Conservancy (big shout out to them) was a key partner and served on the project Advisory Committee along with professionals in real estate development, planning, design, construction, community revitalization, and local government.  Several lessons emerged from the L.A. pilot program which could prove useful to civic leaders, property owners, and developers dealing with building rehabilitation:

For policy leaders:

1) Modernize outdated zoning and building codes to align them with comprehensive plans for re-urbanization, including the reuse of existing building alongside strategic infill construction
2) Remove the regulatory barriers to make building reuse easier, rather than adding more layers of review and process (good luck with that one in L.A.)
3) Create more flexible zoning code definitions of building reuse to make it easier, faster, and less cost prohibitive to adapt to changing market needs (Ibid)
4) Integrate reuse as a goal in other policy initiatives, such as zoning code updates, building code reforms, parking policy changes, transit-oriented development guidelines, and climate adaptation plans (Ibid)
5) Use downtown as a policy innovator to experiment with new ways to encourage building reuse

For property owners and developers:

1) Conserve the authentic character of existing buildings, including the architectural features and building materials that tell the tale to prospective buyers and tenants
2) Plan for diverse uses and frequent use changes when investing in new building infrastructure and service, including elevators, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, soundproofing, and access
3) Design flexible interior spaces that appeal to the growing market for open live/work plans
4) Promote the speed to market advantages of building reuse projects to prospective tenants and buyers when compared to new construction (building rehabilitation is faster)
5) Support efforts to create divers, mixed-use urban neighborhoods that attract and support reuse projects.

By using the Los Angeles program as a model, the National Trust and ULI will work with local ULI district council, preservation organization, and other partners to address building vacancy and reuse issues in additional cities in 2013 and 2014.  A national summit and publication of key "Principles for Building Reuse" is planned for 2015.  Just remember, "the greenest building is the one already built."

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest

Google+ and Instagram

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Update on Worldport

Worldport Terminal at dawn
Hello Everyone:

I'd like to take a moment to once again thank you for all your support of this blog, it really means a lot to me.  I hope you'll show the same kind of love for Tower Records on Sunset Strip.  Please go to, read the online petition, sign it, and spread the word.  We can't let the "old girl" fall victim to the wrecking ball.  Today, I'd like to bring you an update on the late lamented TWA Worldport at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.  Fortunately, this ode to the mid-century glamour of air travel has not fallen victim to the wrecking ball, yet.  However, Mark Byrnes reported in The Atlantic Cities on September 20, 2013, there is a proposal to turn it into a hotel.  This has possibilities.

Worldport interior

Once upon a time, the TWA Flight Center at JFK airport was the ultimate symbol of jet travel.  The iconic building, designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, opened in 1962 and instantly became an award winning architectural masterpiece.  In fact, no less than Robert A.M. Stern called it the "Grand Central of the jet age."  Unfortunately, the future turned out to be not so bright for this landmark of mid-century modernism.  In 2001, the terminal closed when TWA ceased operations.  It still opens from time to time for special events: open houses and briefly, an art gallery that was quickly vandalized and shuttered.

The "Grand Staircase" of Worldport
However, there may be hope on the horizon. After years of hedging over the fate of the terminal, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have finally settled on a developer for the site.  Balazs Properties is proposing to turn the site into a Standard brand hotel and conference center with restaurants, shops, and flight museum.  All this despite the fact that officials are in the early stages of planning and no opening date announced.  This is this the highest and best use of the building?  From a purely pragmatic point of view, a hotel and center in an airport does make sense because it would eliminate the need for travelers to travel distances from the airport to their hotel.  If you're a business person, being that close to an airport makes it easier to fly in, get work accomplished, and fly out.  However, from a design perspective, there is the issue of how do you block out the noise of jets landing and taking off, the smell of jet fuel, how do you give people staying at the hotel a pleasing view outside their window, et cetera.  The building itself does seem conducive to some sort of commercial/retail development with its vast square footage, high ceilings, and endless corridors.  Without more information, it's hard to determine if the proposed mixed use plan is the highest and best use for the space.                                    

Inside the jetway
For along time, the Port Authority has tried to resuscitate the TWA terminal.  At first, the agency proposed a restaurant and conference center surrounded by one or two new terminals but was opposed by the Municipal Arts Society of New York and well-known architects such as Robert A.M. Stern for compromising the venerable structure.  Andre Balazs, the developer tasked with defining the terminal's next phase, claims Eero Saarinen as "personal hero" and promises that the architect's vision will be preserved.  In the meantime, portions of the original facility were demolished to make way for a new Jet Blue terminal which opened in 2008 and partially surrounds the former TWA facility.  Regardless, the TWA terminal still remains a powerful magnet for architectural fan around the world.

TWA flight information board

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram

Monday, October 21, 2013

Economic Inequality and Urban Violence

Chicago Skyline
Hello Everyone:

You all really are unbelievable.  No sooner do we get to 3000 page views, we then jump to 3300 page views. You all are so amazing.  You humble me with your continued support.  Thank you.  I've put up a couple of new boards on Pinterest, one of which is dedicated to saving Tower Records on the fabulous Sunset Strip. Please make sure you go to, read the online petition, sign it, and spread the word. Now, on to today's topic, gun violence in the city of Chicago, Illinois and the connection to income inequality.

Aerial view of Chicago's South Side

Gun violence is a particularly notorious in the city of Chicago.  A recent shooting in the South Side injured thirteen people, including a three-year old girl made national headlines.  Other similar incidents over the same weekend injured ten more people.  This leaves the impression that the "City of Broad Shoulders" is under armed assault.  The reality is that it's not the whole city, rather certain neighborhoods.  Violence follows segregation-concentrated in particular communities defined by income and race.  Daniel Hertz, a graduate student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, has been studying the distribution of violence in Chicago.  In particular, Mr. Hertz examines how the distribution rover the past twenty years.  He recently sat down for an interview with Noah Berlatsky for an article, "How Chicago Points to a Growing Inequality of Urban Violence," published in Atlantic Cities October 3, 2013, to discuss his findings on geography and urban violence.

Lake Michigan
The first question posed by Mr. Berlatsky, "Is Chicago becoming more dangerous?"  According to Daniel Hertz, "answer really depends on where you are, and also who you are."  Mr. Hertz goes on to say that depending on your gender, ethnicity, age, or race, the chances of being a crime victim are completely different.  That being said, Mr. Hertz believes that impossible to cull any definitive data about whether Chicago is getting more dangerous.  The overall crime statistic have gone down over the past two decades and they're down in most neighborhoods, including the really dangerous districts.  Specifically, if you study the most dangerous third of the city in its entirety, the numbers are down twenty percent.  To be fair, there some places where the numbers are up but not enough to justify labeling the city, as a whole, a more dangerous place than it was ten or twenty years ago.  Homicide is down by approximately forty-five percent overall from the period between 1990 and 1993 and 2007 to 2011.

"Concrete Beach"
Regarding the question of how the inequality of violence has changed, Mr. Hertz states, "It's always been unequal.  Everybody who live in Chicago or knows anything about Chicago knows that there's a big gap in the many indicators of quality of life, broadly speaking between richer neighborhoods on the North Side and poorer neighborhoods on the South and West side, and has been for a very long time."  The statement could also characterize places like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  Mr. Hertz goes on to say that the gap, in context to violent crime, has gotten progressively worse.  For example, in the early nineties, the most dangerous part of the city had six times as many homicides as the safest third of the city.  Presently, that number has more than doubled to fifteen.  The opportunity costs of a person's chance of being a crime victim is greater if you live or work in a violent neighborhood than it was twenty years ago.  Really, I would not have guessed this.

Grant Park
Why is inequality of violence a problem?  The number reveal that fewer people are being shot or killed, which is obviously a good thing.  However, there is data to suggest that people with the resources leave the communities that relatively more violent than others.  Of course, businesses don't open in violent areas.  Thus when the schism grows, those on the violent side of the line are going to lose their middle class and their business so the penalty for being poor gets bigger.  This is especially a concern not only Chicago but in other major metropolitan  areas around the country.  In addition to the lack of employment opportunities, there also are worse schools and a myriad of other challenges that need to be dealt with if you're poor.  Further if you can only afford to live in the poorer neighborhoods, safety becomes another challenge to add to the long list of challenges a person needs to to deal with.

"The Loop"
Is the inequality of violence particular to Chicago.  Here, Daniel Hertz points to a flaw in his study, he hasn't done a comparative analysis between Chicago and other cities.  His reasoning is that the data for Chicago was more available.  Mr. Hertz used the Chicago Police Department's annual report, which break down the number of homicides per police precinct going back to the eighties, through 2011, which he found online.  Apparently similar was not quite as available in other cities.  Mr. Hertz speculates that a similar situation is occurring in other cities.  Based on his empirical research, Mr. Hertz cites studies done by other people who found a that economic segregation has increased in other places, which Mr. Hertz suspects is a factor in the increased violence.

Why has economic segregation been allowed to happen?  One reason is zoning codes.  Mr. Hertz points to economists Ed Glasner, a market-oriented professor at Harvard and Paul Krugman less market-oriented, who target zoning codes, in particular density caps in high demand areas.  Places such as Lincoln Park on the North Side of Chicago, are very high in demand, with great amenities and have become very desirable over the last ten years.  Normally, the housing market would dictate building more housing in order to create more of a balance between supply and demand, so prices wouldn't go through the roof.  However, because of zoning codes and neighbors throwing a fit over the sudden blossoming of high-rises, they can't.  Thus, supply is kept at bay and prices go stratospheric.  This situation is true in every part of the country.  Urban neighborhoods have become desirable locations-making Jane Jacobs do a happy dance in her grave.  Therefore, the opportunity for imbalance has become greater because demand has increased.  So, all things being equal, when you have an increase in income inequality, the result is an increase in economic segregation.

Finally, does the increase in the inequality of violence make it more difficult to address violence in the communities where it occurs?  In answering this question, Mr. Hertz reveals another gap in his research.  Mr. Hertz admits to not interviewing police officers and social service organizations that deal with this issues.  He postulates that if you have a higher percentage of violence in a more concentrated area, it would be easier to flood the area with police, if the manpower was available.  In a rather oddly enthusiastic manner, Mr. Hertz express interest in seeing the dynamic panic over crime, widespread over the city, despite the fact that the North Side is relatively safe, in terms of lethal crimes.  He points out the reason for this area being an island of relative safety is that North Side resident still demand from their aldermen more and more police presence because the resident believe they aren't safe. Therefore, it maybe harder, from a resource perspective, that city should pile on the police presence. To put it more succinctly, someone gets killed on the South Side and the residents in the more affluent areas demand more police.  Makes sense right?

While Daniel Hertz presents some interesting finding from his research, he still has further to go.  I suspect that his is a work in progress that will ultimately lead to a dissertation or other scholarly treatise.  I think Mr. Hertz's research would greatly benefit from a serious comparative analysis.  How does Chicago's statistics on crime inequality measure against New York or Dallas, for example.  His research would also benefit from interviewing police officers, social workers, and the residents of the South Side to get anecdotal information.  Overall, the interview left something to be desired as far as any real substantive information.  However, as I said, it is a work in progress and it'll be interesting to see where it leads.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Help Save Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard

The one and only Tower Records on the Sunset Strip
Hello Everyone:

It's time to beat the drum for a worthy cause, especially if you're a lover of any genre of music. One of the icons of the Sunset Strip may soon be facing the wrecking ball, Tower Records.  This past week an online petition was launch on by West Hollywood resident and community activist Jerome Cleary and could be the famed record store's last chance at a reprieve from demolition.  SIGN IT.  Mr. Cleary said, "many music fans remember and know Tower record as the most famous record store.  Many others remember it as the place to be seen and experience live music events during its nearly four decades on Sunset Boulevard."

Punk rock comes to Tower Records
 According to Mr. Cleary, last spring the West Hollywood Preservation Commission held two meetings and agreed that there were a significant social, cultural, and music history to the store.  However, the Commission got stuck on the aesthetics of the yellow and red paint and additional marketing and advertising.   Hmm, an administrative body getting hung up on stupid stuff, seems to be going around lately, you hear that Congress and California State Assembly.  The commissioners did recommend a plaque or possibly a music square as recognition.  A piddly old plaque or a neat little sign?  Please, insert eye roll.  The majority of music fans and preservationists, such as yours truly, want the full preservation of the location and structure.  This brings to mind the question of what's the highest and best use for the structure?  My suggestion would be a gallery dedicated to the cultural history of the strip and performance space for new and unsigned music acts of all genres.  Tower Records opened in November 1970 with no additional signage or advertising

Interior of Tower Records
The original applicant for preservation is historian and author Domenic Priore.  Residents and fans felt that the commissioner at last spring's meeting missed a great opportunity to preserve the location and site.  Yes, the real estate on that part of Sunset Boulevard is quite expensive and would turn a tidy profit for a developer but Sunset is more than shops, restaurants, and hotels.  Sunset has become an integral part of Los Angeles' cultural history.  Some of the legendary clubs such as the Roxy and the Whiskey A-Go-Go, which at one time hosted the Doors and Bruce Springsteen, continue to function as music venues.  Tower Records was part of that historic legacy.  Now there is a second chance for the "old girl" as the store is up for reconsideration with an appeal to the City Council.

Tower Records at night
Jerome Cleary has launched a fundraising event on the website in order to raise the funds needed to hire experts for the appeal set for 6:30 p.m. November 4, 2013. Please contribute, if you can.  Mr. Cleary encourages all of Tower's fans to attend the council meeting which will be held at the West Hollywood Library's first floor City Council chambers, 625 North San Vincente Blvd.  If you cannot attend, you can still make your voice heard either by email or snail mail: Stephanie Reich at 8300 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, Ca 90069.

Thanks for your support.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google + and Instagram

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Five Threats to Cultural Heritage destruction-of-cultural-heritage-sites/?goback=%2Egde_19611663_member_5795121878800556032#%21

Hello Everyone:

St. Louis Arch  (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial)at night
Today we're going global, global heritage conservation that is.  On October 8, 2013 the World Monuments Fund ( announced their 2014 World Monument Watch, initiating a two-year advocacy program for sixty-seven sites in forty-one countries.  Since 1996, the WMF has focused on giving national and international attention to at-risk cultural heritage sites.  WMF president Bonnie Burnham noted at the press conference announcing the biennial watch list, "each biennial group of watch sites seems to have its own dynamic."  The sites on the list highlight many of the persistent issues facing preservation and the contemporary climate of heritage conservation.  Some of the sites included are bold-faced names the St. Louis Arch in St, Louis, Missouri, mask-making tradition in Hong, and the entire country of Syria.  Hopefully, inclusion on the watch list will help persuade the communities these sites are located in of their importance and spur some action.  To help spread the word, writer Allison Meier's posted on October 9, 2013 an article titled, "Five Issues Threatening the Destruction of Cultural Heritage Sites."  Ms. Meier cites five primary issues that threaten to destroy or irrevocably change global cultural heritage sites.

Scene from the ongoing conflict in Aleppo, Syria
The first major issue confronting global heritage conservation war.  This one is pretty obvious.  Ongoing violence in a number of places around the world have put cultural heritage sites at grave risk.  Ms. Meier specifically cites the entire country of Syria where both civil and sectarian violence have put architecturally historic sites such as Aleppo and the Crusader castle known as Krac des Chevaliers in danger, as well as previously untouched ruins that are currently being used by refugees fleeing the conflict.  This is according to a recent presentation by Ms. Burnham at the International Council of Museums' release of The Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects.  Ongoing conflict in the African country of Mali where architectural and historic sites, including sixteen of the mausoleums in Timbuktu, already on the World Heritage Site list, have been destroyed in a 2012 conflict.  Ms. Meier fails to understand the fact that during war, cultural preservation is the least important thing in context to human dangers.  However, heritage conservation is an integral part of post-conflict recovery of a place.

Venice, Italy
Allison Meier identifies tourism as another threat to cultural heritage conservation.  Some places, such as Venice, Italy, are just too popular for their own good. The entire city has been placed on the 2014 Watch list, after tourism shot up 40% in the last five years, with an estimated 20,000 visitors each day during the height of the tourist season.  The number of visitors during the season have actually outnumbered the residents.  This problem is dramatically highlighted by the cruise ships that plow into the city, not only disrupting the water ways but the whole fabric of the city.  By including  Venice on the 2014 Watch List, the WMF hopes to encourage some sort of balance between this popular destination and having it remain open to visitors, while maintaining what they see.

The Synagogue of Iasi, Romania
Another persistent issue with heritage conservation, both at the global and local level, is development.  Allison Meier states, "Often coming alongside tourism, development is another threat to historic sites..."  One area of concern to the WMF is the Hudson River Palisades, land purchased by the Rockefeller family and established as a preserved vista. However, rezoning laws for a new development could result in an eighteen-story office building for the headquarters of LG Electronics in Englewoods Cliffs, which could irrevocably alter the landscape.  While this proposed development may seem like a small change with continuous development of the site, it is hoped that inclusion on the WMF list will give recognition to community support for the site.  A less visible threatened site is the Synagogue of Iasi, the oldest synagogue in Romania.  The synagogue has been hidden under scaffolding after a long-abandoned construction project in 2008 and left exposed to the elements in a forgotten city where the Jewish population has declined.  The building has almost been completely overtaken by development.  Instead of change, sites such as this one are in danger of being left completely behind.

Historic Yangon, Myanmar
Another challenge to cultural heritage conservation is the ephemeral value of heritage. Sometimes it's very difficult to define something as "cultural heritage" when it is an area that's constantly shifting.  This is the problem in the Historic City Center of Yangon, Myanmar, where the city is quickly developing after a period of military dictatorship isolation. As is the case in most of the world, development is usually equated with the sudden appearance of glass and steel canyon.  The Historic City Center of Yangon was nominated for the watch by a group of concerned residents who were interested in development be more effectively integrated into the existing city.  There are also sites that are even more ephemeral such as the Gas Lamps of Berlin, which are also on the watch in response to the German government's plan to replacement them with fluorescent light with the goal of showing that preserving the historic lamps can be economical.

George Nakashima House, Pennsylvania
In the twenty-first century, aging modernism has become a new challenge to cultural heritage conservation.  As the great twentieth century modernist marvels wear down, the issue becomes how to conserve them.  The materials, once shiny and brand new, are now deteriorating.  On the 2014 watch is the St. Louis Arch (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965.  This landmark is experiencing corrosion complicated by the its soaring inaccessibility.  The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas has also been added to the list.  The building, set up by artist Donald Judd as a permanent installation space, is also deteriorating and is hard to repair without disrupting the art within the space.  Also on the list are private residences such as the George Nakashima House in Pennsylvania where repairs are complicated because the plywood used for construction is no longer made and specialized craftspeople are needed in order to preserve the both Donald Judd and George Nakashima's vision at the time of their experimentations with technique and design.

Cultural heritage is not just the language, customs, history, or traditions of a country.  It's all those and the built environments that they inhabits.  As our world rapidly changes, the cultural aspects countries and their individual communities should be preserved as a reminder of who that place is.  Whether it's a bold face space or mask-making, it's all part of what makes up an individual culture and contributes to global understanding of who we, as a people, are.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest

Google+ and Instagram

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is The Building You're in At Risk?,0,1555748.htmlstory

Hello Again Everyone:

You all are just knocking me backwards with all your support.  I am very humbled by it all and I hope you'll show the same kind of love for Road Recovery (  On to today's topic, concrete risks.

Los Angeles c. 1940s
It's no big secret that the City of Los Angeles sits on a network of earthquake fault lines.  It's something that native Angelenos accept with a certain amount sang froid.  We all are aware of the fact that "the big one" is on its way, it's just a matter of time.  In the meantime, Los Angeles has a very big issue (one of many) to deal with, more than 1,000 old concrete buildings and hundreds across the county are at risk of collapsing according to a Los Angeles Times analysis reported by Rong-Gong Lin II, Roxanna Xia, and Doug Smith on Sunday October 13, 2013.  Conservatively, as many as fifty of these buildings in the city would be destroyed in a major seismic event, exposing thousands to death and injury.  Scary thought when stop and consider it carefully.  So, it would stand to reason that the city and county would want to take action and reinforce these older buildings, right?  Think again.

Office Towers on Ventura Boulevard
A cross-section of Los Angeles residents live and work in these buildings: seamstresses in downtown clothing factories, professionals in buildings along Ventura Boulevard, to loft and condominium dwellers on Wilshire Boulevard's "Millionaire Mile."  They may appear sturdy but they're vulnerable to lateral movement and lack sufficient steel reinforcement bars to hold the columns in place.  This isn't something new, in fact Los Angeles Building and Safety officials have known about this for more than forty years but have failed to compel building owners to make them safer.  The city has have even rejected calls to identify these buildings.  Shocking isn't it?  This prompted university scientists to assemble the first comprehensive inventory of potentially dangerous buildings in Los Angeles. However, the scientists have not made the list public and are willing to share the information with building and safety officials, by request.

Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake
Recent earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand (2011) and Kobe, Japan (1995) have spotlighted the potential danger of buildings held up by concrete.  In the New Zealand earthquake, two concrete office towers toppled over, killing 133 people.  In the Kobe quake, 6,000 people in concrete towers were killed.  In 1971, the Sylmar, California earthquake took down several concrete structures, killing 52.  In 1994, the Northridge, California earthquake destroyed more buildings including a Bullock's Department Store and Kaiser medical office.  Just to add further dread, seismologists are predicting a bigger long overdue earthquake.According to Thomas Heaton, director of Caltech's Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory,"We known darn well that if a bunch of people die, there will be lots of stories, lots of reports, things will change.  But the question is do have to have lots of people die in order to make this change?"  Good question.  Unfortunately it sometimes takes pointless deaths in order for change to happen.  Sad but true.

Capitol Records
In the twenties, concrete buildings helped transform the Los Angeles skyline as office buildings and apartments rose along the skyline.  By the seventies, canyons of concrete lined streets such as Ventura boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard, Main and Broadway.  These concrete canyons include landmarks such as Capitol Records tower, the Hollywood Plaza apartments and W Hotel in Westwood.  In order to properly understand the situation, the Times sent out a team of reporters who combed through building permits and sent questionnaires to building owners, asking them to review the details.  The results identified sixty-eight buildings that were made from concrete.  Of those, only seven were retrofitted. In the interest of full disclosure, the reporters' studied only a fraction of the older concrete buildings.  The survey revealed the difficulties in accurately identifying concrete buildings.  Some of the public records didn't specify construction materials.  Some of the buildings that appeared to be made of concrete, while others seemed to be made of brick or steel were really made of concrete.

The community of Hollywood, bisected by a fault that is capable of producing a 7.0 earthquake, has one of the biggest concentration of concrete buildings.  In the few blocks around the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the Times found fourteen concrete structures built before 1976, when the city started requiring more steel rebars.  Only three have been retrofitted.  Sorry, the article doesn't list which buildings have been retrofitted.  It's much of the same story along Ventura Blvd in the community of Encino.  The 1994 Northridge Earthquake wrecked several concrete buildings  including a ten-story hotel.  The owners spent $4 million to protect it in an earthquake.  Of the ten concrete buildings on that part of the boulevard, only the hotel and one other building have been reinforced.

Santee Alley
In two downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods, along Broadway and Santee Street, the Times found seventeen unreinforced concrete buildings.  One of those buildings is owned by Scott Kim and his family.  When they bought the building, the Kim family didn't think to have it inspected by a structural engineer.  Not a great idea.  "it went through other earthquakes, and it's still here," said Mr. Kim, whose family paid $5 million for the property ten years ago.  "I know back in the day they buildings much sturdier than buildings today," added Mr. Kim.  Here we have one problem with concrete buildings, the perception that they're more sturdy than recently built structures.  However, Charlie Tan, a structural engineer who helped retrofit downtown buildings, is quick to put that myth to rest.  Just because a building has survived earthquakes, doesn't mean it's safe.  "I've had that said to me quite often: 'Look, this building looks good, has no cracks, no damage,'" says Mr. Tan.  Further, "A lot of these specific ones in downtown haven't been tested yet with a high-magnitude earthquake in the exact vicinity."  Yet being the operative word.

Sylmar Earthquake headline

While building owners might not be aware of the inherent risks, city officials have repeatedly warned about the dangers of concrete buildings since 1971.  The Sylmar Earthquake wrecked two concrete buildings at the forty-six year old Veteran's Administration Hospital in the San Fernando Valley.  Both three-story buildings pancaked when the concrete broke apart, leaving the red tile roof smashed to pieces on the ground.  Many patients were crushed beneath the rubble, forty-nine people were killed.  Seismic experts were further alarmed by the state of the Olive view Medical Center in Sylmar, which opened months before and built under stricter codes.  The five-story hospital moved sideways when some of the first-floor columns broke.  Three concrete stairwells toppled over, a two-story psychiatric buildings collapsed, and three people were killed.

Following the 6.6 earthquake, Los Angeles Building and Safety officials strengthened seismic codes for new buildings, requiring more steel reinforcement bars inside the columns to prevent concrete chunks from breaking away.  The additional steel acts as a cage, keeping the concrete in place, even if the column cracks.  Be that as it may, structures built before the mid-seventies remained at risk because many lacked  adequate re-bars and can't bend, something engineers call "non-ductile."  When more concrete buildings tumbles in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, then Los Angeles Council member Hal Bernson and Kal Deppe, a to city building official, decided the time was right to push for tougher retrofitting laws.  Their proposal called for a list identifying all vulnerable buildings across the city including concrete buildings.  Property owners would be required to have a plan to retrofit them.  Both Messrs Bernson and Deppe had reason to be optimistic.  Ten years prior, they successfully pushed an initiative to require the demolition or retrofit of about 8,000 unreinforced brick buildings.  However, in 1994, Los Angeles was still recovering from a recession after the earthquake and then-Mayor Richard Riordan didn't want to burden business owners with additional regulations.  Thus, Council member Bernson's proposal died and officials had to settle for a voluntary retrofit program.

In a recent interview, Mr. Bernson stated, "There's two sides: There's the human risk.  There's the financial risk...To me, there was never a question about the two.  The question of human life was always more important than financial."  In the early 2000s, retired building officials tried again to make City Hall focus on the dangers of unreinforced concrete buildings-nothing happened.  In 2003, Mr. Bernson's former chief of staff Greig Smith, tried twice to revive the issue when he was elected to the City Council.  Mr. Smith proposed an alternative: identify the concrete buildings and label the hazardous ones.  That also failed.

Ironically, property owners have been the biggest opponents of retrofitting rules.  I say ironically because you would think that someone like Scott Kim would want to retrofit  his building if only to avoid the inevitable lawsuit that would result from the family of his workers who were crushed to death by falling concrete.  The problem is that many business owners believe that they shouldn't have to for expensive fixes themselves.  Yes,  retrofitting a building is expensive but a lawsuit and fines is even more expensive.  According to Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the Central City Association, "The cost of doing this would be greater than the value of the building and that didn't make sense to us."  It almost seems as if Ms. Schatz is implying that the safety and welfare of the human occupants is of little value in context to a quick building sale.  Researchers who study how concrete buildings behave in in earthquakes say that 5% of the structures would collapse.  In Los Angeles, that amounts to about fifty buildings, possibly including one occupied by Ms, Schatz.  Many more require retrofitting.

Los Angeles City Hall, c.1931

Nabih Youssef, an engineer who helped strengthen City Hall and the Los Angeles Coliseum, said that based on his experience, approximately 30% of the older concrete buildings require major work.  Some of his colleagues believe that number his higher.  In order to determine whether or not a building requires retrofitting, an owner would have to spend about $100,000 on a structural study that analyzes what is inside the columns.  Owners would have to hire engineers who might install angled steel beams to provide more support.  Another remedy could be the addition of strong interior ground-to-roof concrete walls, which could cost upwards of $1 million.  Would it help save lives and be better safety-wise?  Of course, if you have the money.

In 2006, a team of engineers from UC Berkeley led by Professor Jack Moehle, backed with a $3.6-million grant from the National Science Foundation, set out to produce a list of older concrete buildings that might collapse in a major earthquake.  Over the next seven years, Prof. Moehle's team identified 1,500 potentially vulnerable buildings in Los Angeles through examining public records and walk throughs.  The list was intended to be a first step.  Each building identified on the list would have to be studied more closely to determine if it needs strengthening.  Prof. Moehle declined to release his list to the Los Angeles Times, citing legal liabilities because the data is far from definitive.  However, Prof. Moehle would make list available to the city, upon request, letting them figure out what to do with it. Proponents of retrofit say the list would give the city a place to start in dealing with this issue.  "You need to an elected official who is willing to stick his neck out and the leadership role," opines Hal Bernson.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the mayor is interested in the report and would review the issue.  Without action from the city, the retrofit program would be limited.  As downtown and Hollywood gentrified, developers were required to retrofit the concrete buildings and warehouses during their conversion residences.  Others developers reinforced their buildings under pressure from insurance companies and lenders.  Seismologists and engineers say the clock is running out to fix the buildings.  If the long overdue "Big One" hits the San Andreas fault, the main fault line running through California, the shock waves would cascade into downtown at a magnitude that hasn't been felt since the earthquake in 1857.  Another horrifying scenario would be a huge quake striking directly underneath Hollywood or the Westside.  There are more than 300 fault lines criss crossing the L.A. Basin.

Previous earthquakes have sparked billions of dollars in retrofitting across the state with proven results.  Hundreds of bridges and freeway overpasses have been replaced or retrofitted-all but two have been completed.  Public and private universities and colleges voluntarily retrofitted their concrete buildings.  State earthquake regulations have resulted in safer, more modern medical buildings.  Los Angeles' 1981 requiring retrofitting of 8,000 brick buildings have save lives-although sixty people died in the Northridge Earthquake, none were in brick buildings.  Nevertheless, structural engineers reported to the state, after the Northridge quake, that the collapse of a single unreinforced concrete building could have catastrophic effects, resulting in the loss of life not seen since the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.  Earthquake safety has rarely been an issue that draws serious public debate.  Most seismic regulations are are approved after the fact and Los Angeles hasn't had an event in almost twenty years.  Without a government mandate, the job of retrofitting is left to the property owner's discretion.  Scary if you think about it.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google + and Instagram