Los Angeles making plans for sudden shocks, long-term calamity

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 2 March 2018 20:30 GMT

Smoke from two fires burning in the Angeles National Forest rises with the downtown skyline in the foreground in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

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The U.S. city faces risks including earthquakes, wildfires and rising heat, alongside bustling urban demands for energy

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, March 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Facing the risks of earthquakes, rising heat and bustling urban demands for energy, Los Angeles is kicking off a strategy to make itself more resilient to threats, officials said on Friday.

The plans include strengthening infrastructure, promoting renewable energy, and protecting residents and neighborhoods in the city of 4 million people, said officials from the city and the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities project.

The strategy aims to combine preparations for sudden shocks such as earthquakes or wildfires with chronic stresses such as climate change, they said.

"We can't wait for catastrophes to hit before confronting them," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "We need a comprehensive, strategically coordinated approach to urban resilience."

One goal is to make earthquake early-warning technology available to all residents by the end of the year.

Another is to reduce so-called urban heat islands - when natural land cover is replaced by pavement and buildings - in part by planting more trees.

Others include preparing residents to be self-sufficient for at least seven days by 2022, modernizing the power grid to boost the use of renewable energy by 2036, and investing in stormwater retention to reduce flooding risks by 2028.

"I like that there's a mix of long-, mid- and short-term initiatives," Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We see cities struggle with this, more or less successfully, all over the world."

Other U.S. cities that have launched resilience stategies include Atlanta, Georgia - to deal with traffic congestion - and Boston, Massachusetts, which is addressing housing and education inequality and risks of flooding and rising sea levels, officials said.

The Rockefeller Foundation's project provided seed money to help design the strategies, officials said.

The Los Angeles strategy will link other programs the city has for sustainability and earthquake protection, and will also pay closer attention to specific neighborhoods' needs, they said.

A catastrophic quake is inevitable and long overdue, experts with the Los Angeles County's emergency management office say.

The coastal city in southern California lies not far from the San Andreas Fault. A rupture of the fault in northern California caused the massive San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

The last big quake to strike near Los Angeles was 300 years ago, and the average interval in the region is just 150 years, experts say.

Studies show California and other western states are having more days of extreme summer heat than in the past, raising the risk of drought and wildfires.

Other cities working with 100 Resilient Cities are Mexico City, Australia's Melbourne, and Jordan's Amman, officials said.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Robert Carmichael.)

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.

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