Use of USGS earth-science products by county planning agencies in the San Francisco Bay region, California

Open-File Report 76-547




An inventory of the use of USGS products in selected planning studies, plans, ordinances, and other planning activities was made for eight counties in the San Francisco Bay region--a region of almost five million people. This inventory was designed to determine and document the use of the 87 earth-science information products prepared as a part of the San Francisco Bay Region Environment and Resources Planning Study (SFBRS). The inventory showed that: (1) all eight counties had planning staffs who were very familiar with SFBRS products and had made frequent use of such products; (2) all eight counties had prepared planning documents which cite SFBRS products; (3) the types of planning applications most often indicated were: geologic hazards studies, seismic safety and public safety plan elements, general reference, and the preparation and review of environmental impact reports and statements; (4) over 90 percent of the 87 SFBRS products were used at least once, and nine of the products were used over 30 times each for various county planning activities; and (5) at least 85 other USGS products were also used for various county planning activities. After the inventory, selected county officials, employees, and consultants were interviewed and asked--among other things--to indicate any problems in the use of the SFBRS products, to suggest improvements, and to identify any needed or desired earth-science information. The responses showed that: (1) the scales commonly used for working maps were 1:62,500 or larger and for plan implementation were 1:24,000 or larger; (2) only one county had a geologist on its planning staff, although six others had the benefit of geotechnical services from private consulting firms, county engineering staffs, or the State Division of Mines and Geology; (3) seven of the eight counties expressed some problems in using the products, primarily because of their small scale or lack of detail; (4) all eight counties expected to continue to use the products and expressed a need or desire for additional earth-science, engineering, or other information; (5) all eight counties suggested specific improvements to future products, primarily larger scale or more detail and fewer technical or more interpretive products; and (6) all eight counties received educational, advisory, and review services from USGS personnel. Seventeen selected examples of the application of SFBRS products to various county planning activities are discussed and illustrated. These examples include four planning studies, seven plans, and two ordinances. From the inventory and responses to the interviews, it is concluded that the counties in the Bay region are very familiar with, have made frequent use of, and will continue to use SFBRS products for a wide range of county planning activities. Suggestions to ensure more effective use of earth-science information in the future include: (1) monitoring emerging critical issues and analyzing new state and federal laws and regulations so as to better anticipate and respond to county earth-science information needs; (2) creating a users advisory committee to help identify critical issues and user needs; (3) providing engineering interpretations and land- and water-use capability ratings to make earth-science information more readily usable; (4) giving priority to areas impacted by development so as to husband staff resources; (5) providing earth-science information at the larger scale and greater detail commonly used and needed by counties; (6) releasing earth-science information earlier and according to a formal distribution pattern; and (7) providing educational, advisory, and review services in connection with any earth-science information designed for planners and decisionmakers.

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USGS Numbered Series
Use of USGS earth-science products by county planning agencies in the San Francisco Bay region, California
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
186 leaves :ill., maps ;28 cm.