California city's curb fix disappoints earthquake scientists

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jul 06, 2016

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — A faulty curb that perfectly illustrated the seismic forces at work underneath a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood has been fixed, stunning scientists, who say a curbside laboratory for studying earthquakes was destroyed.

The Los Angeles Times reports ( ) that since at least the 1970s, scientists have painstakingly photographed the curb as the Hayward fault pushed it farther and farther out of alignment.

"They really took it out. Wow," David Schwartz, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist, said when he clicked on a photo of the curb's destruction. "It really was an iconic location on the Hayward fault."

The newspaper reports it was an ever-present reminder that someday, a massive earthquake would strike directly beneath one of the most heavily populated areas in Northern California.

Hayward officials say they didn't know the significance for geologists when they fixed the curb last month.

"We weren't aware of it," said Kelly McAdoo, assistant city manager. She said the curb was replaced to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp at that intersection, one of about 150 to 170 such ramps that are installed every year at a cost of $3,000 each.

The mandate from the City Council is to have safe and accessible sidewalks for all members of our community, she said, adding that the city might have acted differently had it known about the curb's geological significance.

"We probably would have looked at it differently, or we would have tried to help them document it," McAdoo said, adding that if scientists want to share information with the city about sites used to monitor seismic activity, "we'd be happy to talk with them."

But Schwartz said no matter how many times the city fixes the curb, the Hayward fault will make sure it won't stay straight.

"The fault," Schwartz said, "will have its revenge."