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An aerial view of downtown San Francisco. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The newfound wealth from San Francisco's tech boom isn't translating to more sophisticated earthquake safety measures, reports the LA Times.

Why it matters: Earthquakes pose the greatest natural threat to northern California's economy and infrastructure, but the Bay Area's cities — once national leaders in safety — are now falling behind their neighbors in southern California.

The vulnerabilities, according to the Times...

  • "There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 brittle concrete buildings in San Francisco — a building type that is one of the deadliest in earthquakes — yet the city does not have a list of where they are located."
  • "In Oakland, there are nearly 2,000 possibly vulnerable wood-frame apartment buildings at risk of collapse in a seismic event — and there is no law to require them to be fixed."
  • "The report said 17,000 units in Oakland’s soft-story apartments or condominiums could be declared uninhabitable after a major earthquake — 10% of the city’s housing supply. ... Yet four years later, no proposal for a mandatory retrofit law has been introduced by the City Council."
  • "San Jose doesn’t even have a list of its more than 1,000 apartment buildings thought to be at risk."

A suggestion: Utilizing the Bay Area's tech wealth to push for a massive retrofitting update — which happened thanks to a series of quakes in populated areas of the state from 1970s to the 1990s — but has stalled since northern California hasn't faced a "big one" since 1989's Loma Prieta quake.

  • The Times spoke to structural engineer Janiele Maffei, former board member of the Oakland-based Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, who said: “The minute you start that clock, you’re ahead. The minute you say you’re not going to start that clock for 10 years, you’re behind.”

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
10 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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