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Quakes, high rents and homelessness

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 occurred on Jan. 17, at 4:30 a.m., registering a magnitude of 6.7 on a previously uncharted fault now named the Northridge Blind Thrust Fault or Pico Thrust Fault in the San

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 occurred on Jan. 17, at 4:30 a.m., registering a magnitude of 6.7 on a previously uncharted fault now named the Northridge Blind Thrust Fault or Pico Thrust Fault in the San Fernando Valley The epicenter was in Reseda, a neighborhood in the north-central area of the San Fernando Valley. The temblor killed 57 and caused 8,700 injuries. Total damages were between $13 and $44 billion.

California’s intersection of homelessness, quakes, high rents, and mortgages: Profound implications

PERSPECTIVE. California has the worst homeless rate in the nation, with African Americans accounting for the highest percentage in the most populous county – Los Angeles County at 30 percent. In Los Angeles, alone, there are 60,000 men, women, and children currently scratching out a hard-scrabble existence beneath the sky.

Some have mental issues, some are ex-inmates who no landlord wants as a tenant, some have drug abuse problems, but many go to jobs daily, but don’t earn enough – even with both husband and wife working – to satisfy the exorbitant rents, where $1,500 is below the market rate for a one bedroom apartment in many communities in the county. The lease for two and three bedroom accommodations is immoral.

The rich get richer. The poor are rapidly sinking in a property owner’s market – you might as label it “a quicksand of greed, advantage, and lack of empathy” for the less fortunate.

LA COUNTY’S NETWORK OF FREEWAYS SUSTAINED CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE IN THE 1994 NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE. COURTESY CALTRANS

California suffers a massive divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

It is a moral and ethical dilemma. Not a good thing in California. Not a good thing anywhere, to be straight forward. In California, however, this much insensitivity to the poor and downtrodden may be setting the stage for something horrific to bring the two sides together.

San Andreas Fault; Pacific, North American tectonic plates

There exists a just God who is well aware of the profuse greed existent in California, where soon a household income of well over six figures will be the prerequisite to live here.

Real estate is king in California with its pleasant weather, typically 70-80 ºF, and recreational scape less than one hour’s drive to the mountains, desert or Pacific Ocean. These factors enable realtors and property owners to demand optimum dollar from home buyers and renters. People pour into California from around the globe seeking to make it their home, thus making it a “sellers market” in real estate terms. Some of the wealthiest Californians are real estate tycoons.

The one factor that can quickly adjust escalating real estate to more affordable levels is a massive earthquake. California has been overdue for serious movement along the San Andreas Fault for better than 100 years seismologist say. The San Andreas is the longest fault line on the planet, extending from Mexico to the San Francisco Bay area. A fault is the convergence where two tectonic plates, in this case, the Pacific plate and the North American continental plate meet.

When these two land masses in the Earth’s crust move due to intense pressures beneath the surface of the Earth, the slippage and the damage caused by it often is terrible and devastating. The environmental effects of it are surface faulting, tectonic uplift and subsidence, tsunamis (tidal waves), soil liquefaction, ground resonance, landslides, and ground failure, either directly linked to a quake source or provoked by the ground shaking.

In the event of Pacific and North American tectonic plate shifting, it is unfathomable that two gigantic land masses could move simultaneously. The Pacific plate, situated beneath the ocean is 40 million square miles in size. It is the largest tectonic plate on Earth, covering Baja California, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Pacific Ocean.

The North American plate, which encompasses North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, extreme northeastern Asia, and parts of Iceland and the Azores, extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. It is 29.3 million square miles in size.

Cities the size of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Jose, Stockton, and Sacramento, would appear as tiny circumferences in relation to the entire state. An enormous episode along the San Andreas would be incalculable in magnitude and would shake each of these cities like games pieces on a Monopoly board.

It would require a gargantuan earthquake of truly epic proportion to knock over buildings and structures like freeway overpasses, but it is within the realm of possibility as the San Andreas might trigger other faults and quakes in a network of faults that crisscross California – among then the Newport-Inglewood fault that extends from Santa Monica to Long Beach. The fault triggered the 1933 magnitude 6.4 earthquake that devastated Long Beach on March 10 at 5:54 p.m.

An earthquake that could conceivably split the state along the fault line would render such incalculable damage hundreds of thousands could be made homeless adding to the state’s already worsening homelessness.

California’s major earthquake history

Could this really occur? If Japan, which has suffered more than its fair share of seismic events over the course of time, including a 9.0 temblor that hit its northeast province on March 11, 2011 – the second largest in recorded history – can be a gauge, the answer is at the least highly probable.

California has experienced numerous calamitous quakes from 1857 to now. They are:

  • 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, Jan. 9, 1857 at 8:20 a.m., was one of the greatest earthquakes ever recorded in the U.S., and left an amazing surface rupture scar over 225 miles in length along the San Andreas fault. Yet, despite the immense scale of this quake, only two people were reported killed by the effects of the shock – a woman at Reed’s Ranch near Fort Tejon was killed by the collapse of an adobe house, and an elderly man fell dead in a plaza in the Los Angeles area.
  • 1906 San Francisco earthquake, triggered by the San Andreas Fault struck the coast of Northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, with a magnitude 7.9, killing more than 3,000 people, destroying over 80 percent of the city of the city. It remains California’s worst natural disaster and registered the largest death toll in state history.
  • 1933 Long Beach earthquake, a magnitude 6.4, occurred on March 10 at 5:54 p.m. south of downtown Los Angeles. The epicenter was offshore, southeast of Long Beach, Calif., on the Newport-Inglewood Fault.
  • 1971 San Fernando earthquake registered a magnitude of 6.5 and occurred along the Sierra Madre Fault in the early morning of Feb. 9 in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California, leaving 65 dead and 2,000 injured. Damage to the region was estimated at at $505-553 million
  • 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake occurred in Northern California on Oct. 17 at 5:04 p.m., centered on a section of the San Andreas Fault. The quake registered 6.9 in magnitude and killed 63, injuring 3,757.
  • 1994 Northridge earthquake occurred on Jan. 17, 1994, at 4:30 a.m., registering a magnitude of 6.7 on a previously uncharted fault now named the Northridge Blind Thrust Fault or Pico Thrust Fault in the San Fernando Valley The epicenter was in Reseda, a neighborhood in the north-central area of the San Fernando Valley. The temblor killed 57 and caused 8,700 injuries. Total damages were between $13 and $44 billion.
  • 2010 Baja California earthquake occurred on April 4 at 3:40 a.m., registering a magnitude of 7.2 south of Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico. The 89-second quake was widely felt throughout northwest Mexico and southern California, accounting for four deaths, 233 injured, and $1.15 billion in damages.
  • 2014 South Napa earthquake occurred in the North San Francisco Bay Area in the fertile Napa Valley wine country on Aug. 24 at 3:20 a.m., registering 6.0 in magnitude on the West Napa Fault. No deaths were reported, but the severe quake caused between $362 million and $1 billion in damage to the region.

The most powerful earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude 9.5 temblor that occurred in Chile in 1960.

Seismologists have no way currently of estimating the magnitude of a statewide temblor along the entirety of San Andreas Fault or even if it is possible, but the mere thought, and the millions – rich and poor – that would be rendered homeless as a result, is horrifying.

One thing is for certain. California would no longer be a real estate seller’s market. At least, not for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.

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