Plan quality and mitigating damage from natural disasters: A case study of the northridge earthquake with planning policy considerations

Arthur C. Nelson, Steven P. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

Planners have long believed as an article of faith that land use planning can reduce damage from natural hazards. After evaluating the relationship between the seismic safety elements of comprehensive plans prepared in the Los Angeles region of California and damage caused by the 1994 North-ridge earthquake, we provide evidence that this faith is not misplaced. The State of California requires every local government to include a seismic safety element in its comprehensive land use plan. The 1994 Northridge earthquake provided an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which the quality of state-mandated, locally prepared seismic safety elements reduce earthquake damage. We found that fewer homes were damaged when local governments had developed high-quality factual bases, formulated goals for improving seismic safety, crafted regulatory policies to manage development in hazardous areas, and advanced policies that made the public aware of seismic risks. We conclude that including a high-quality seismic safety element in land use plans can reduce property damage associated with seismic events. Our work has broad implications for land use planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-207
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies

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