The folks from the compact development research argue that high human population settlements make for more resilient cities. However, it is disasters such as these which make me wonder: is it likely that there is a one-size-fits-all urban form for resiliency against disasters. 400 people victim to one mudslide is terrifying, and while I guess we could go into long arguments about how climate change is causing all this, we’ve had typhoons for some time. What we haven’t had in the scope of human history are the population levels and densities in particular locations which heighten the casualties from major events.
As irritating as Los Angeles is to many urbanists, developers’ response adaptation to earthquakes made perfect sense before the technology was available to build upwards. The spread also creates a feedback problem for the wildfire resiliency folks. Yes, it would be better if people weren’t living in the fire ecosystem on the fringes. But given that there are people living in the fire ecosystem, the fewer the better, the easier it is to evacuate them, etc. I’m not suggesting that LA fringe is an optimal urban form, but it does carry some advantages. The spatial spread in LA’s population and economic activities meant that while Northridge and surrounding areas suffered immensely from the earthquake, the rest of the region went on largely as before.