Californians can get $3,000 grants to retrofit homes for earthquake safety—so that they’re safe enough to live in. But there are some caveats. For starters, the majority of Californians live in coastal areas where coastal hazards typically predominate. A high percentage of Californians living in the Central Valley, the wine country, and the mountains have no earthquake risk. And those who do experience risk can and should be willing to pay for it.
The rules and regulations around earthquake risk are complicated, which is why it’s so important that local governments keep them in check. The state’s governor, Jerry Brown, took up his role in 2005, when the Bush administration ignored the recommendations from the National Institute of Building Sciences that California should get out of earthquake insurance altogether. Even the U.S. Geological Survey has recommended that people should take a more proactive approach—and consider purchasing their home insurance in the first place—so in 2018, Brown signed emergency legislation to make it easier for local governments to impose seismic retrofit requirements on residents.
In the next few pages, we’ll discuss the different types of homes, what the rules are, and what residents can do to help.
Where is your area safe?
In a state like California where the coastline is the only place where people can live, the challenge is finding out whether, in fact, the coast is the safest place.
If this were any other state, a simple map search would have turned up a host of coastal communities, including the home of the U.S. state of Washington, with a few of the most dangerous inland areas, such as the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Sierra Nevada. In California, however, the coast is home to only seven coastal communities, with the rest of the state designated as earthquake risk zones.
With such a limited geographic area, it’s essential to focus on the coastal areas. That’s why coastal communities like La Jolla, San Diego, and San Francisco have been able to get a $3,000 state grant from the California Earthquake Authority to retrofit their homes with seismic resistance.
More important, when considering earthquake risk, the people who live in the coastal areas need to be willing to pay for protection. “Where the house is located,