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City Hall Developing ‘OMI Resilient’ Emergency Plan for the Neighborhood

Community members discuss disaster preparedness. (Photo: Will Carruthers)

Members of the Ocean View, Merced Heights, Ingleside Neighbors in Action and other neighborhood residents spent one evening in late September planning for natural disasters.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, El Niño flooding, and extreme heat were all mentioned as part of a disaster preparedness workshop put on by the Empower Communities Program, a project of San Francisco’s City Administrator’s Office.

For Daniel Homsey, Director of Neighborhood Resilience for San Francisco and the leader of the workshop, the goal is to involve the community in the creation of a Resilience Action Plan.

“These people are tired of lectures,” Homsey said. “They don’t need me to come and tell them about the OMI. They know the OMI better than I do. My job is to facilitate them sharing what they know about their neighborhood.”

The OMI is one of eight San Francisco neighborhoods with resilience plans completed or in progress. A completed plan includes a list of goals that would improve the resilience of the neighborhood based on input from community members.

September’s meeting, the first of two in the process of creating the plan, was spent compiling a list of what resources OMI residents can rely on during a disaster and the recovery period. Another meeting on Oct. 29 will be spent setting goals for improving the neighborhood’s disaster plans.

“The goal tonight is to help people begin to understand where they are and what they need so they can begin to understand where they want to invest,” Homsey said.

District 11 Supervisor John Avalos opened the meeting by talking about one weakness of the City Hall’s past approach. “We talk a lot about getting ready for disaster and often I see that the city does a lot of planning within its own departments but doesn’t do enough out in the community and that’s what this is about,” Supervisor Avalos said.

Before breaking the audience into groups, Homsey discussed some of San Francisco’s unique challenges. San Francisco is populated by a majority of renters, many short-term residents. Furthermore, 60 percent of the population weren’t born in California.

The result is a population that is less accustomed to the possibility of disasters. For instance, very few people who lived through the 1989 earthquake are still in the area, Homsey said.

In the second half of the meeting participants split into three groups—Ocean View, Merced Heights and Ingleside—and gathered around three neighborhood maps where they marked the locations of usable open spaces, water sources and power generators that could be used after a disaster.

After the meeting, Jim Keeffe, a Merced Heights resident, approached Homsey to voice his appreciation.

“I liked the [map activity] because there were concrete ideas that we can start from,” Keeffe said. “We probably didn’t think of every place of shelter or every place of power, but we thought of a lot of them.”

The next step is to reach out to some of the groups that were identified at the meeting such as nearby churches, schools and colleges. Funds for the implementation of completed disaster plans are available in the form of Resilience Action Grants. District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen and District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, have set aside funds for the rollout of programs in their districts, Resilient Bay View and Resilient Sunset respectively.

Homsey said that the funds are used to put the priorities identified in the plan into action, increase community involvement and empower local leaders.

Mary Harris, the president of the OMI-NIA, said that the group will ask Supervisor Avalos for funding once the OMI plan is complete.

The next workshop will be held on Oct. 29. at Temple United Methodist Church at 65 Beverly St. at 7:00 p.m.

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