Monday, July 6, 2015

Which Areas Will Fare Best in a Large Earthquake?

Living in Southern California, whether you like it or not, means being prepared for earthquakes. The area is riddled with faults due to an unusual bend in the San Andreas. Another concern is how the ground your home is built on reacts in the event of a large earthquake. Haiti should be a wake-up call for each of us to determine our relative risk. There are 2 websites you can check, to see if you live in any seismic hazard zones. The first map is to help you locate the earthquake faults in the Los Angeles Area . Click on the faults for more information. The second map shows what areas would liquefy or settle in the event of a major earthquake. This is the Southern California Liquefaction Map. Click on your square for a detailed map. Most will want to select the Venice, Beverly Hills or Topanga squares, then zoom in to find your location.

Nobody likes to think about earthquakes, but the fact is we live in earthquake country. Besides being prepared, it's important to know how susceptible an area is during an earthquake This could affect your decision in choosing where to live. How many people do you think even have earthquake insurance these days?


Anonymous said...

I am not an expert but it looks like the map is saying that the canyon 90402 will liquify and the flats of the 90402 will be fine

anyone else see this?

speedingpullet said...

Can't get it to show me the Topanga section....

Anonymous said...

Everything in LA will be affected if something hits near LA. The only way to avoid it is to move out of earthquake states like CA and NV.

Since 1994 every few years new building codes go into effect to prevent damage and loss of life during an earthquake. Your chances of living greatly increases as the age of your building decreases from 15 years old.

A lot was learned in 1994 and started to go into practice around 1995. I wouldn't buy anything older than 1995 construction or a full remodel that required a current earthquake code retrofit.

Most remodels are lipstick remodels or they remodel just enough where they don't have to do an expensive earthquake code retrofit. That kills any re-modelers ROI.

I prefer new construction since you can't trust these re-modelers to be upfront about how much they really put into the place. Sure I can sue them if it turns out they lied, but only if I survive.

Anonymous said...

This is a very perceptive post, than you.

Can you give me a sense for how the Santa Monica building codes have changed since 1995?

Clearly, it is crazy to buy something older than 1995
But is something vintage 1997 much worse than vintage 2007?

Assume I don't care about cosmetic differences, should I seek out a 2007 build instead of a 1997 build due to earthquake risk/>

Anonymous said...

Its not crazy to buy pre 1995 as long as you know its been retrofitted. There is constant research and codes are improved all the time. An argument can be made that a 2007 house is safer than a 1997 house since building codes had 10 more years of research in the 2007 house. Santa Monica's building codes are beyond any other city in the LA area and exceed the California codes. This may be due to Santa Monica being hard hit during the Northridge earthquake. Just read through the Santa Monica Department of Building and Safety website. They have code changes, classes builders are supposed to take on the changes and so on.

One example are earthquake gas shutoff valves that keep your house from filling with gas and blowing up 6 hours after the earthquake. This wasn't a state requirement but it was required by Santa Monica for years on new structures. In 2008 Santa Monica made this a requirement on all new, existing buildings doing more than $10k worth of work and before the sale of any property. How many buildings do you think skirt putting on these valves when doing more than $10k worth of work or when they sell? I'm guessing few people follow this code and most home sale inspectors that don't regularly work in Santa Monica would miss it as not being up to code. But a new place will have them as Santa Monica city code inspectors won't sign off on the new house without them.

Anonymous said...

Anti-earthquake technology improves each year and building codes adopt the technology. Every new house is going to be better at withstanding earthquakes than an older one.

Anonymous said...

Haiti was built with no building codes. It was full of shacks that would get ripped apart during hurricanes and rebuilt. The concrete structures were not properly reinforced for earthquakes. Former Pres Clinton has spent years trying to get Haiti to improve their infrastructure and building codes so they can better survive hurricanes as earthquakes weren't their biggest problem. But the Haitian people & borderline corrupt government spent a lot of the money Clinton raised elsewhere. Hopefully with some oversight the new monies we send to Haiti will go to where its needed, into sustainable buildings and infrastructure. Not into the pockets of Haitian politicans.

If the same size earthquake hits LA it will fare far better than Haiti. Buying a post 1994 home is your best bet in LA.

Anonymous said...

"Clearly, it is crazy to buy something older than 1995
But is something vintage 1997 much worse than vintage 2007?"

They had years of data to crunch after 1994. Even 1995 houses being far better than pre-1994 homes were still too early to take advantage of most of what they had to learn from Northridge. A good 10 years of learning from 1994 and implementing new codes would be best. Anything built after 2004 would be your safest bet. And don't live in one of those liquefaction or earthquake-induced landslide zones.

Anonymous said...

I am an Insurance Broker and after the Northridge EQ insurance became extremely expensive and the coverage very limited. It is rare to find anyone who carries EQ insurance on their home anymore.

Latesummer2009 said...

The bottom of all canyons are loosely consolidated soils formed from previous streams, that flowed before any housing was built. Areas like the b0ttom of Mandeville Canyon still flood during heavy rains and would be subject to Liquefaction. According to the map, Santa Monica Canyon is another area that would liquefy.

Sad to hear, that earthquake insurance is so expensive. Perhaps, the insurance companies know something we don't.

Also, if anyone has a problem with the maps loading, you might need a recent version of Adobe Reader.

Anonymous said...

This is very valuable.

I know plenty of people who live in the canyons. I am sure that they had no idea that if there is an earthquake that kills a thousand people in Santa Monica, chances are those people will be in the canyon not in the flats.

This information is just not that well known. So this is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

"Sad to hear, that earthquake insurance is so expensive. Perhaps, the insurance companies know something we don't."

Unlike other insurance that is purchased nationwide earthquake insurance is only bought in a very limited area. They are spreading the costs and risks over a smaller group making the costs higher than other insurance. This is also the case for specialized hurricane and flood insurance.

According to the California Earthquake Authority only about 12 percent of California homeowners have earthquake insurance. Each year, more homeowners get rid of earthquake coverage than buy it because they believe the policies cost too much and cover too little. With so few people buying earthquake insurance its going to be interesting when LA is hit with a big one. The government is going to have to step in and help rebuild otherwise LA will be in ruins for decades. What happens when almost 90% of your residents don't have the money to rebuild? That's like New Orleans times 1000. If the govt were smart they would force people to get earthquake insurance or somehow subsidize a portion of the cost of the insurance. That will be cheaper than eventually giving assistance to the 88% of owners without insurance.

You can say those owners get what they deserve. But we all know if an entire city is in trouble the government will step in. That's what the 88% of uninsured CA residents are hoping will happen. Judging by the relief given to hurricane and flood victims they will be right.

I'm making no judgement whether this is morally right not to cover yourself and hope for a handout. Like it or not it is the case.

Anonymous said...

If you live in the flats of 90401, 90402 or 90403 you are about 150ft above sea level. If a tsunami occurs after the earthquake its unlikely it will reach the residents past the bluff on the flats. Its actually not flat, the land slopes towards ocean ave.

To take from an above anons post the safest place would be a 2004 or newer home in the "flats" of 90403 and 90402. The home will likely withstand an earthquake and won't have to worry about tsunamis.

Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion would be how an earthquake can effect values. I know short term they go down with freaked out people moving out. What does the destruction of older homes making way for newer homes do to a neighborhood? If you buy a house that withstands the earthquake on a street of older homes that are wiped out, with no loss of life, how will new homes rebuilding around you help your value?

Latesummer2009 said...

It appears the areas affected most in order would be:

1) Marina del Rey
2) Venice
3) Culver City
4) Parts of Mar Vista
5) Areas of West Hollywood and East Beverly Hills
6) Canyon Area bottoms

Since Marina del Rey was dredged in the 60s, it is essentialy swamp land and is extremely unstable. Venice is built on areas that are a natural extension of Marina del Rey. Any low lying areas close to the beach would essentially liquefy.

Next, you can trace the old route of the Los Angeles River which begins downtown and flows in a southwest direction towards Culver City and parts of Mar Vista, then out to the ocean through Playa Vista.

In addtion, there seems to be a large swath of unconsolidated soils draining from the Santa Monica Mountains that drains to the south through East Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and to points further south.

The canyon areas of Los Angeles would be susceptible in two different ways. First, the loose soils at the bottom from canyon drainage and secondly, due to landslides from the surrounding mountains.

Perhaps the most dangerous area, is along the Inglewood-Newport Fault Zone, which Scientists believe is capable of a 7.0 earthquake.

Anonymous said...

May I humbly suggest we start a blog to discuss 247 20th?

This is a 3 bedroom 3 bath. Bank is asking 1.7

When I went to look at it the broker told me that the garage had been turned in to a family room without permits. And that an additional bedroom had been built on to the house. Broker did not know if the bedroom was built with permits or without.

I know for sure that if I buy this and rennovate the city will force me to re convert the garage in to a garage

But what about the bedroom built on ? First of all anyone know for sure if it was built with permits or not?

And if it was built without permits, will the city let me have it inspected, make a few changes and keep it - or will the city force me to rip it off and restore to original specs?

IF anyone can help me, help me out.

And if our esteemed blog host thinks this is a worthwhile topic let's have a new thread

We all know the banks have a large number of 90402 houses in various stages of foreclosure - to my knowledge this is the first post foreclosure house to be marked by a bank in the 90402 flats. So I think it is an important one for us to watch closely

Anonymous said...

Hi anon 6:13,

Go down and sit at the City of SM computer in the planning dept. You can pull up all permits issued to the house address. If the bedroom was done without a permit, you will have to get an 'as built' permit after the fact for the build. You better hope there were no codes rules broken like encroching into a side yard setback, or structural issues. You might have to tear it down and restart if there were no permits pulled and it doesn't abide by the planning/building & safety regulations.

You are right about the garage, no hope there to get an 'as built' permit as you will have to abide by the city's strict 2 spaces - covered parking regulations for R-1 zoning.

So you will have to turn it back into a garage use.

Tread carefully here, the city is notorious for enforcing building code violations. Maybe this isn't a good deal.

Anonymous said...

6:54 thank you for the help.

I will go to the office and check this out.

I assume that this property will sell for lot value only, so whoever buys it gets the structure for $0

Question is, is the structure worth more or less than $0

latesummer2009 said...

A new thread has started at Santa Monica Meltdown 90402 for those wanting to discuss 247 20th Street. You may click the link in my Favorite RE/ECONOMIC Blog section to get there. Thanks for the heads up anon 6:13

Let's keep the discussion on a bit wider focus, that includes earthquake risk on the Westside. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

how about "not Santa Monica"

the Westside includes Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Westwood Y'All! A lot more to discuss. SM is BORING!!

Anonymous said...

The reason that nothing other than SM is posted here is that none of the people interested in places other than SM do any work to post. They just lie back and read the work of others

Anonymous said...

Yes - most of us here are looking for homes in prime Santa Monica. The only issue is we think prices are going to come down hard in next 12 months so we are renting in prime SM not buying right now

By the way are rents starting to creep up? I just saw a one bedroom asking five thousand bucks a month

Check it out on

I am not saying that they will get five thou but isn't it a sign of confidence that they even ask that much

812 17Th St Unit: 3 Santa Monica, CA 90403Rental $5,000 1 Bed, 1.5 Bath | 1,170 Sq Ft | MLS #09-412699 | Refreshed 11 hours ago

Latesummer2009 said...

The biggest danger seismically is The Newport-Inglewood Fault. It starts under Cheviot Hills and runs Southeast, right through Culver City on it's way to Inglewood and down towards Newport and Laguna Beach. Any place you see hills in Los Angeles, you are basically sitting atop of a fault.

The Newport-Inglewood Fault capable of a 7.0 on the Richter Scale.

Anonymous said...

Asking $5k for a one bedroom rental is a sign of nothing, just delusion. At the peak that would not fly. I have not seen rents going up and I am a renter so I watch.

Anonymous said...

Buyers don't care about earthquake risk. I wish they did but they didn't

14974 Corona Del Mar Pacific Palisades, CA

Just two houses down from this one, the neighboring house slid down the cliff in the last earthquake. We are talking total decimation.

the city confirmed that this house and the ones nearby are likely to go in the next quake. But buyers don't care. There are two offers in hand on this house. Both offers are over $9 million but the owner is holding out for $11 million

Again, go walk by this house. it is on the edge of a cliff. Part of the cliff has already crumbled on to the highway below but the buyers keep bidding

They just don't care one whit.

Anonymous said...

OK, how about the difference in pricing between Beverly Hills and BHPO (Beverly Hills Post Office) --

Curious to see what folks think of what appears to be a 30-100% premium to get into the actual city of Beverly Hills (and its schools and police services). Houses can be next door to each other and show this.

Anonymous said...

It is what it is. A big premium for the services of Beverly Hills.

You will appreciate the BH Police the next time the gangbangers decide to riot. You will recall that in the last riot, the LAPD stood down and let the rioters run wild. The BH Police would never let that happen

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree. The difference between BHPO and Beverly Hills is all in the schools.

All of us know that people pay a premium to be in the Franklin district (explained in the below post) Same thing with Beverly Hills. The feeling is if I send my kids to Franklin / Beverly Hills I am getting a different type of experience than if I send them to some other school.

I leave it to others to say whether this is true, but the perception that it is true drives values

(from an earlier post)

As I said, the education that your son or daughter will get at Franklin is the SAME as the education they will get at other schools in Santa Monica.

If that is what matters to you, do not send them to Franklin.

The difference at Franklin is in the parents. You tend to find parents with higher levels of professional attainment at Franklin than you do at the other schools. For example, Franklin has more dads who are surgeons and radiologists. The other schools tend to have more pediatricians and GPs. Franklin has more dads who are alumni of the top 3 law schools and the other schools tend to have more alumni of the other law schools.

It doesn't make the dads at Franklin better people, but they do tend to be folks who had higher test scores than the dads at the other schools. And they tend to be people who studied harder in school themselves and just achieved more academically.

Pediatricians contribute a lot to society, but anyone in medicine will tell you that on average the surgeons and radiologists are a little more academic than the pediatricians.

Don't forget that at all schools in Santa Monica there are parents who are totally self made successes. Parents who might have had weak test scores and weak grades in school who have made themselves successful. Good test scores and good grades are not the be all and end all of life.

But at the end of the day there is a difference you can notice among parents at Franklin in the professions

Anonymous said...

I may be mistaken here, but I think speeding pullet is from the UK. If I am mistaken I am sorry. Any way if you go to London you will see the same type of difference - two neighborhoods right next to each other, one with "better" government paid schools and the other with "worse" government paid schools, trading for very different housing prices

In fact, government paid schools are a very important factor in London.

A good private school costs $33 thousand a year (in dollars) so if you have three kids that is $100 thousand dollars a year you must pay. The UK just put in a 50% income tax rate so here is the bottom line - in order to pay the schools $100k you have to work extra hard and take home an extra $200k from your job

With the recession, earning that extra $200k requires a lot of sweat. So it makes a lot of sense to stretch to buy in a district with good government paid schools and not buy in a district with not so good government paid schools

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
OK, how about the difference in pricing between Beverly Hills and BHPO (Beverly Hills Post Office)

Anon, I appreciate your question about Beverly Hills. I personally would like to see some neighborhoods discussed here other than Santa Monica. But the silence you see here shows that the only neighborhood that people are really willing to discuss and comment on is Santa Monica.

All other neighborhoods are just not going to ignite passionate discussion.

Hence this blog is a de facto discussion of Santa Monica

I hope that is clear to you now - if you want to get a discussion going, comment on Santa Monica

Anonymous said...

I agree about the comments on neighborhoods and schools, OTOH for people who do not send their kids to public schools the big premiums can be a waste of money.

It is also true that perceived value is the key because although I can't comment on Beverly Hills, Franklin school is a bit of a joke. My friend's son goes there and he has not learned squat. He has no grasp of grammar and his teacher last year was an idiot. Now he is in the middle school and it is not much better. I think it is better to live in a cheaper neighborhood and use private schools if education is your primary concern. For status seekers obviously this does not matter.

From the sampling of teenagers I know through my kids, I see no real acheivement difference among the good schools. It is only in the really bad schools that the differences show. Pali is as good as SaMo. I live near Uni and the parents who have sharp kids here drive them to Pali. I know two teenagers here whose parents afford it by managing apartments and squishing in. They drove their kids to Pali and both got in to big schools on scholarship.

It is my understanding that further south El Segundo is attracting sharp kids and allowing the parents whose kids feed in to Inglewood or Westchester to transfer their kids down there. It is possible with some driving to get your kids a good education from a less desireable neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

more surgeons and radiologists? they won't be giving my kid a job, so they are irrelevant

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%

School is what you make of it.

No school is going to magically transform a low IQ kid in to someone that can go to an Ivy University. Be realistic

Anonymous said...


just signed up and wanted to say hello while I read through the posts

hopefully this is just what im looking for looks like i have a lot to read.