Builders plan to invest more than $21 billion in offices and homes in flood-prone areas, where waters could climb 8 feet above today’s high tide by the end of this century. Land-use records reveal that the building boom, fueled by a white-hot tech economy, is moving too fast for regulators to keep pace. (Cover story from the summer 2015 print edition)
As cranes and bulldozers continue their work to build Mission Bay, residents and workers say they love the new waterfront area. Few say they have any knowledge of, nor are they much concerned about, the long-term flooding risk.
Water brings both life and risk to the shoreline, so seaside residents have long built barriers, canals and other protections to guard against storms and floods. Now sea level rise is adding an extra challenge.
The San Francisco Public Press surveyed 13 Bay Area cities and counties where building projects are planned in waterfront areas vulnerable to sea level rise. While most are studying the issue, few have passed new regulations to limit growth or require developers to floodproof their properties.
Regional coordination will be essential if Bay Area cities and counties are to minimize flooding as the sea rises. A few initiatives have launched, but none yet has the legal authority or resources to align all 41 governments that border San Francisco Bay.
Experts weigh in on the local effects of sea level rise. Hear from an oceanographer, an academic, a climate scientist, a policy professional and an environmental planner.
We found 27 proposals for major construction projects that could be flooded in decades due to climate change. View our interactive map.
Sea level rise of 8 feet is an unlikely but worrisome possibility. Many objections to preparing aggressively for sea level rise center on the uncertainty in projections about how quickly global warming will cause the oceans to expand. But the science is increasingly clear.