Where in Oakland is most stable in an earthquake?

I understand that earthquake safety has much (or more) to do with the structure itself, but can anyone give any insight into what areas or neighborhoods might do better in a major quake?

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If I had to say something I would say any area not near a major fault (the Hayward fault and the San Andreas fault are the big ones in the Bay Area). With that said there are a lot of variables that determine how strongly an earthquake is felt in certain areas so there really is no catch-all answer. If safety is a concern, generally speaking most 1-2 story wood structures fare really well in earthquakes. The California Professional Engineer's Act actually allows those structures to be designed by anybody whether or not they are a registered Engineer because of how well they perform. The Bay Area is awash in houses built before Engineers were licensed (circa 1929 if memory serves) and they're still standing. For example my house in Oakland was built in 1924 and has gone through multiple earthquakes. - Structural Engineer

As I recall one of the fault lines follow highway 13. and right through memorial stadium in Berkeley.  IF you look at Strawberry creek you will see it once flowed straight to the bay and now full of bends from quakes.  If you go to the top of the Oakland hills you can see clearly see the fault line going through the hills.  Best place to see it is at Sibley or along Skyline.  Ask a park ranger or someone to point it out.  It's obvious once you see and is easy to trace through the hills.  If I'm not mistaken I think one or more of the faults cuts through Skyline and/or Merritt college and Cal State Hayward.

Not sure if its' better to be on the fault line or away from it.  When the hill fires occurred it was amazing to see every house burned down on a street except for one maybe two.  Why all of the housed burned except for one or two?  Don't have a clue.  Same thing happened with the earthquakes..  One house may have no damage yet the house next door or on either side would have major damage.  Having lived in the Oakland Hills all of my life the other thing I would be concerned about are mud slides.  I can remember several winters where many houses were lost to mud slides.  I can remember houses in the Montclair hills (Ascott), I think 15-30 homes around the Mormon Temple, Diamond, upper and lower Liemert,  Redwood road and just off 35th Ave  all being lost to mud slides.  It just happed on Moraga side of the Oakland hills less than a year ago.  And Orinda has several vacant lots because homes there were lost to mud slides.   As we just learned from the people in Moraga (homeowners insurance doesn't cover mud slides.  There house it totaled and the now literarily worthless.  I think if you look you will find more homes in Oakland have been lost/destroyed by mud sidles than earthquake damage.

Best protection against earthquake damage is to have your house (it it's not already) bolted to the foundation and add shear waling.  Have a soils and structural engineer (not a contractor) evaluate the soil and foundation, and to see if the house is secured to the foundation.  (Most of the homes when they were originally built were not bolted and some don't even have a foundation.)   When I was home shopping in Oakland I found quite a few homes with foundation damage due to either earthquake or mudslide/shirting soil yet the house looks perfect.

Hopes this helps.

In general, the hills are safer than the flats. Here is a map to give you an idea of the different areas and how they measure up. In case it isn't clear, liquefaction is bad, and the lower the liquefaction percentage, the better. 


In general, the closer you are to the bay, the more likely for liquefaction, which means the sandy dirt can liquify like jello and you get what happened in the Marina in SF in 1989 where houses collapsed. These low-lying areas tend to shake more than the neighborhoods closer to the fault line. You will need to look at one of the USGS maps to see the areas that are especially in danger of liquefaction. However, the hills have their problems too.  The Hayward fault runs along Highway 13, so a lot of people who live here like me can basically see the fault from their house. The Hayward fault is overdue for a quake.  But if your house sits on bedrock, even if it is close to the fault, there is less shaking than in areas further away from the fault, which means less damage. You'd need a structural engineer to evaluate whether a house is sitting on bedrock.  The other problem in the hills is mudslides.  There are traces of old streams coming down from the tops of the hills that houses have been built on over the years. When there's lots of rain, the water follows its own course downhill, regardless of french drains and whatnot. There are some houses I've seen in Montclair and the Berkeley Hills that have slowly slid down the hill. And then there is fire.  The big fires that wipe out entire neighborhoods have usually happened in the hills where there is more vegetation. So in summary, I'm not sure what to say about which areas are safer. But I love the Bay Area, I've lived here for 36 years, so my take on it is to understand what the risks are in my neighborhood, make my house as safe as I can, and be prepared!