Westmont Magazine Building Resiliency in San Francisco
A summer internship opened an unexpected career path for Patrick Otellini ’02. The political science major (and theater arts minor) studied for a semester in Rome with American University’s World Capitals program. He served as Page Hall representative for the Westmont College Student Association, and he co-directed Christian Concerns.
The summer after his junior year, Patrick interned with A.R. Sanchez-Corea & Associates (ARS), a San Francisco consulting company that helps clients obtain building permits and comply with complex building codes. “I found the San Francisco construction industry so interesting and got involved in getting projects approved, especially high-rise buildings,” he says. “Political science prepared me for dealing with the bureaucracy and understanding how governmental agencies work. But I discovered an unexpected passion for construction when I watched a building go up and change the skyline.”
Patrick spent more than 11 years at ARS developing a reputation as an honest broker working with government and the construction industry. “ARS prides itself on its integrity,” Patrick says. A Certified Building Inspector and Certified Fire Protection Specialist, he served on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s task force examining seismic safety issues and helped develop its recommendations. In 2012, newly elected mayor Edwin Lee supported those policy recommendations and recruited Patrick to serve in the newly created position of director of earthquake safety for the city and county of San Francisco.
“I took a pay cut to work in public service,” Patrick says. Dubbed the earthquake safety czar, he focused on implementing seismic policy recommendations that retrofitted more than 120,000 homes in San Francisco. He also encouraged private schools to undertake voluntary retrofits to protect the 25,000 students at those institutions. “It was a tremendous policy effort, and I loved the work,” he says.
After a year and half, Patrick received a promotion to become the city’s and county’s first chief resilience officer, expanding his scope to emergency planning for climate change, sea-level rise, and energy assurance as well as earthquakes. On the 110th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake in April 2016, he presented a comprehensive resiliency strategy. During four years, he proposed more than 14 pieces of resilience-based legislation that county supervisors passed unanimously.
A few months later, Patrick took a position with Swinerton Builders as a project manager. “I wanted to work on Oceanwide Center, the largest private construction development in San Francisco,” he says. The mixed-use project will include housing, office space, a public square and a Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Expected to open in 2023, the center will be the second tallest building in the city and the tallest residential structure on the West Coast.
“This project combines everything I’ve done,” he says. He appreciates the collaborative approach that focuses on controlling costs while making wise investments in technology, maintenance and resiliency. “We’re asking how to deal with potential flooding and respond to seismic events to make the project more robust,” he says.
Patrick’s wife, Marissa, works for Swinerton as a paralegal. He enjoys music sessions on his guitar with his two children, who play the drums and the piano. The urban family travels to the Russian River for weekends away whenever they can.
Thanks to support from Swinerton, Patrick has earned a master’s degree in construction management from the New School of Architecture & Design. His reading and studies have augmented his experience and apply directly to his work.
A frequent public speaker during his time with the city, he continues to address building resiliency and preparing for disasters in the face of environmental uncertainty. “We need to be more holistic in our planning efforts,” he says. “Preparing properly saves money, speeds up recovery and creates resiliency.”