San Francisco Planning Announces Sea Level Rise Action Plan

First step toward developing a citywide Adaptation Plan by 2018 to address immediate and long-term threats of sea level rise



Media Contact:
Gina Simi

SAN FRANCISCO – At this afternoon’s Planning Commission Hearing, San Francisco Planning and Public Works presented the Sea Level Rise Action Plan, a call to action for City departments and stakeholders to work together to make San Francisco a more resilient city in the face of rising sea levels. The Plan, under the direction of Mayor Ed Lee and led by San Francisco Planning and San Francisco Public Works, defines an overarching vision and set of objectives for future sea level rise and coastal flooding planning and mitigation in San Francisco. The Plan provides direction for City departments to understand and adapt to the impacts of sea level rise, and identifies what long-term sea level rise means for San Francisco’s residents, visitors, economy and waterfront.

Over the coming decades, the impacts of sea level rise and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms mean that areas currently unaffected could begin to experience periodic coastal and/or urban flooding. With preliminary estimates of approximately $75 billion in assets that are vulnerable to inundation due to sea level rise and extreme storms, it is essential to make informed decisions about how to balance the cost of post-disaster relief with the cost of up-front adaptation.

“This Sea Level Rise Action Plan is a powerful call to action for San Francisco and reflects the City’s commitment to planning for and adapting to the current and future impacts of sea level rise,” said Mayor Lee. “The Action Plan outlines a proactive path for the City to identify, understand and address risks to vital private and public infrastructure and assets that could be threatened by sea level rise.”

“If we choose not to act on the real threats of sea level rise, we are choosing to put some of the most socially and economically vulnerable communities, and some of its most valuable real estate, at significant risk,” said John Rahaim, Director of San Francisco Planning. “This plan provides a road map, with both short-term and long-term actions. And we are pleased to be convening many of our regional partners in this effort. Obviously, San Francisco cannot address this issue on our own.”

The Action Plan is the first step towards the development of the Citywide Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan, expected to be completed by summer 2018, which will incorporate the adaptation strategies identified in the Action Plan and set a planning framework to prioritize investments to best improve climate resilience, while protecting economic and environmental value. The Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan will also identify potential funding sources, governance structures, and implementation timelines.

The Sea Level Rise Action Plan completes four strategic tasks:

  • Establishes an overarching vision, goals, and a set of guiding principles for sea level rise planning; 
  • Summarizes current climate science, relevant policies and regulations, and vulnerability and risk assessments conducted to date; 
  • Identifies data gaps and establishes a framework for further assessment, adaptation planning, and implementation; and 
  • Provides the foundation and guidance to develop a citywide Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan

Mayor Lee assembled the Sea Level Rise Coordinating Committee in March 2015, an interagency task force of 12 City departments co-chaired by San Francisco Planning and San Francisco Public Works to develop a comprehensive understanding of the threat of sea level rise and to create a decisive plan of action. The Sea Level Rise Action Plan is the Committee’s first task.

The Sea Level Rise Committee will work across the Bay Area to form strategic partnerships with local and regional stakeholders as collaborators to participate in the adaptation planning and implementation process. Part of the resiliency efforts are to promote an increased understanding of the shared responsibilities between public, private, and community interests throughout the region in adapting to sea level rise, and how a collaboration with a variety of stakeholders can provide the combined resources required to make necessary investments for the protection and adaptation of our coastlines.

“Strategic adaptation planning through partnerships with local and regional stakeholders is imperative to protect San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents as climate conditions change,” said City Engineer Fuad Sweiss, Public Works deputy director for infrastructure and co-chair of the Sea Level Rise Coordinating Committee. “Helping communities to better understand the threats of sea level rise and climate change will bolster the support needed to make our city and Bay Area region more resilient.”

Given the complexity and significance of sea level rise and waterfront planning to the residents and businesses in San Francisco, the Plan places a high priority on a robust community engagement effort. San Francisco will coordinate and leverage existing citywide and local community engagement opportunities to increase the public’s understanding of the potential effects of sea level rise on their homes and local businesses.

“This Plan is the first chapter in building a resilient city for generations to come,” said Gil Kelley, Director of Citywide Planning and Co-Chair of the Sea Level Rise Coordinating Committee. “We are committed to building stronger communities in San Francisco and throughout the region that will not only withstand the impacts of sea level rise, but are mobilized, engaged and empowered to support this collaborative effort over the long term and emerge even stronger.”

The Sea Level Rise Action Plan is a citywide led effort, funded by San Francisco Planning in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative. The Sea Level Action Plan can be found on San Francisco Planning’s website and Public Works website