Resilient Los Angeles: A Preview

GELFAND’S WORLD--To great fanfare, the mayor and assembled officials rolled out their plan for something called Resilient Los Angelesa couple of months ago.

It came with a 90 page report which was not available to many of us because they didn't print enough copies, or somebody forgot to bring enough cartons, or something. 

We did get some idea of what Resilient LA is supposed to be about. In brief, it's a collection of wishes and goals for a better Los Angeles. We will be resilient in the face of earthquakes, fires, and floods. 

Now this, in fact, is a good idea and perhaps even a bit of progress. It makes earthquake preparedness an official policy of the city of Los Angeles. The plan hasn't gotten very far as yet, but we can hope. 

What Resilience means in practice is something of a guess, because the report doesn't go into specifics as to the cures. 

Instead, it sets up a plan to create a plan. Actually, it is a bunch of plans to create a bunch of plans. As a colleague of mine put it, the Resilience plan is aspirational. For the word aspirational, you can substitute other terms such as goal oriented or for the slightly more cynical among us, wishful thinking. 

I got my hands on an electronic version of the report, which you can find at the website by clicking on Download the Full Report

Here's what I find good about the report: 

It recognizes the dangers of major events such as earthquakes and fires and suggests approaches to mitigate the effects. 

It recognizes the fact of global warming and suggests planning to mitigate the effects. 

That's not bad in the sense that up till now, the city has done almost nothing to prepare the populace for catastrophic events. This constitutes the acceptance of a set of goals. I think it's fair to congratulate the mayor on bringing us this far. 

What don't I find good about the Resilience report? 

The major fault is that it isn't clear. It is full of pseudo-academic terms and phrases that mean very little. See if you can get through the following wording without getting that MEGO (my eyes glaze over) feeling:

"Neighborhood Resilience Hubs are physical spaces, housed within trusted community organizations, that facilitate social and climate resilience along with disaster preparedness and recovery. Ultimately, Hubs will play a critical role in addressing chronic community stressors during blue-sky days as well as in facilitating emergency response and recovery in times of crisis." 

I should point out that when the big rollout of the Resilient Los Angeles plan was announced, the promise of resilience hubs was prominent. It was a novel idea. Several of us asked what they were going to be, where they were going to be situated, and when building would start. 

Instead, we get this gobbledegook that translates as follows:

"We have this idea for places where people can come for help after the earthquake and help will be there. Between earthquakes, the hubs will be gathering places where long-term problems such as poverty and crime will be addressed. "

But when you get further down the page, you find that there really is no plan for the hubs at the moment. The Report is basically a promise to make a plan. City officials, nonprofit organizations, and "trusted community organizations" (whatever those may be, and I suggest that vetting them is not that easy a task) will get together and work their magic. And magic it is, because the funding is not specified. There is a lot of hand waving about public-private partnerships, and the text refers to finding alternative sources of funding. 

Yeah. The United Airlines Resilience Hub. 

Perhaps we shouldn't be critical about something that is just starting up. After all, the Resilient Los Angeles plan refers to goals that stretch out over the next 30 years. Trying to push and prod the city in ways that will help us to survive the next economic downturn is a good idea. Making a commitment to developing safety nets is a good idea. Teaching the people earthquake preparedness is a good idea. 

The Failure 

There are community organizations including the Neighborhood Council Emergency Preparedness Alliance that have been pushing the same ideas for a couple of years. When we asked (along with the Emergency Management Department and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) for the city to create 6 staff positions for people who would educate the public about emergency preparedness, the mayor's budget people said NO. Those positions are not in the current budget. There was a failure to set priorities here. We probably could have had at least a couple of those positions for the cost of printing this near-useless Report. 

Additional Concerns 

I will be taking up the Resilient Los Angeles idea in future columns. One critique is that it tries to be all things to all people. It adds items of long-term importance that probably don't belong in a treatise on emergency planning, items such as income inequality and racial tensions. These items are worthy of consideration on their own. My view is that when the big earthquake hits, we'll all be in the same uncomfortable position. 

Admittedly, there is a problem for people who don't have the money to do seismic upgrades to their homes, but the Resilience report neither concentrates on such specifics nor stops at that point. It tries to make social welfare issues a part of this planning process. 

My view is that the plan, such as it is, fails to adequately address the urgent needs we have in terms of earthquake preparedness. The report is missing an introductory section titled "Urgent Needs" and a solid plan to address them. 

The Report also comes across as rather top-down, in the sense that it asks for neighborhood councils to appoint liaisons to the Resilience project, but fails extraordinarily in trying to create a project of mutual participation. In other words, the project fails to accept that those of us out in the suburbs and in the port might have something to tell them, rather than the other way around.


My shortest article ever: Seismic Retrofitting Report 

This will be my shortest piece ever. Last week we were being nagged by the company that is to be doing the seismic upgrade where we live. We were told to move our cars out of the garages and to be ready for two months of noise and inconvenience. 

They never showed up. 

If they actually start working the day after Memorial Day, they will be a full week late. On the other hand, the spray paint they applied a week ago is still there, although it is getting a little worn. 

Is this seismic retrofit company a subsidiary of the cable tv industry?



(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)  [[hotlink]]