Plans, code enforcement, and damage reduction: Evidence from the northridge earthquake

Raymond J. Burby, Steven P. French, Arthur C. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The State of California requires local governments to pay attention to seismic safety in formulating general plans for urban development and in permitting and inspecting new construction and remodeled existing structures. The Northridge earthquake provided an opportunity to determine whether these provisions, which have been mandatory for more than two decades, actually result in lower property damages. Using data on the number of structures damaged in the Northridge event, we show that, for suburban jurisdictions, damages were lower when local governments formulated broader goals for seismic safety, developed policies to make the public more aware of seismic risks, and expended more resources on enforcing the seismic provisions of building codes. Thus, seismic safety mandates on local governments can lead to lower property damages, and these benefits are enhanced when local governments expend more effort on their implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-74
Number of pages16
JournalEarthquake Spectra
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geophysics


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