I used to work on these maps. But now im too confused. _________________________________________________________________ Associated Press Sunday April 4 12:02 PM ET California Releases Confusing Maps By DEBORAH HASTINGS Associated Press Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) - In a land of natural disasters, the state released a series of confusing seismic maps showing Beverly Hills and other Southern California neighborhoods that may - or may not - suffer landslides and building collapses during a major earthquake. Using words such as ``liquefaction'' and ``soil strength,'' geologists and seismologists identified 24 at-risk ``quadrangles,'' talking points that ended up raising more questions than they answered. ``Does this mean California is going to fall into the ocean?'' asked one befuddled reporter. In one of the few declarative sentences uttered during an hourlong press conference, a seismic expert answered, ``Absolutely not.'' For the second year in a row, California's Department of Conservation unveiled color-coded ``seismic hazard zone maps'' mandated by the governor after San Francisco's deadly 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989. They are designed to identify landslide sites and water-logged ground areas in danger of destructive movement during a quake with a magnitude of 5 or greater. Seismologists estimate the Los Angeles basin has about a 10 percent chance of getting such a shake within the next 50 years. Most of the landslide zones were no-brainers - the mushy hillsides of Malibu, which slip with great regularity, earthquake or no - the Hollywood Hills and the coastal Santa Monica Mountains. Liquefaction areas - where thousands of years of river sediments and the presence of sandy soil makes land shifts more likely - run roughly along the Los Angeles River in downtown, in pricey neighborhoods including West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, and in areas along the Pacific Ocean like Malibu, Venice and Playa del Rey. The state encourages municipalities to use its maps to strengthen building codes for new developments, mostly in the form of soil testing and report writing. But exactly how that process works and the effect it might have wasn't explained in plain English, either. For homeowners, it constitutes one more line to check on the Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement required of California property sellers. Also on the list: flood, fire and earthquake zones. In a state known for calamity, there exists a certain fatalism. Property values have not suffered since the state began releasing maps, according to a spokesman for the California Association of Realtors. Try as he might, state geologist Jim Davis, entrenched in years of scientific thinking, was unable to provide unambiguous answers to questions about what the maps really meant. ``What is it you want us to tell viewers tonight?'' asked an exasperated journalist at the March 25 briefing. ``These green areas are the equivalent of a medical prescription that says there are symptoms here that are worthy of additional testing,'' Davis said. Translation: If you live in one of 83 cities mapped in Los Angeles and Orange counties, you might want to check the building codes in effect when your house was built, and consider retrofitting measures such as reinforcing your home's foundation. However, in a state virtually inured to fire, floods and shaking, the maps made little difference to some right in the middle of the most expensive hazard zones. Hellen Yellin has lived on South Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills for 26 years. Her home survived the 6.7-magnitude Northridge quake in 1994 just fine, she said. ``I'm not really worried about it. We've retrofitted our house.'' Asked what she would do if the ground opened under her house during a major quake, Yellin laughed. ``I don't know. Wear a life vest?'' Shirley Bailey, who lives a few blocks away, couldn't even imagine the earth sinking and slipping in her neighborhood. ``That has never happened here, and I've been here 35 years,'' she said. ``So every once in a blue moon, we have an earthquake,'' Bailey said. ``It certainly doesn't deter people from coming here.'' _________________________________________________________________ _________________________ Search News Apr 05 | Apr 04 | Apr 03 | Apr 02 | Apr 01 | Mar 31 | Mar 30 | Mar 29 | Mar 28 | Mar 27 Home | Full Coverage | Top Stories | Business | Tech | Politics | World | Local | Entertainment | Sports | Science | Health _________________________________________________________________ Questions or Comments Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.