Will California Require Cities to Plan for Sea Level Rise?


California officials are taking their first, tentative steps toward requiring cities to plan for severe sea level rise that scientists now say could conceivably elevate high tides by up to 22 feet by the middle of the next century. Such a deluge would overtake much of San Francisco’s southeastern waterfront, submerge huge swaths of West Oakland and Alameda, and inundate large portions of cities along the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

As developers continue their scramble to build dozens of office complexes, housing developments and sports facilities bordering San Francisco Bay, a state-funded study recommends that local planners adopt a risk-averse approach to permitting developments such as hospitals and housing — facilities with low “adaptive capacity” — in areas that have even little chance of flooding in the coming decades.

The Ocean Protection Council, part of the California Natural Resources Agency, has published a draft guidance document for coastal cities, endorsing the emerging consensus among climate scientists that accelerated ice melt in Antarctic glaciers means the oceans could rise far more rapidly than studies indicated even a few years ago.

State Looking to Require Cities to Plan for Rising Seas