San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble

: nytimes – excerpt
(includes old photos and maps)

SAN FRANCISCO — Sailors arriving in San Francisco in the 19th century used two giant redwood trees perched on a hill to help guide their ships into the bay. The redwoods were felled for their lumber at around the time of the gold rush, but San Francisco now has a new beacon: Salesforce Tower, the tallest office building in the West.

Clustered around the 1,070-foot tower are a collection of high rises built on the soft soil and sand on the edge of the bay. They represent a bold symbol of a new San Francisco, but also a potential danger for a city that sits precariously on unstable, earthquake-prone ground.

San Francisco lives with the certainty that the Big One will come. But the city is also putting up taller and taller buildings clustered closer and closer together because of the state’s severe housing shortage. Now those competing pressures have prompted an anxious rethinking of building regulations. Experts are sending this message: The building code does not protect cities from earthquakes nearly as much as you might think… (more)

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