Studies of recovery from disasters have documented the emergence of political and social conflict after disasters as people and groups seek opportunities for political empowerment and economic change (Olson and Drury 1997; Poniatowska 1995). Instances of these change dynamics emerged after Northridge, a process we refer to as restructuring. Because the institutionalized assistance system could not adequately deal with all circumstances, new social, organizational, and economic arrangements emerged. An important element in this process was the development of innovative programs for housing, preparedness, and social protection, both through local governmental agencies and the non-governmental organization sector. In the process of rebuilding following the earthquake, different groups, both inside and outside of existing power arrangements, mobilized to influence the agenda in post-disaster community reconstruction and development.
Unlike the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, where the federal government’s position reinforced the peripheral status of already marginalized minority households and prompted political resistance mobilization (Bolin and Stanford 1991; Schulte 1991), the political situation after Northridge has been more open and fluid. Both FEMA and OES consciously addressed the Loma Prieta failures to assist ethnic minorities, and the federal government took an extended role in supporting recovery activities and promoting access to assistance. As a result, local governments, as well as NGOs and CBOs, were able to pursue projects that went beyond a mere return to the status quo ante. In various ways across the region, recovery, reconstruction, and development programs conflated, taking the earthquake as a point of departure, but in fact pursuing agenda to reshape communities, not merely repair the damage. Taken together, programs operating on different spatial scales constituted important elements in post-earthquake recovery and restructuring processes. While the major thrust of the chapter examines the ways the research communities engaged in redevelopment and economic restructuring, we begin with a review of housing and social protection issues in regional perspective, focusing on the City of Los Angeles and its efforts at maintaining neighborhoods and promoting affordable housing.