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Professional Paper 1551-F

Prepared in cooperation with the National Science Foundation

The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989—Marina District

Edited by Thomas D. O’Rourke


photo of first story of a building partially collapsed; walls are off vertical by about 15 degrees

During the earthquake, a total land area of about 4,300 km2 was shaken with seismic intensities that can cause significant damage to structures. The area of the Marina District of San Francisco is only 4.0 km2—less than 0.1 percent of the area most strongly affected by the earthquake- but its significance with respect to engineering, seismology, and planning far outstrips its proportion of shaken terrain and makes it a centerpiece for lessons learned from the earthquake.

The Marina District provides perhaps the most comprehensive case history of seismic effects at a specific site developed for any earthquake. The reports assembled in this chapter, which provide an account of these seismic effects, constitute a unique collection of studies on site, as well as infrastructure and societal, response that cover virtually all aspects of the earthquake, ranging from incoming ground waves to the outgoing airwaves used for emergency communication.

The Marina District encompasses the area bounded by San Francisco Bay on the north, the Presidio on the west, and Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue on the south and east, respectively. Nearly all of the earthquake damage in the Marina District, however, occurred within a considerably smaller area of about 0.75 km2, bounded by San Francisco Bay and Baker, Chestnut, and Buchanan Streets.

At least five major aspects of earthquake response in the Marina District are covered by the reports in this chapter: (1) dynamic site response, (2) soil liquefaction, (3) lifeline performance, (4) building performance, and (5) emergency services.

This publication consists of the following articles:

  • Introduction, by Thomas D. O’Rourke

  • Geologic and historical factors affecting earthquake damage, by M.G. Bonilla

  • Ground-motion amplification, by John Boatwright, Linda C. Seekins, Thomas E. Fumal, Hsi-Ping Liu, and Charles S. Mueller

  • Observation of local site effects at a downhole-and-surface station, by Hsi-Ping Liu, Richard E. Warrick, Robert E. Westerlund, Eugene D. Sembera, and Leif Wennerberg

  • Determination of the dynamic shear modulus of Holocene bay mud for site-response analysis, by Harry E. Stewart and Ashraf K. Hussein

  • Site-response analyses, by J.-P. Bardet, M. Kapuskar, G.R. Martin, and J. Proubet

  • Behavior of the seawalls and shoreline during the earthquake, by H.T. Taylor, J.T. Cameron, S. Vahdani, and H. Yap

  • Lifeline performance and ground deformation during the earthquake, by Thomas D. O’Rourke, Jonathan W. Pease, and Harry E. Stewart

  • Effects of ground conditions on the damage to four-story corner apartment buildings, by Stephen K. Harris and John A. Egan

  • Performance of emergency-response services after the earthquake, by Charles R. Scawthorn, Keith A. Porter, and Frank T. Blackburn

Download the text of this publication as a 212-page PDF file (pp1551f.pdf; 8.7 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Tom Holzer

This publication is part of the set of four multi-chapter USGS Professional Papers on the Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989:

Professional Paper 1550, Earthquake Occurrence , Coordinators: William H. Bakun and William H. Prescott

Professional Paper 1551, Strong Ground Motion and Ground Failure, Coordinator: Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1552, Performance of the Built Environment, Coordinator, Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1553, Societal Response, Coordinator: Dennis S. Mileti

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: July 13, 2006
Last modified: July 18, 2006 (mfd)