San Francisco is an iconic American city known for its steep and winding streets, quaint neighborhoods, and gorgeous vistas of land, bay, and sea. Fisherman’s wharf, Alcatraz, and Chinatown are but a few of the tourist attractions on this compact peninsula along the Pacific Ocean. But even a casual walk across the Golden Gate Bridge makes the city’s vulnerability clear: sea level rise ranks alongside earthquakes as one of the greatest natural disaster threats to the city and region.
In response, bay area residents are actively engaged in efforts to anticipate future storms and bolster the region’s resilience. The projected impacts of sea level rise present a dual opportunity for urban planners in San Francisco who have found that preparing for storm surges is quite similar to preparing for sea level rise. Both require bolstering city-wide resilience against flooding, subsidence, and coastal erosion.
City policymakers are focused on identifying the specific effects of sea level rise on the infrastructure that city residents rely on every day, from hospitals and bridges, to power plants, and wastewater treatment plants. Experts estimate that more than $100 billion in economic activity and 480,000 citizens are threatened by the impacts of sea level rise across California. To adapt to these risks, planners are developing data visualization platforms, such as NOAA’s Roadmap for Adapting to Climate Risk and the CalAdapt tool, which displays the climate change-related risks of wildfire, sea level rise, and other environmental threats to California.
San Francisco’s leadership on coastal resilience planning in the face of sea level rise is a wakeup call for municipalities throughout the country as they plan and prepare for a changing climate.
Published in March, 2017, by the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.