Earthquakes and Public Policy Implementation in California

August 1984 (VOL. 2, NO. 2)

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Successful public policy implementation is almost always problematic. Seismic safety policies are prone to implementation problems, and it is at least arguable that seismic safety policies may be more susceptible to implementation problems than some other policies. This paper focuses on efforts to implement seismic safety policies in thirteen local California communities. The most important aspects of seismic safety policy implementation in California are (1) the role of key governmental personnel, (2) the political environment surrounding the issue of seismic safety, and (3) the tractability of the issue itself. Given the way these three aspects interact, and because seismic safety is not an issue that generates consistent expressions of organized public support, policy implementation will always falter unless a highly committed and motivated core of public officials diligently pursue implementation. Absent these personnel, the perceived intractability of the problem and lack of visible political rewards for supporting seismic safety make seismic safety a policy area prone to unsuccessful or incomplete implementation.