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Crosscurrents

Skyscrapers cast shadow of seismic doubt in San Francisco

millnnium_tower_under_construction_0.jpg
Image cropped and reused from Wikiemedia Commons
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The Millennium Tower (301 Mission Street) under construction, showing the crane footing, concrete core and construction equipment. The Transbay Terminal is visible to the left.

Over the past few decades, the San Francisco skyline has undergone a transformation. It's building up.

San Francisco now has over 100 buildings taller than 240 feet, and more are on the way. But many are being built on sandy, unstable ground, known for their high risk of behaving like quicksand during an earthquake.

And, the building codes for these high rises aren’t as strict as the building codes for hospitals, or schools.

This is what New York Times San Francisco Bureau Chief Thomas Fuller describes as “San Francisco’s big seismic gamble.”

To learn more, KALW’s environment reporter Angela Johnston spoke with Fuller.

"We live and work in these buildings, but the engineers are very aware that in the case of a major earthquake, those are among the most vulnerable."

Crosscurrents