Former Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, who served the northwestern San Fernando Valley for 24 years, has died at the age of 89, City Attorney Mike Feuer said Tuesday.
“I knew Hal Bernson for over quarter of a century, having served with him on the City Council,” Feuer said. “His constituents strongly supported him, and no one in the council’s history did more to prepare L.A. for the next major earthquake. My thoughts go out to his wife, Robyn, and his daughters, Nicole and Sarah, whom he adored. He will be missed.”
According to a City News Service story in 2003 about his retirement, Bernson’s legacy was his no-nonsense approach as well as the landmark work he did in getting Los Angeles ready for earthquakes — long before the 1994 Northridge temblor made the point for him with devastating results.
“The people of Los Angeles who don’t get killed in earthquakes in the next 100 years will largely have Hal to thank,” then-Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who served with Bernson on the city council from 1979-94, said then.
Council President Nury Martinez called Bernson “a dedicated public servant to the San Fernando Valley and a man with great foresight in calling for earthquake retrofitting throughout the city well before anyone else.”
Bernson claimed to remember sitting in his high chair as an infant and shaking during the 1933 earthquake that left Long Beach in shambles, in the days before reinforced masonry.
As a relatively young member of the council, some years after the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, Bernson pushed for retrofitting thousands of the city’s oldest buildings. Seismic safety wasn’t popular in those days, but it paid off handsomely in Northridge, which just happened to be in his district.
Bernson was a Northridge clothier before first being elected to the City Council in 1979. He remained on the City Council until 2003 when he was barred from running for re-election because of term limits.
Further details about his death, and about memorial services, were not immediately available.