Robert B. Olshansky, FAICP

Professor of Urban and Regional Planning

PhD, University of California-Berkeley 1987

Room M224 Temple Buell Hall 611 Taft Drive
Champaign IL 61820

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 217.333.8703

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.

Ongoing Research Projects

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

Johnson, Laurie A., and Robert B. Olshansky, “The Road to Recovery: Governing Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Land Lines, 25(3): 14-21, July 2013.

Iuchi, Kanako, Laurie A. Johnson, and Robert B. Olshansky, “Securing Tohoku’s Future: Planning for Rebuilding in the First Year Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami,” Earthquake Spectra, 29:S1, S479-S499, 2013.

Olshansky, Robert B., Lewis D. Hopkins, and Laurie A. Johnson, 2012, “ Disaster and Recovery: Processes Compressed in Time,” Natural Hazards Review, 13:173-178, 2012.

Green, Timothy, and Robert Olshansky, "Rebuilding housing in New Orleans: the Road Home Program after the Hurricane Katrina disaster," Housing Policy Debate, 22:1, 75-79, 2012.

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

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

Olshansky, Robert B., and Stephanie Chang, 2009. "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.

Olshansky, Robert B., 2009. "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.

Olshansky, Robert B., 2009. "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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olshansky, Robert B. 2001. "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, 2000. "Creating Hazard Resilient Communities Through Land-Use Planning," Natural Hazards Review (ASCE) 1(2), pp. 99-106.

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

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

Olshansky, Robert B. 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 PDF.

Olshansky, Robert B., and Jack D. Kartez, 1998. "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.

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

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

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

Teaching and Advising

UP 438 Disasters and Urban Planning

Introduction to the role of urban planners in preparing for and rebuilding after disasters. Emphasizes U.S. planning practice, with particular attention to the role of local government. Includes basic U.S. emergency management laws and framework, local mitigation planning, and post-disaster recovery planning. Taught in Fall semester.

UP 546 Land Use Policy and Planning

Examines a variety of approaches to land use policy and planning, from both a theoretical and an applied perspective. Explores different values in American land use policy, recent evolution of land use policy. Taught as a seminar.

Taught in Spring 2014, 2016

UP 543 Environmental Policy and Planning

Examines environmental policy and planning from both theoretical and applied perspectives. Provides an overview of the elements of environmental policy at national and state levels and investigates local implementation of environmental policies. Students will learn how local environmental planning practice fits within the broader context of environmental policies. Intended for graduate students in Urban and Regional Planning, but also open to graduate students with appropriate background and interests from Landscape Architecture, Geography, and relevant social sciences. Taught in Spring 2017

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