September 21, 2018

A Safer Future and Foundation for Los Angeles

In the past year, in California and around the U.S. and the world there have been intense, devastating natural disasters, such as Hurricanes, major earthquakes, and right here at home, devastating fires in Los Angeles, and Northern California. And with the changing climate, and longer fire seasons, scientists continue to predict longer, and more devastating disasters to come, here in Southern California.

In many ways we are more vulnerable than ever to a major earthquake here in Los Angeles. I wonder, if as a city, we have learned from the Northridge Quake of the early ‘90’s. I worry especially for the most vulnerable people in our city- the elderly and our children, and especially those that live in unstable or outdated buildings, without the proper reinforcements to maximize the potential for residents to survive unharmed in such a disaster.  I worry about anyone living or working in a multi-level structure, where the risks are greater no matter what. Just in the last two years, there have been major fires in new low-rise construction in downtown and other areas of the city.  History has shown us that soundly constructed buildings will survive this type of natural disaster.

I’ve recently learned about some important and simple changes that one of our Los Angeles City Council members Bob Blumenfield is considering, to upgrade the safety standards for new residential multi-story buildings, that many working individuals and families will call home. Knowing that our city is at particular risk of fire, I’m grateful to city leaders for taking proactive measures to assure that the people living and working in multi-level housing will have the best chance possible to endure the worst of what may come. What that comes down to is requiring that the foundations and floors which include barrier walls of the new developments be constructed with concrete and steel, as opposed to wood, which is highly combustible and also far less secure in the event of an earthquake.

As a Rabbi, I pay special attention to what elected officials are doing in the city I call home, because it has a direct impact on the quality and security of life, for me, my community, and the many diverse communities across Los Angeles. I am not alone in this, as many faith leaders across this city and cities alike have taken stands on similar issues that have enormous personal impact.

My colleague from Temple Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills, Rabbi Jon Hanish, wrote to City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield on this very matter, applauding Councilmember Blumenfield for his leadership in demanding the safest standards for new developments.  Rabbi Hanish wrote that “by requiring developments to utilize the most reliable and safest materials in the construction process, Los Angeles city leaders are taking a powerful and important step toward the health and sustainability of our communities. It’s important that the City of Los Angeles encourages the use of non-combustible materials when constructing a building which heavily reduces the risks associated with fires and earthquakes, and that new developments meet or exceed existing building codes.”

As religious leaders, we cannot place a value on human life, and I am pleased that a fellow member of our community, Councilmember Blumenfield, has taken the lead in guiding the City Council to enact a measure that will set a higher standard of safety. I am encouraged by the Councilman’s  leadership and pray that his colleagues at City Hall will follow in his footsteps in making sure such a simple, yet critical measure moves forward.