California today: making seismic security more intelligible



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This week, like every four years, hundreds of earthquake experts gathered in Los Angeles in dimly lit rooms where complicated mathematical formulas representing things such as seismic energy and building resistance were projected on large screens.

For outsiders, these discussions can be almost incomprehensible. And some pundits who have gathered at the conference here this week say it’s symptomatic of a bigger problem: communicating with the public.

But big questions remain: How resilient are buildings in earthquake-prone areas? Should we build stronger ones?

A number of speakers and conference attendees urged engineers to better manage the mismatch between what the public often thinks the building code protects – and what it actually does.

“The problem is that the general public and building owners in particular really think that when they get a building up to code, they’ll get a building that will perform well in an earthquake,” said Mary Comerio, professor. at the University of California, Berkeley and a proponent of enhanced earthquake protection.

“The message to the public is that existing buildings are going to be damaged. It’s part of the calculations, ”Prof. Comerio said. “They are designed to help you exit the building, but you may not be able to return. “

A debate over the building code’s long-standing “life safety” philosophy – meaning it is designed to protect your life but not much more – was at the heart of the conference discussions. A bill in Sacramento that could potentially strengthen the code to a “functional recovery” standard is going through committees of the state legislature.

But proponents of more resilient buildings and infrastructure like water, gas lines, power grid and mobile phone systems say more can be done even within the existing code.

Maryann Phipps, a structural engineer who gave the keynote address to conference attendees on Thursday, urged engineers to explain to their clients that by spending an extra one or two percent, a building is more likely to be usable after an earthquake.

“My take-away point is that communication is important,” she said. “We have to keep it simple and clear. “

(Note: We regularly feature articles on news sites that are restricted to non-subscribers.)

• California has spent a radical online privacy law which gives consumers the right to know what information companies collect about them, why they collect this data and with whom they share it. It gives consumers the right to tell businesses to delete their information as well as not to sell or share their data. [The New York Times]

• Number of homeless in San Francisco fell to 7,499 in 2017 from 8,640 in 2004. So why is homelessness so often referred to by residents as the city’s No.1 problem and seen as worse than ever? [San Francisco Chronicle]

• The Supreme Court may have finally overturned Korematsu. But for many of those who spent months or years in Japanese internment camps, the decision looked like a hollow victory. [The New York Times]

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement from the Supreme Court this week, loves his hometown but his friends doubt he will return to Sacramento. [Sacramento Bee]

• A man who couldn’t swim jumped into a raging river in Sequoia National Park to save a 5 year old boy from drowning. He saved the boy, but died in the process. [CNN]

• Daily newspapers and metro sections have cleared up. So in California, home to a huge three-tier public university system, professional journalists rely on student journalists to help. [Columbia Journalism Review]

James schwab resigned as a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security in March, saying he could not lie on behalf of the Trump administration. His first TV interview about leaving on Wednesday was interrupted by men in dark suits. [The New York Times]

Norman pearl, the new Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief, sits down for an interview. Among the questions he says he has to grapple with: “What are we doing just to make the current operation work better?” And “What are some new things you want to do where we have a lot of catching up?” ” [Columbia Journalism Review]

• A list of the 10 postal codes in America with the most expensive houses (no wonder half the locations are in California). [The New York Times]

• At 80, the sculptor Wendell dayton made his first major exhibition, at the Los Angeles Blum & Poe gallery. [The New York Times]

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” Tony’s winning piece, heads to San Francisco in fall 2019. [The New York Times]

A quick tribute to our colleagues at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Who lost five staff in Thursday’s shooting, but somehow made a resolution to release a Friday edition.

“Our newspaper is one of the oldest newspapers in the United States,” said Joshua McKerrow, a photographer for The Capital Gazette who was not in the office, picking up his daughter for her birthday at the time of the shooting. “It’s a real newspaper and like any newspaper, it’s a family.

“We will be here tomorrow,” McKerrow said through tears. “We’re not going anywhere.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected].

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.

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