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Monday, June 22, 2015

San Francisco Is Really Unprepared for Climate Change

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 10:38 AM

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“A slow-moving emergency” is how state assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) describes the threat of rising seas in the Bay Area. According to Inside Bay Area, Gordon authored California’s first report on climate-related flooding, and his findings reveal a region woefully unprepared to manage water damage.

Per Inside Bay Area, San Francisco Bay rose 8 inches over the past century and could rise another 16 to 55 inches by 2100. Torrential storms and “king tides” could overwhelm infrastructure that’s not designed to withstand major flooding. Making matters worse is California’s own gradually eroding coastline. Coastal communities such as Pacifica have become media flashpoints thanks to images of houses literally slipping off of cliffs.

And it’s not just communities that are at risk. Tech giants including Google, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco, and Oracle all own buildings near the bay, and all are vulnerable to sea rise.

Although some cities in the Bay Area are taking steps to improve levees and revise building codes, two recent civil grand jury reports found that there’s no unified effort to prepare the region for flooding.

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a state agency, is taking the lead on regulating new projects along the shoreline. Among the BCDC’s guidelines for new projects: Structures must be set back far enough to avoid flooding; be elevated above expected flood levels; be designed to tolerate flooding; and employ other means of addressing flood risks.

As the two civil grand jury reports caution, the Bay Area’s current haphazard planning and regulation aren’t doing the region any favors. Melanie Richardson, deputy operating officer of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, told Inside Bay Area: 

It doesn't really work to address one city at a time because what one city does affects the next one. For instance, building a sea wall in one city could force water onto an adjacent city. If we come up with a solution, it will be a solution for the whole bay. 

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown allocated $2.5 million in funding for California’s Climate Resilience Account, which will conduct planning and policy efforts around rising sea levels. Assemblyman Rich Gordon has also introduced Assembly Bill 2516, which will mandate a statewide database of preparedness efforts online.  

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Jeremy Lybarger


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