Report: San Francisco Must Consider Sea-Level Rise

Civil grand jury tells city that the high-water mark is approaching

Climate change has been a hot topic for years, and despite knowing about rising sea levels, the city and county of San Francisco have no comprehensive plan to deal with it, according to a civil grand jury report issued Wednesday.

San Francisco is on the frontlines of global warming and must do more to prepare for rising seas, the City's Civil Grand Jury report says.

The jury issued a stern warning to planners and developers in the city by the Bay on Wednesday -- the Bay that will rise as the century continues.

Some key development areas, such as Treasure Island, where thousands of new housing units are to be built, are at risk of flooding thanks to rising tides unless some preventative measures are taken, according to the report.

And areas like Mission Bay, where a brand-new University of California campus has been built and where new biotech buildings are constructed often, need "less-intensive development strategies," the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported.

The report calls for a new citywide plan that acknowledges sea-level rise as well as changed to building codes.

For instance, most people don’t look out over Ocean Beach and think “wastewater treatment plant,” but there is one very nearby. Most of the facility is underground, and according to a grand jury’s findings, potentially at risk if sea levels continue to rise.

“It’s  mostly to do with infrastructure,” said Martyta Piazza, chair of the Rising Sea Levels Investigative Committee. “The planning code needs to be amended to include mitigation efforts for future development, wastewater treatment plants particularly.”

Piazza is one of 19 San Francisco residents who have spent the last year interviewing experts and pouring over research on sea level changes. 

“It’s happening,” Piazza said. “There is absolutely no doubt that it is happening.”

The grand jury issued its findings and recommendations to the mayor, various city and county departments, and the Port of San Francisco.

“The City has been extremely good at acknowledging that there is a problem,” jury foreperson Elena Schmid said. “It’s not that they are denying it. It’s that they acknowledge it, but haven’t done a lot about it, and so what we’re saying is it’s getting to be time.”

Other potential trouble spots include the Embarcadero, which has been breached by king tides, and the San Francisco International Airport, according to the report.

“The San Francisco Airport is very susceptible because right now they are built just right at sea level, and they are trying to do something about it, and we are asking them to speed up,” Schmid said. “We are asking a number of departments to take some specific actions.”

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