Core Faculty

Robert B. Olshansky

Professor and Head of Urban and Regional Planning
PhD, University of California-Berkeley, 1987


Dr. Olshansky’s teaching and research cover land use and environmental planning, with an emphasis on planning for natural hazards. He has published extensively on post-disaster recovery planning, planning and policy for earthquake risks, and policy for unstable ground. He is especially interested in understanding how human settlements can better survive in the face of periodic natural disturbances, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and sea level rise.

His current research focuses on recovery following large disasters, such as the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China (for which he has a National Science Foundation grant, along with colleagues at several other universities), 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. He and colleagues have published on the recovery following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 1995 Kobe, Japan Earthquake, 2004 Chuetsu, Japan Earthquake, and 2010 Haiti earthquake. He is the co-author of Clear as Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans (APA Press, 2010), which critically documents the post-Katrina planning process in New Orleans. He spent the 2004-2005 academic year as a Visiting Professor at Kyoto University, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, studying post-disaster reconstruction in Japan. He has also studied post-disaster recovery management in Indonesia and India.

Professor Olshansky’s earlier work included studies of earthquake risk in communities in the Central U.S., land use planning implications of the 1994 Northridge California earthquake, earthquake preparedness in the Central U.S., guidelines for seismic safety advocates, the use of seismic zonation in land use planning, the role of planning in reducing earthquake risks, policies for landslide hazard reduction, financing landslide mitigation, and local hillside development policies. He also completed a comprehensive study of the local implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Contact Information
Room 111, Temple Buell Hall
611 Taft Drive
Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: 217.333.8703
Fax: 217.244.1717
E-mail: robo@illinois.edu


Current Research Areas

  • Planning for reconstruction in Sichuan Province, China
  • Rural resilience following the 1993 Midwest floods
  • Theories of post-disaster recovery planning and management
  • International comparative studies of post-disaster recovery planning and management

Selected Publications

Olshansky, Robert B., and Laurie A. Johnson, Clear As Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans, APA Press, Chicago, 2010.

Olshansky, Robert B., and Harley Etienne, “Setting the Stage for Long-term Recovery in Haiti,” Earthquake Spectra, accepted for publication, April 2011.

Olshansky, Robert B., and Stephanie Chang, “Planning for Disaster Recovery: Emerging Research Needs and Challenges,” in H. Blanco and M. Alberti, “Shaken, shrinking, hot, impoverished and informal: Emerging research agendas in planning,” Progress in Planning, 72:200-209, 2009.

Olshansky, Robert B., “The Challenges of Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery,” in Building Safer Settlements. Governance, Planning, and Responses to Natural Hazards, Urbano Fra Paleo, editor, Volume 58 NATO Science for Peace and Security Series - E: Human and Societal Dynamics, IOS Press, Amsterdam, 2009.

Olshansky, Robert B., “Planning for Natural Hazards,” pp. 140-144 in Local Planning: Contemporary Principles and Practice, Gary Hack, Eugénie Birch, Paul Sedway, and Mitchell Silver eds., International City/County Management Association, 2009

Green, Timothy F., and Robert B. Olshansky, Homeowner Decisions, Land Banking, and Land Use Change in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Working Paper, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge, MA, November 2009.

Olshansky, Robert B., Laurie A. Johnson, Jedidiah Horne, and Brendan Nee. “Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans,” Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(3): 273-287, 2008.

Olshansky, Robert B., Laurie A. Johnson, Kenneth C. Topping, “Rebuilding communities following disaster:  Lessons from Kobe and Los Angeles,Built Environment 32(4): 354-374, 2006.

Olshansky, Robert B, “Planning after Hurricane Katrina,“ Journal of the American Planning Association, 72(2): 147-153, 2006.

Olshansky, Robert B.; Nakabayashi, Itsuki; and Ohnishi, Kazuyoshi.  “Socioeconomic, Policy, and Planning Aspects of the 2004 Niigata-ken Chuetsu Earthquake,” Earthquake Spectra, 22(S1): S163-S175, 2006.

Olshansky, Robert B.; Johnson, Laurie A; and Topping, Kenneth (with Yoshiteru Murosaki, Kazuyoshi Ohnishi, Hisako Koura, and Ikuo Kobayashi), Opportunity in Chaos: Rebuilding After the 1994 Northridge and 1995 Kobe Earthquakes, University of Illinois, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, 2005 (Web-published March 2011).

Olshansky, Robert B.  “Landslides.”  In Planning and Urban Design Standards, Chapter 2 (Environmental Hazards).  John Wiley & Sons.  2005.

Olshansky, Robert B. 2005. "Making a Difference: Stories of Successful Seismic Safety Advocacy," Earthquake Spectra, 21(2): 441-464.

Background Papers, Promoting Seismic Safety: Guidance for Advocates, developed by Alesch, Daniel; May, Peter; Olshansky, Robert; Petak, William; and Tierney, Kathleen. Prepared for Federal Emergency Management Agency, April 2004.

Alesch, Daniel; May, Peter; Olshansky, Robert; Petak, William; and Tierney, Kathleen, Promoting Seismic Safety: Guidance for Advocates, Prepared for Federal Emergency Management Agency, April 2004.

Olshansky, Robert B., Yuening Wu, and Steven French, "Evaluating Earthquake Risk in Mid-America Communities". Mid-America Earthquake Center, University of Illinois, 2003.

Olshansky, Robert B., and Yueming Wu, "Earthquake Risk Analysis for Los Angeles County Under Present and Planned Land Uses," Environment and Planning B 28(3), 2001, pp. 419-432.

"Land Use Planning for Seismic Safety: The Los Angeles County Experience, 1971-1994," Journal of the American Planning Association 67(2), 2001, pp. 173-185.

Burby, Raymond J., Robert E. Deyle, David R. Godschalk, and Robert B. Olshansky, "Creating Hazard Resilient Communities Through Land-Use Planning," Natural Hazards Review (ASCE) 1(2), 2000, pp. 99-106.

Garcia, Margot, Robert B. Olshansky, and Raymond Burby, "Environmental Assessment," Chapter Five in Practice of Local Government Planning, Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association, 2000.

"Regulation of Hillside Development in the United States," Environmental Management, 22(3):383-392, 1998.

"The Role of Earthquake Hazard Maps in Loss Estimation: A Study of the Northridge Earthquake," Earthquake Spectra, 13(4):721-737, 1997.

"The California Environmental Quality Act and Local Planning," Journal of the American Planning Association, 62(3):313-330, 1996.

Olshansky, Robert B., and Jack D. Kartez, "Managing Land Use to Build Resilience," Chapter Six in R. J. Burby, ed., Confronting Natural Hazards: Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities, Washington, DC: National Academy/Joseph Henry Press, 1998.

Promoting the Adoption and Enforcement of Seismic Building Codes: A Guidebook for State Earthquake and Mitigation Managers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC, FEMA-313, January 1998. PDF

Planning for Hillside Development, Planning Advisory Service Report No. 466, American Planning Association, Chicago, 1996, 25 pp.


Robert B. Olshansky