earthquake.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan both spoke at a forum on seismic risks today, with both pledging to work on a regional approach to ensuring the safety of the Bay Area in the event that a major earthquake hits the region.

The mayors gave opening remarks to kick off the Seismic Risk Mitigation Leadership Forum, which brought scientists, policymakers, emergency responders and other experts to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square to discuss the latest research in preventing damage and death from large earthquakes.

Lee said the threat of a large earthquake, which he said is likely to hit the Bay Area sometime in the next few decades, would require collaboration among different cities and counties because “seismic events won’t happen locally, they will always happen regionally.”

He joked that his collaboration with Quan in Oakland is in “identifying each other’s faults,” a reference to fault lines that run through the region.

Lee said his work with other major cities nearby has focused on the interoperability of their communication systems to make sure they can reach each other “after the big one.”

The mayors talked about lessons learned from recent large earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and, most recently, Japan, where a 9.0-magnitude quake killed tens of thousands of people in March.

Quan said that 15,000 people could die and a third of Oakland’s rental housing could be destroyed in a major earthquake because of insufficient seismic retrofitting efforts.

She said she has tried to get banks to include the cost of a retrofit into the cost of mortgages, and that in the past–before the recent economic recession–the city had been able to offer matching grants to encourage homeowners to retrofit their structure.

Quan said, “We live with the fact that it might happen while we’re in charge,” and said the city was continuing to look at new ideas for how to mitigate the risks of a large quake.

Lee echoed that sentiment, saying that by holding forums like the one the mayors were attending today, “we’re setting ourselves up for success.”

The forum, the sixth in a nationwide series looking at different natural disaster risks around the U.S., will continue on Tuesday.

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Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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