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Seismic Hazard Zone


A Brief Explanation


California law requires the seller (if acting without an agent) or the seller's agent to disclose to a prospective transferee of real property if the property is located within a seismic hazard zone (an "SH Zone") provided official maps prepared by the California State Geologist, or the information contained in the maps, is reasonably available". Disclosure must be made if:

  • a seller (if acting without an agent) or the seller's agent has "actual knowledge" that the property is located within an SH Zone, OR

  • the maps or the information contained in the maps are deemed "reasonably available" if a map prepared by the California State Geologist pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 2696 that includes the property has been provided to the city or county, and a notice has been posted at the offices of the county recorder, county assessor, and county planning agency that identifies the location of the map, the effective date of the notice and any information regarding changes to the map received by the county.


Public Resources Code Section 2690 et seq., which is commonly known as the Seismic Hazards Mapping Act (hereinafter referred to as the "SHM Act"), requires the State Geologist to map areas subject to seismic hazards such as strong ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides, or other ground failure or other seismic hazards caused by earthquakes so that cities and counties may implement steps to adequately address public health and safety concerns. The location and severity of seismic hazards resulting from earthquakes are based on technical evidence which may be subject to debate among specialists. However, the following should be noted:

  • Local governmental entities may require that geotechnical reports be prepared by licensed and qualified engineering or geological specialists prior to approving additional or new construction or development on property located within an SH Zone. Based on the findings of such a report, specific mitigation measures and building requirements may be imposed. In certain cases, additional or new construction and development on a property located within an SH Zone may be restricted.

  • The provisions of the SHM Act do not prevent cities and counties from establishing policies and criteria which are stricter than those established by the State of California.

  • Not all properties located within an SH Zone are prone to seismic hazards and the fact that a property is not located in an SH Zone does not necessarily mean that the property is free from seismic hazards resulting from earthquakes or that geologic or seismic activity will not occur on or affect the property in the future.

  • An earthquake capable of causing liquefaction or triggering a landslide may not uniformly affect all areas within an SH Zone.

  • Although property within an SH Zone should not be automatically excluded from development, an SH Zone is an area where the potential for damage from seismic hazards is great enough to make it prudent to conduct geologic investigations to identify and mitigate hazards prior to development.

Please Note:
  • Information on the Seismic Hazard Zone maps is not a sufficient substitute for geologic and geotechnical site investigations under the SHM Act.


For more information, please contact the California Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology at their Sacramento, San Francisco or Los Angeles offices, or visit their internet site at http://www.consrv.ca.gov/dmg/index.html. Seismic Hazard Zones and maps may also be vied at public works, planning, or building departments of the local governmental entity.


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