When the Big One hits and San Francisco is ravaged by a major earthquake, the real damage The City suffers may not be from fire or famine.
If capital investments take a dive and businesses depart en masse for safer places, the long-lasting perdition under such a natural disaster could be fiscal, as in an end to the economic boom time and a lasting depression.
“We have to be more ready than we have ever been,” said Mayor Ed Lee of disaster preparations.
One response has been to appoint an official focused on preparing The City to bounce back to “business as normal” following a major calamity.
As The City's chief resiliency officer, Patrick Otellini is tasked with coordinating emergency responders and city government with service-providing corporations to help ensure that following a disaster, San Francisco can get back to normal as quickly as possible. The position was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Responsibilities include coordinating myriad infrastructure needs: making sure PG&E can restore power and gas, AT&T can get the phones working, and other public agencies can get the roads and rails open and moving again.
In the short term, Otellini has asked The City's private schools, which serve about 24,000 students, to evaluate their buildings for seismic stability.
Public schools have been required to do this for decades — but not private schools, and San Francisco has the highest percentage of private school students of any city in the state, he noted.
“If these schools are not up and running, we're slowing the recovery process,” he said. “If your kid's not in school, you're not going back to work.”
The Rockefeller Foundation is handing out about $100 million to 100 cities to create jobs like Otellini's over a three-year period. The grant is capped at no more than $440,000 over two years
Oakland and Berkeley will also hire chief resiliency officers over the next few weeks.
“We know there's going to be an earthquake, we know there's going to be a fire,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who added that impending sea level rise could also put Interstate 80, San Francisco International Airport and other key bits of the Bay Area's infrastructure underwater.
A 4.4-magnitude earthquake hit Los Angeles on Monday. San Francisco has not had a major seismic event since 1989, but there's a 65 percent chance that a big earthquake will strike in the next 25 years, Lee noted.