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President's Message

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  • May 20, 2020 7:34 AM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    President’s Message May 2020

    We are Engineers. In numerous meetings, I have participated in discussions regarding what this means and why it is important to express it consistently and concisely. As our structural engineering profession is impacted by many internal and external changes, it is incumbent on each of us and the Association to individually and collectively define the importance of “the structural engineer”.  

    In his book “To Engineer is Human”, Henry Petroski argues “the ideas of engineering are in our bones and part of our human nature and experience”. John Browne begins his premise in “Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilization” with the idea that we all have “a deep-seated urge to improve our lives driven by an innate human instinct… we want to make things and shape the world around us”. In other words, there is an Engineer in each of us.

    And yet, even with this innate desire and driving need to build or create from our “Inner Engineer”, Petroski highlights that “the essence of what engineering is and what engineers do is not common knowledge”. He theorizes this “is so in part because engineering as a human endeavor is not yet integrated into our culture and intellectual tradition”. However, rather than having “yet to occur” or not “being common knowledge”; I suggest society as a whole, has instead lost touch with the inner engineer; integration has already occurred, we just forgot about it.

    If the desire to engineer is embedded in each of us, it should follow that the human nature of engineering would naturally be integrated into our culture and tradition. If there is an Engineer in each of us, why isn’t the essence of what engineering is and what we do more commonly understood? Perhaps this is because the essence is so well integrated that we take it for granted. Just as we take for granted that the doctor will properly diagnose our ills, that  our toast will pop up in the morning or that our lattes will be hot without asking; we take for granted that Engineers will do what is needed, so “we don’t have to think about it”.

    Many acting or aspiring structural engineers, began our design careers with toys that resembled building blocks. Some are fortunate to experience the interlocking nature of Legos, while others may have used basic materials stacked one upon the other. If siblings or friends were involved the challenge became who could build faster and taller, and then who could knock down the others while protecting their own. Thus, we learned early on the basic principles of balance, eccentric vs. concentric loads, foundation support, and slenderness and stability. If our blocks were large enough or our feet small enough, we probably conducted our first vertical load test, and when fighting off a sister or brother we certainly learned about horizontal loads. Having watched my daughter work through these same problems with her toy blocks, it is my belief that the Inner Engineer knows no gender limitation.

    So, if we all start here, where does the inner engineer go? As we grow up, we try many things, and may be nurtured or self-driven toward an area of focus. Along the way we begin to see that others take different roles. Through this process we build into our cultural traditions, a reliance on others. It is this reliance that builds the community and society we live within; and it is this reliance on others that offers the greatest “next step” for structural engineers.

    Today, our building codes, especially those sections regarding extreme design events such as earthquakes, assume a level of damage can occur. We seek to explain this as being a “Life-Safe” minimum design basis. However, there is no set guarantee when designing to code prescribed minimums, that occupants will ever get back into their buildings, without potentially significant cost and energy restoring the structure to its pre-event condition.

    Unfortunately, this is one of those disconnects between the Structural Engineer and the public they serve. Professor Keith Porter (University of Colorado, Boulder) has identified a gap between the expectations of the public and that of the designer when applying code minimum standards. The common occupant and building user, as they set aside their own inner engineer, relies on others and takes for granted that the Code minimum is “good enough”. Yet practicing engineers and professionals in the building community know that the standard is just a minimum.

    This begs the question… “what is good enough?” Following several earthquakes, where I have visited damaged sites and spoken with displaced individuals and families, it was apparent that even though they were able to get out of their buildings, this was not good enough. People wanted to know when they could get back into to their homes and businesses.

    This is a foremost challenge and opportunity for Engineers of the 21st Century, but we must be willing to question our current design approach.

    • Are we serving our clients and their clients, the general public, appropriately if we accept responsibility for providing a good enough, code minimum design?
    • Or, must we engage in a conversation, either with our clients or with our communities, regarding a design standard that is greater than Life-Safe?
    • Should a standard integrating performance-based design practice, not as a cost-saving measure, but as a performance-providing approach be implemented as a new minimum?
    • For the past couple months, we have relied on our homes to Shelter-in-Place or be Safer-at-Home. Without even thinking about it, we took for granted that our homes would be, if not useful, at least available for our Work-from-Home needs. How will our response change when the very homes we take for granted are not available?

    These are questions that are being pursued today by leaders of the profession and need to be pursued by all practicing engineers. I encourage you to ponder these same questions and then share your ideas. The Association and profession will be richer for it. 

  • April 01, 2020 1:07 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    President’s Message April 2020

    As I contemplate the last few weeks and the SEAOSC weekly updates issued as we transitioned to remote Work-from-Home satellite offices, I’m struck by the word “transition”. My Webster’s New College Dictionary defines transition as “an act, process, or instance of changing from one state, form activity, or place to another”. However, instead of focusing on the changes we just underwent to reshape how we conduct business and interact with our families, I thought I would look to the transition of the seasons that April and May bring to California.

    Growing up, my family looked to Spring as a time of renewal. Each spring, my father would hitch a trailer to the back of the family station wagon and the seven of us, Mom, Dad, my 4 siblings, and I would pile in and head off to the local nursery. There, each of us picked out a plant that would become ours to care for throughout the year. Inevitably, most of my plants died off in the early years as many other activities distracted me from watering them through the hot Livermore summers. However, each year, Dad would hook up the trailer and we’d do it all over again.

    Finally, as I grew up, my plants started to survive as I learned that renewal wasn’t automatic but required constant care and nurturing. My plants needed to be watered in the summer, pruned in the fall, protected from frost in the winter and if everything went well, they would bloom new again in the spring. Up until he passed away, the yearly nursery trip was something that Dad looked forward to, and back we would go to the same local nursery to pick a new next plant for the cacophony that was to be O’Dell landscaping.

    So, what does Ken’s trip through nostalgia mean to SEAOSC members? It strikes me now that Dad was teaching great life lessons; if you don’t take care to nurture the simple things, taking care of the big ones will be even more difficult. As we all sit in remote locations, it is important to remember to reach out to each other and connect for that personal touch. This is the touch we miss by not being in a common office space, sitting around the breakroom table, or saying the quick hello in the hallway…“how was your weekend?” When we are remote, our conversations tend to focus on how is the project doing, is the system working for you, are you being efficient, do you have enough bandwidth…? In these connections we are missing the intangible care and nurture that simple personal contact provides. I’m willing to bet, each of us pride ourselves on having a unique “company culture”, and I’m equally willing to bet that culture grew from the interconnectedness of personal interaction as life happens at the office.

    The other thing Dad taught me was that relationships matter, especially as situations change. Even as the mega-home improvement stores moved into town with nursery items at discounted prices, Dad kept taking us back to the same local merchant who had been supporting the O’Dell spring planting frenzy for years. The personal relationship meant something, but it was not developed over the phone or by text or email, it was the personal connection of bringing a family in to build something… us kids thought we were building a garden; Dad knew we were building the capacity to care about someone else. In that simple idea, he instilled the need and goal to serve other people.

    As structural engineers we serve society and our communities in ways even we do not fully understand and in more ways than we outwardly promote. To me that is at the heart of what we do and who we are. As someone else often says “we save lives every day”, but we do it behind the wrap. This often means we don’t get the recognition we deserve, yet when given the opportunity to receive recognition we most often step away from the limelight. People say this is because we are introverts… I tend to believe it is because we have a spirit of service that goes beyond personal gratification.

    As we enter the Spring Season, for many, a special time of renewal; I encourage you to seek an opportunity to reach out to a co-worker, client, neighbor, or SEAOSC colleague and renew a relationship that has been disconnected by our new (temporary) reality. This is one of the benefits of membership, connections and relationships with fellow engineers. Reach out and stay connected, and soon we will be back to sharing great stories before the refreshments get warm.

  • March 16, 2020 1:02 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    President’s Message March 2020

    To say this is an unusual time, may be a serious understatement. I write this after just receiving notice that my daughter’s high school will be closing until at least April 20. While I will come back to comments regarding converting challenges to opportunities, I first want to highlight some good news.

    After convening over several diligent meetings, our nominations committee brought forth a fantastic slate of Board of Director candidates for ensuring the continuity of the Association’s mission. Under the guidance of Bob Lyons as Chair, our nominations committee (Kelsey Parolini, Matt Barnard, Brian Seamer, Lorena Arce, Liz Mahlow, Jesse Karns, Nils Fox, and Mehran Pourzanjani), with the Board’s concurrence, is pleased to put forth the following slate of nominees to serve as the 2020-2022 Director’s class, (as many will attest the term “class” is indeed appropriate given how much you learn as a Director). This year’s nominees include:

    Patricia Harburg-Petrich, SE | Buro Happold Engineering
    • Brett Beekman, SE | OSHPD
    • Susan Dowty, SE | ICC
    • Jesse Kearns, SE | MiTek USA, Inc.
    • Bernard Cruz, PE | Hilti North America

    Additional information including biographies and next steps of the confirmation/voting process is provided later in this Newsletter. Please join me in congratulating and welcoming these individuals to the Board starting July 2020.

    In other exciting news, we are pleased to share that a new Student Chapter has been recognized on the Cal State Fullerton campus. The students from the Society of Structural Engineers at CSUF will be now known as Student Members of SEAOSC as well through the student chapter affiliation. One of our focuses as a Board this year has been to continue solidifying these relationships with future leaders of our profession; be sure to welcome our new CSUF-based members at your next opportunity.

    Our committees have remained engaged and continue to bring forth great ideas. The Wood Committee is now up and running and beginning new discussions with the Seismology Committee regarding CLT and cantilever wood diaphragms. I’m sure we will see more information as they team together to expand our expertise. Of course, our education committee continues to bring presenters to our dinner tables and will be working to provide us some webinar-based opportunities as we all reduce external conference activities. We should also celebrate the work recently completed by our Communications Committee as they have worked to answer a request from the Policy Breakfast attendees in October of last year. We are now poised to release a New Buildings Fact Sheet to help explain levels of building performance to the general public. It is clear our committees are actively fulfilling their role in supporting the Mission of SEAOSC to empower our members and advance the Structural Engineering Profession in service to our community.

    As we empower each other and look to serve our community, it may be appropriate to see the current situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a time to confirm we are all prepared to serve when called. Many of you are volunteer responders through the Cal OES SAP program, and all of us are in a profession that is called to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public; not just our clients. We do this in many ways - usually focused on the built environment. While this focus does not change under our current situation, the situation can help us ensure we are prepared. Now would be a good time to test our own capacity to deal with unknowns and the heightened awareness and sensitivity to the societal issues occurring around us. We can test our own resilience and capacity to work and connect remotely. Perhaps we can convert the challenges we are faced with today as an opportunity to test or put in place processes to be able to respond to a disaster such as an earthquake where we may have limited access to the office, or we may need to make alternate care arrangements for our families to shelter-in-place if schools or other accommodations become severely damaged and are not occupiable.

    As you know, we started this year with a real-time test of our new SEAOSC Disaster Preparedness Plan, this plan helped shape ease of communication to our members and the community. Today’s situation is further testing that plan as we work through the dynamic process of decision making and information gathering. We are also learning how to respond to a rapidly changing situation, what was a good idea yesterday may not remain a good idea today. Our plan and your plans need to have flexibility integrated into the decision-making process. The current situation also highlights the good, and perhaps sometimes bad, power behind social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Discussions today seem to be significantly different than they were just 10-years ago when the Swine Flu infected nearly 61 million people in the United States ( This is NOT a commentary on the discussion or response then and now. It is only an observation that our experience responding to past earthquakes or disasters can shape, but will not be same as, our response next time. Our plans must be informed by, but not reliant on what we did or didn’t do last time. I suggest that we all test our plans now, make the necessary changes (or create a new plan) and take this opportunity to be assured that you and your team can respond when called.

  • February 12, 2020 6:27 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE


    President’s Message February 2020

     Well, with the rush of January behind us, I realized I missed the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year… so here’s to those belated wishes. I trust this finds you well and already kicking off the next decade with an abundance of enthusiasm. Whether the economy holds steady or begins a “correction”, 2020 promises to be exciting. One cannot help but “see 2020” as a year for visionary (yes…pun intended) endeavors. Before we head down the path and jump into new ideas, I thought it might be good to look back at our history and legacy as an Association.

    In 1929, SEAOSC was envisioned to advance the science of structural engineering; assist the public in obtaining dependable structural engineering services; encourage engineering education; maintain the honor and dignity of the profession and enlighten the public regarding the province of the structural engineer. Over the years SEAOSC has accomplished this through code development; invaluable research through the formation of the Applied Technology Council (ATC) and through exhaustive committee work; capacity building within our member firms through in depth professional and business practices; and of critical importance to our individual members, when we took advantage of it, the Association has, over the years, brought important engineering learning to each of our desks. This is 90 years of building the profession of Structural Engineering and this rich legacy remains embedded within the very nature of SEAOSC.

    In keeping this legacy alive, SEAOSC has undertaken significant recent efforts to ensure the Association remains relevant in fostering the profession. Committee activities remain a key avenue for our members to participate in these efforts while building rewarding relationships with colleagues and advancing critical initiatives, such as helping refine the approach to implementation of Soft-Story retrofit ordinances throughout Southern California. Conversations focused on ensuring good design solutions are embraced continue to take place with the City of Los Angeles as they approve more retrofits.

    The recent formation of the Wood Committee is intended to bring a collection of current and emerging wood experts together to provide our members with pertinent up-to-date information regarding new trends and the current practices for the design and construction of wood structures. With the approaching adoption of Mass Timber design practices this committee will seek to ensure we are engaged in the conversations. The committee will also seek to ensure conventional framing practices are enhanced and well understood by all. As wood structures continue to climb above traditional four to five and six story limits, our wood committee will help us navigate the issues in front of us. To help move that conversation forward, be on the look out for information and possibly a survey to help the committee focus on your critical Issues.

    After a slight delay, the Board is now seeking to form a similar concrete committee. As with wood, the concrete committee will be charged with consolidating and disseminating important information regarding emerge design and construction practices for the use and advancement of concrete in Southern California. Those of you who have expressed interest in this committee be forewarned, the snowball is beginning to pick up speed.

    With wood, concrete, and steel committees formed, SEAOSC will be better positioned to support the activities of our other committees by having a pool of resources that we can all tap into. Additionally, this year, two new coordinating committees were established. The Structural Standards Committee, chaired by our President-Elect, brings together the chairs of our technical committees, to ensure interaction and collaboration of ideas spreads between our committees. Similarly, our Treasurer is now tasked with chairing an Engagement Steering Committee, comprised of chairs of our Membership, YM, WiSE, Communications, and Education committees, to help bring engagement across the full breadth of our activities. A couple initiatives that have already come from these conversations include purposefully establishing a communications liaison within each committee to make sure content is brought back to our Communication Committee to be shared with our members. Additionally, a young member liaison is more purposefully being integrated within our technical and non-technical committees to help bridge the gap between our seasoned committee members and those who will make up the next committee cohort.

    Finally, you would have to be in a box (perhaps the one we are so often accused of designing) to miss the fact that the makeup of our profession is changing. 2020 promises to be a year of seeing the opportunities behind that change come into clearer view. Our current membership reflects increased engagement by students and young associates. School enrollment and recent graduation numbers suggest more women are, and will be, entering the field for structural engineering. As our demographics change, it is incumbent on the Association to embrace, nurture, and promote the opportunities that follow. This past year has been about building our capacity of engagement; ensuring we are focusing not only of the technical education of our members but engaging them and ourselves with opportunities to tap into non-technical professional growth activities. As we continue our engagement toward building a stronger community, each of us, especially those in leadership roles, will need to push ourselves to mentor our colleagues and encourage growth beyond just knowing how to provide the best design. Afterall, good design is just the result of using the right resources; and the best resource is a well-rounded individual with engineering skills who can look over the top of the box and see the bigger picture; we don’t just design structures.

    Structural Engineers design places where our communities live, work, play, and thrive.

    I look forward to seeing you thrive with us in 2020.

  • December 11, 2019 5:03 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)
    Ken O'Dell, SE


    If, like me, you are caught in the end of the year holiday rush, you may appreciate a brief President’s message. For those of you able to join our Holiday Dinner at Morton’s last week, I expect is was a great evening for you. Those of you who took home a few of the giveaways from CSI, I imagine it was even better. It sure appeared that fun was had by all. As prefaced in my introduction, the evening was about YOU, the members of SEAOSC, and the chance to share with friends and colleagues. I hope that you are creating life long friendships with your fellow Structural Engineers.

    As we move toward the end of 2019 and into the New Year of 2020, I’d like the encourage you to resolve to remain actively engaged. There are exciting things happening. One important item on the SEAOC State agenda is to review and update the long-range plan for the organization. I encourage you to share with the Board any ideas you have regarding how the Association can better serve you, your practice, and the profession. Within Southern California, your Board continues to work toward an operational framework which ensures our ability to serve our committees and through them, our members. Just as your ideas will help craft how the State responds over the course of the next few years, I encourage you to let us know how we can better serve our Southern California region.

    January will start off the New Year with 10-year Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake. Our January Dinner and mid-year Safer Cities Education Events will bring together lessons learned from both the Haiti and Chile (February 2010) earthquakes. Be on the look out for notices and registration invites to get the details. February will follow tradition and focus on our Student Scholarship Night and Career Fair, please consider a donation to the SEAOSC Foundation to help fund a scholarship for a deserving student.

    As we wrap up 2019, regardless of the Holiday you celebrate, my hope is that your close of the year is blessed with the richness of time spent with family and friends. Cheers!   

  • November 20, 2019 12:58 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    A month ago, we were facing the scary thought of Halloween, which highlights the barreling speed at which the end of the year is approaching. With the last-minute rush of deadlines to submit before the New Year and, especially pertinent this year, the change of the code cycle to the new 2019 CBC, I hope that you see still a great holiday season before you. I sincerely hope you will begin the December season with your SEAOSC colleagues at our Annual Holiday Gathering and Dinner on the 4th at Morton’s Steak House in Downtown LA.

    I was pleased to see many of you at the NCSEA Summit in Anaheim last week. Many of you already know what I continue to be passionate about… our Profession is a noble one, but we can’t do it alone or in a vacuum. For those of you who couldn’t attend or don’t think NCSEA is pertinent to your business or career, be sure to put next year’s summit in Las Vegas on your calendars (November 3-6, 2020). While NCSEA is the National Council for SEAs, there is a wealth of information available to the individual practitioner at the summit. Think of it as the SEAOC Convention on a national stage.

    Three important take-aways struck me from the Summit. First, the recently reconfirmed MOU between CASE, ASCE-SEI and NCSEA continues the commitment between groups to better organize and coordinate our collective efforts in building a stronger profession while avoiding unnecessary duplication of efforts. Second, SEAOSC is leading the way with initiatives focused on getting our members to “stop talking to ourselves” and instead getting engaged with outside stakeholders. Third, and finally, an association is built on the strength of its volunteers. Unfortunately, a common frame of mind is “there is an Association to do that”. What we miss with this thought is that we, you and I, are that Association; whether locally in Southern California, at the state SEAOC level, or on the national NCSEA stage, the volunteer members are the Association. Hmmm… this must be my not so subtly contrived call for each of you to be engaged.

    With Thanksgiving now just around the corner, it seems appropriate that I close this message with a note of Thanks. Thank you to the numerous sponsors who provide extra financial support of the Association! Thank you to our Committee members who take extra time out of their days (and nights) to push our profession ever forward! Thank you to our Executive Director and her staff who keep us functioning. Finally, thank you ... to each of you for your continued support and engagement with SEAOSC and all you do to provide Safer Buildings through Structural Engineering.

    I look forward to seeing you on December 4th at Morton’s.

  • October 10, 2019 12:20 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    When you take on the role of President of any Association you are often handed some big initiatives to move forward and an opportunity to help craft the direction the organization will take in the future. SEAOSC is no different. Over the past few years, several members of the past and the current board have worked to build opportunities for local university students to be engaged more directly with the Association through University based student chapters. While this remains a fledgling endeavor, I’m pleased to share that progress is being made. With renewals picking back up after the beginning of the academic calendar, we have over 250 student members active in the Association through their on-campus chapters. I’m also excited that another 70 plus members will be joining our ranks as we strengthen our relationship with UCLA students. In partnering with the student chapter at UCLA, to create an expanded opportunity for the students, EERI-SEAOSC at UCLA will bring together the researchers and practitioners and ensure engagement of young members as they transition through their academic curriculum and into the industry, hopefully into the offices of structural engineering firms throughout Southern California.

    This is an incredibly important step that I encourage our firms and members to embrace and support. We will continue to seek ways to create robust opportunities to bring together our entire membership. These efforts will be focused on building life-long relationships with our peers. Student and young members are the future of our profession and this Association - be sure you don’t miss the chance to interact and help nurture the future direction of the Association.

    I am also excited to announce that our Committee Showcase in September resulted in the reinvigoration of our Sustainability/Resilience Committee with a new Chair volunteering to step in. Additionally, our new Concrete and Wood Committees have been kicked-off with several members seeking to be part of their inaugural launch…we hope to schedule first meetings between now and early November. Don’t forget every member of SEAOSC is invited to be a part of the conversation through our committees. I encourage you to not wait to ask Why? Instead be part of the conversation that helps Frame Why! Your professional growth and the growth of the association can only be stronger by your involvement. Be sure to check out the SEAOSC website and Committee page ( to get connected.

    This next week the Association continues to bring good content and engagement to our members and the community. On October 24th we host our annual Safer Cities Policy Breakfast in downtown LA with invitations to the District Directors from the offices of our local California State legislative members. The breakfast will engage these individuals in roundtable conversations regarding opportunities for SEAOSC and our members to support our communities with statewide initiatives. These conversations continue endeavors initiated 8 or so years ago with our first Buildings at Risk Summit. Over the years these conversations have directly resulted in Cities in southern California seeking guidance from SEAOSC to help craft and adopt important seismic safety ordinances. Also, on the 24th, we will host our first-of-the year Tri-Counties Dinner meeting in Santa Barbara with discussion regarding the recently released SEAOC Blue Book.

    Let me wrap this up with two last opportunities to engage… October 17th is the 30th Anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. SEAOSC is hosting a Webinar on lessons learned for horizontal diaphragms. Be sure to register soon, it will come and be gone quickly. AND… Don’t forget to participate in the Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill…held this year on the actual Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Register to participate at and be ready to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” at 10:17am on 10/17.

  • September 18, 2019 8:15 AM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE


    September traditionally begins the “new year” for SEAOSC with members returning from summer activities to our Committee Showcase and Welcome Dinner. As always, this year the event provided the opportunity for members to re-engage with committees while enjoying happy hour reconnecting with colleagues. This year was also unique with the State Convention occurring before our September meeting. The Central California team presented a great event in a great location. With these two event happening so close together I wanted to share a few thoughts.

    First and foremost; congratulations again to Janah Risha and Peter Maranian, SEAOSC’s two nominees who were inducted as part of the SEAOC College of Fellows Class of 2019. Both exemplify the passion and commitment for our profession to which we should all aspire. The convention in Squaw Valley provided an incredible opportunity to enjoy a great location while learning new things at the technical sessions and beginning new or renewing old friendships. This is the heart and soul of SEAOSC and SEAOC. Having attended my first convention in 1990, I can confirm that they are one of the best ways to stay involved and in touch with what is happening in our profession. In fact, it is through friendships forged at conventions that brings me to be typing this message. If you haven’t been before (and even if you have) I encourage you to find the opportunity to get to a SEAOC convention; and what better location than next year’s event in Maui from September 9-12, 2019. Get it on your calendar, I know my wife and daughter already have it on theirs!

    A little closer to home, our September Welcome Event helped kick-off our program year. Thank you to our Education Committee for putting it together and Diana Nishi for moderating a great discussion regarding the Ridgecrest/Searles Valley Earthquake Sequence. Also, to the 100-plus members who attended, thank you for participating. Hopefully you had a chance to meet fellow members and speak with some of your colleagues who have stepped up to lead the profession forward through their participation in critical activates the committees are charged with. Whether it is the Education Committee bringing content to the Education events, the technical committees advancing current and new design practices and engaging with public officials, or the Communications and Membership Committees building connections within and external to the association, these activities are crucial to the relevancy of SEAOSC and our ability to engage on a broad platform. If you haven’t done so, seek out a committee and find a way to increase your engagement with the profession, you won’t be disappointed.  

    As we move into the fall season and, dare I say, the rush of the end of the year, I find it empowering to remember how our work impacts the lives of everyone who uses one of our structures. Quite the achievement when you think of just how many people that is. I’m truly blessed to be able to count each of you as a colleague. Thank you for all you do to provide Safer Buildings through Structural Engineering.

  • August 01, 2019 4:28 PM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Ken O'Dell, SE

    Well, I think it is fair to say that my first two-weeks serving as President of SEAOSC were eventful. Day 4 there is an earthquake, Day 5 there is a bigger one, Days 6-9 are a whirlwind, culminating in the first Board meeting for FY 2019-2020. In this board meeting we affirmed that there are great things ahead for the association. The board approved an aggressive budget focused on providing critical content and connections for our members, partners and community stake holders. Your Board also approved a forward looking calendar, that will be published shortly to allow you to plan for these events with as much advanced notice as possible. Our Education Committee is already preparing this year’s program.

    To wrap up the whirlwind, I’m on an extended vacation to celebrate my daughter’s promotion from middle school to high school. We are traveling through France for several weeks, and I can tell already that the theme for our trip will be to recognize that with great history comes inevitable change. Paris provides a great reminder that modern mixes with historic quite well. Our next stop in Normandy highlighted how great things can be accomplished when people come together with a common goal. This year is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, a historic day that not only brought nations together but also taught us that to succeed you must be engaged…there can be no sitting on the sidelines waiting for others to get the job done. And with a bit of humor… the Loire Valley teaches us that with a bit of wine, engaged people can be quite vocal and fun to share ideas with.

    Enough of the travel log and history lesson. It just struck me how thoughts can be brought full circle no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Last year, Mehran spoke of change to ensure SEAOSC and our profession maintain relevance in service to our members and our communities. This is an ongoing process of asking hard questions of ourselves and making appropriate changes when the answers suggest different approaches may provide better results.

    This year, I hope the Board can help instill a desire within each of you to be engaged in your profession…not just your career. The profession of structural engineering is far too important to our communities for us to be content focusing on our daily work tasks… I propose that we each must look for the opportunity to use and share the knowledge gained from our daily tasks; perhaps that is by sharing your knowledge through committee participation, supporting a scholarship for, or mentoring our next generation of emerging leaders, or simply being better prepared to share why and how structural engineering is important with your clients.

    A few first steps:

    • Our Golf tournament is coming up soon…get registered and bring someone that hasn’t been before.
    • Don’t miss out on a great SEAOC convention to be held in Squaw Creek, Tahoe at the end of August.
    • And look for our Committee Showcase held during happy hour before our September Dinner meeting. Here, our committees will share their plans for the year. We have a few committees seeking new members and several committees “now forming”.

    As we begin a new year under the 2020 banner please look for a way to be engaged…the Association and Profession needs each of you.

  • June 01, 2019 8:45 AM | SEAOSC Admin (Administrator)

    Mehran Pourzanjani, SE

    Culmination of Culture of Change: Relevancy of SEAOSC

    June marks the last month of the SEAOSC calendar.  The year has sailed by faster than expected.  It has been a privilege and honor to serve as SEAOSC‘s 90th President. I am particularly proud to be part of the association’s a rich heritage, history, and traditions. In these dynamic times communities and cultures are changing at an unprecedented increasing rate. To survive associations must remain relevant.  This realization has driven our vision and activities over the past year.  An association must continually be changing, adapting and modernizing at an ever faster pace to remain relevant.   This year our motto has been to question every tradition and way with SEAOSC in favor of a new refreshed approach.  I am pleased to report that with the support of the Executive Committee, the board, and you the members, we have managed daring transformations in the Association which will continue to serve future generations of SEAOSC.  In the process we have managed to instill a culture of change and adaptability in the Association.   It is only through our collective efforts, beliefs, and volunteerism that we can continue to transform and modernize. What follows is a recap of some of the major events and transformations we managed together over the course of last year.

    SEAOSC 2018-2019 Transformations:

    • Strategic Thinking at Board Meetings; The board meetings are now strategic in nature rather than administrative.  This enables us to harness the collective talent of the board towards planning for the future of SEAOSC and accomplishing more relevancy including bigger tasks and missions. 
    • Investment Plan to Secure the Future of SEAOSC:  We implemented an investment plan with the goal of ensuring financial viability of the association during lean years.  With time and discipline the investments can grow to finance additional activities including research, scholarships, advocacy causes, public service announcements, outreach programs, and community support programs in the event of catastrophic occurrences. 
    • Rebranding of SEAOSC: We undertook a widespread rebranding campaign to more effectively reflect the vibrancy of new SEAOSC. We developed new logos for SEAOSC and Safer Cities in honor of our 90th anniversary along with a new color palette for the association.   The SEAOSC website was updated with the new color palate and addition of new sections such as “Historical Documents” and “Cities and Communities Assisted”.  Our monthly Newsletters were modernized with a new format to better suit mobile devices and computers in this age of digitalization and we adopted the new color palate for them.  We also modernized our email announcements with new format and the color palate.
    • Developed a “Disaster Response Plan” for SEAOSC:  We have substantially completed the development of a disaster Response plan for the Association.  In the event of a catastrophic occurrence all eyes will be on SEAOSC for support.  The plan will allow us to react swiftly to assist the community back on its feet and to communicate the proper perspective for the devastation to our community and public officials.
    • Safer Cities Program and Trademark: Thanks to the efforts of Past President Jeff Ellis, the name “Safer Cities” is now a trademark of SEAOSC and no one in the world is permitted to use it without our consent.   SEAOSC will continue to assist cities and communities under the “Safer Cities” brand name as we have done with Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Pasadena, and San Luis Obispo.  We also updated the Safer Cities Survey last year.  This Survey establishes an inventory of vulnerable building types, whether they have been addressed or require further attention to reduce vulnerabilities.  The original Safer Cities survey in 2016 covered counties of Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura, Riverside, Imperial, and Los Angeles.  Last year we expanded it  with a supplement that added the remaining  counties covered by SEAOSC,   San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Kern.
    • Re-Organized Technical Committees: As a result of Treasurer Matt Barnard’s efforts; the committees are re-organized to align with state’s committee organization and consistent with master code arrangement. This provides for efficiency as each committee is able to focus on their respective code sections and readily feed into the state committees.  The Standards Committee was created to oversee the technical committees similar to SEAOC’s organization.  The Standard Committee’s main mission is to facilitate communication and coordinate amongst various committees, ensure consistency, and consensus for documents published by SEAOSC committees.
    • Advocacy for “Functional Recovery” and Resiliency Legislations:  We are working at the state level through SEAOC with the other member organizations to promote, sponsor, and assist with several legislations including “Functional Recovery” for performance of buildings and “Seismic strengthening”. We are forming alliance with EERI to jointly develop design criteria for achieving “Functional Recovery” in anticipation of this legislation.  This will provide opportunities for our technical committees to be involved in the state-of-the-art with seismic design.
    • New Professional Value Ad-Hoc Committee: This committee was formed by President-Elect Ken O’Dell to investigate the value of Structural Engineering Profession and ways to ensure that value is recognized by practicing engineers and our clients. This committee will yield great value for the profession in the future.
    • Modernizing SEAOSC Policy: Through the efforts of President-Elect Ken O’ Dell the Policies of the Association were updated and modernized to reflect contemporary societal values.
    • Pro-active community outreach; the Woolsey, Thomas Fires: The fires destroyed with unprecedented devastation in 2018.  Many lives, structures, homes, memories, dreams and hopes were lost and shattered.  SEAOSC reached out to all the regional municipalities involved to offer sympathy and more importantly assistance towards recovery. 
    • NCSEA  Grants: through efforts of Treasurer Mathew Barnard  we were granted $4000 from NCSEA for several initiatives for advancing the mission of Structural Engineering.  The grant amount constituted approximately 30% of the total funding allocated by NCSEA for this purpose.
    • Re-Envisioned SEAOSC Events and Awards: We changed the format of several SEAOSC events over the course of last year.  The goal of “Strengthening our Cities Summit” has always been to engage city officials and policy makers to form stronger alliances, and explore collaborative opportunities with them. Accordingly, this year we changed the format of the Summit and invited city managers, and elected officials to have one-on-one conversations at a breakfast summit about how we may be of assistance to them as an Association.  Approximately 50 city officials participated.  One of the outcomes of this Summit was a request for SEAOSC to have in person presentation to the public and city officials on the importance of disaster response preparedness. This is a program that SEAOSC plans to undertake next year with various municipalities.  We had a new holiday party venue; Maggiano’s Little Italy at the Grove . It was a sold out event with approximately 120 guests and a waiting list of others that were eager to attend.  The member appreciation event was a walking food tour of Historical Downtown LA for members.  The tour emphasized the history and architecture of LA buildings and with food stops along the way.   The “Seize your Opportunity” Leadership Symposium was presented by Women in Structural Engineering Committee (WISE). This was a different type of seminar focused on mentoring, leadership and soft skills training; tools for success in any field.  The “Safer Cities Gala and President’s Dinner” will be held at the Biltmore. This event will feature “Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards” (EISE) and will include a New “Safer Cities” awards category. The “President’s Luncheon and Achievement Awards” is another new event this year that will be held at the LA Grand Hotel. This event is devoted to recognizing and celebrating SEAOSC’s members that have distinguished themselves in various capacities including the Engineer of the year, and the transition of the Presidential gavel to the incoming President Ken O’ Dell.   You may read more about the Gala and the Luncheon the “Upcoming Events” section below. 
    • Re-envisioned Technical Seminars:  Thanks to the efforts of Treasurer Matt Barnard we planned two signature events. The “ 2019 Safer Cities Technical Seminar”  was held in January commemorating the 25th anniversary of Northridge Earthquake. The theme of the seminar was Resilient Design as inspired by experiences from the Northridge earthquake that led to current developments in earthquake engineering.  The “Yearend Technical Seminar” which will be held on June 19th. The format of these events was different than the educational seminars held by SEAOSC in the past. These were multi track, interactive seminars.
    • SEAOSC was in a Documentary film about the Northridge Earthquake: “Quake Heroes” is a documentary about the aftermath of Northridge Earthquake. It is about the heroic actions of the earthquake survivors in rescuing and helping others. President–Elect  Ken O’Dell  represented SEAOC in this documentary to reflect upon the earthquake and how the structural engineering community is helping to mitigate the types of disasters experienced in that earthquake. 

    Thank you!

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Executive Committee members, President Elect Ken O’ Dell of MHP Structural Engineers, Treasure Matt Bernard of Degenkolb Engineers, and Past President Bob Lyons of Risha Engineering for embracing the vision of change for the Association, owning  it and expressing a willingness to continue with it.  The current board has been tremendous in brainstorming and supporting changes and in the development of the “Disaster Response Plan”. Thank you Donny Harris SE, John Labib and Associates,  Garrett Mill,SE, Taylor & Syfan Consulting Engineers,   Massoud Abolhoda, SE, Santa Barbara County Planning & Development, Patti Harburg-Petrich, SE, BurroHappold Engineering,  Annie Koa,PE, Simpson Strong-Tie, Truong Huynh , PE, City of Long Beach, Bryan Seamer, SE, LPA,  and Wayne Chang SE,  Structural Focus .

    I would also like to thank all the committee chairs and members for their service and dedication to SEAOSC and for advancing various missions and causes. The committees are the spine of the Association without which we could not exist.

    Welcome New Board Members:

     Welcome new board members; Treasurer Kelsey Anne Parolini, PE, SSG Structural Engineers, Henry Burton, PhD., SE, University of California, Los Angeles, Kim Caravalho SE, Brandow & Johnston, Victor Cuevas, PE, Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, Tom Harris, SE, California Code Check. I encourage you all to initiate and support more changes to the association during your tenure.

    Up Coming Events:

    The “President’s Luncheon and Achievement Awards”, a new event this year, will be held on June 19th at the LA Grand Hotel. This event will be devoted to recognizing and celebrating SEAOSC’s members that have distinguished themselves in various capacities; the Engineer of the year, and will include the transition of the Presidential gavel to incoming president Ken O’ Dell. We hope that you will attend this luncheon to celebrate and recognize our distinguished colleagues and their accomplishments and welcome the new President.   The yearend technical summit will also be held in the morning at the same location. The summit will be a multi-track event providing interest based choices for the attendees. You can find out more about these events on the website.

    The Safer Cities Gala and President’s Dinner will of course be held on June 5st. at the Biltmore. This event will feature “Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards” (EISE) and will include a New “Safer Cities” awards category. This award will recognize leaders in the industry, or public arena that have made outstanding contributions towards Safer Cities or the advancement of the industry. The gala is emceed by ABC 7 Anchor David Ono. We are anticipating a broad representation from the industry at the event including various city representatives and officials.  I hope to see you and your guests there. You are able to register at the door if you have not yet done so.

    Congratulations to all the Awardees in advance!

    Departing Thoughts:

    I envision an Association that is relevant, active, modern and embracing of change.  An Association that strongly advocates for our profession, serves the needs of our members, the wants of our communities with the built environment, and advances the science of Earthquake Design.  I believe we are collectively achieving this vision; but we need to continue to work and push together.   It is important to appreciate the 90 year history of the Association and how it has grown to afford us the dream of bigger goals today.  It has been on the backs of the countless active members, board members, and past Presidents who dedicated time and effort to serve the Association for the benefit all that we have succeeded.  So, in the spirit of this noble tradition of service I call on you to please get involved and support the Association in future endeavors, give back to your profession and future generations of earthquake engineers.  Let’s make a bigger impact together!

    Thank you for your support. It has been my honor and privilege to serve as your President for 2018-2019. 

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The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) is the oldest structural engineering association in the world


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