This month, San Francisco’s first earthquake czar broke ground by stepping into the role of the world’s first Chief Resilience Officer. Patrick Otellini’s position is the first of 99 others to be filled in cities around the world, part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge.
Patrick Otellini brings a background in public policy and extensive knowledge of the city’s inner workings. After spending a decade in the private sector managing complex planning, building and fire code issues, he moved to City Hall. Otellini was first appointed to the city’s forward-thinking Soft Story Task Force, convened by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. In 2012, he was named by Mayor Ed Lee as the Director of Earthquake Safety, which he will continue to oversee in his newly expanded role.
Otellini’s position is the first of 99 others to be filled in cities around the world, part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. Their $100 million investment will fund 100 chief resilience officers in selected cities, along with a suite of other services in an effort to build future-proof cities.
Shana Rappaport: You’ve been hired to make San Francisco the most resilient city. What statement does it make that the role of chief resilience officer is coming to cities around the world?
Patrick Otellini: I think it’s starting to bring to a global platform what we’ve known locally for a long time. We saw it after [Hurricane] Katrina in New Orleans, and after several other disasters, that it isn’t about surviving anymore, about just making it through the disaster. It’s about recovery, it’s about thriving after the disaster.
Rappaport: How does the role of a chief resilience officer for a city differ from that of a chief sustainability officer — or, in San Francisco’s case, the head of the Department of Environment?
Otellini: It’s different because resiliency is an all-encompassing term. At some point, it actually becomes such an encompassing term that it’s very hard to define. It’s not just sustainability. It’s not just seismic safety. It’s not just energy assurance. It’s all of these things together. I think we’ll see CROs serving as point people for other departments doing the work. The nice thing is that it’s not my job to be the expert on sea level rise. It’s my job to know what our city experts are saying, and to help them coordinate not just regionally but nationally, even internationally.