Rebuilding communites following disaster: Lessons from Kobe and Los Angeles

Robert B. Olshansky, Laurie A. Johnson, Kenneth C. Topping

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shortly before dawn on 17 January 1994, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake struck the Los Angeles region in southern California, costing over $48 billion in direct losses and leaving 25,000 housing units uninhabitable. Exactly one year later, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the Kobe region of Japan, causing approximately $150 billion in losses, the loss of over 6,400 lives, and severe damage to nearly 450,000 housing units. This paper reports on a study that sought to understand the local and individual planning and reconstruction decisions following these two earthquakes, set within the larger context of regional and national policies. It summarizes reconstruction progress and planning decisions for seven urban districts in the two affected areas. The next catastrophic urban disaster to strike a developed nation will be extraordinarily expensive, and prudence demands preparedness for both post-disaster financing and planning processes; provision of temporary and permanent housing requires external funding and local flexibility; local governments need to combine firm safety regulations with citizen participation in reconstruction planning; and post-disaster planning - to be fast, effective, equitable, and provide some improvements over previous conditions - requires well-funded planning processes, rich in information and communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-374
Number of pages21
JournalBuilt Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 28 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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