Bay Area Communities Struggle With What to Do About Rising Sea Level

By Peter Fabris | March 2, 2020
Lands End landscape photo
By Jennifer Jean

The Pacific Ocean has risen 4 to 8 inches along the Northern California coast over the last century, and is expected to continue to rise two to three feet more by the end of the century.

Bay Area communities are struggling for a strategy to cope. The California Coastal Commission has encouraged city governments to plan for the future by fortifying flood defenses, restoring wetlands, or making people move.

The latter prospect, in particular, is politically charged with valuable coastal properties comprising major investments for residents. The last resort of relocation has been chosen in Pacifica, where coastal bluffs have eroded so quickly that city officials have already demolished some properties before they fell into the water.

Fortification projects are moving forward. San Francisco voters approved a $425 million bond to start bolster a sea wall along the Embarcadero, the road along the bay. Builders of a new real estate development in a former industrial area called Mission Creek are raising old roads and warehouses by as much as 10 feet.

Communities face an overriding question: How much do you armor the coast, what areas do you save, and who will have to move?

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