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Sea Level Rise

Why is the City of Pacifica studying the impacts of sea level rise?

The City of Pacifica currently experiences coastal erosion, flooding and severe storms along its six-mile shoreline that, over the years, have damaged public and private property. The City is preparing a sea level rise Adaptation Plan that will identify potential vulnerabilities to sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding and severe storms and the options available to help prepare for future climate change impacts.

The goals and benefits of this project include:

  1. Bolster efficacy of public safety efforts. Evacuations of bluff top homes have been necessary to protect the health, safety, and wellness of residents. The Adaptation Plan will provide the City with a unified strategy to protect human life, property, and critical infrastructure.
  2. Respond to climate change. The Adaptation Plan will allow Pacifica to prepare for sea level rise and climate change impacts by identifying policies that enhance the coastal zone’s adaptive capacity.
  3. Preserve Housing and enhance environmental justice. The housing stock in Pacifica’s coastal zone is some of the oldest in the entire city and makes up a large portion of the city’s “naturally” affordable housing stock. The Adaptation Plan will allow the city to assess the safety and accessibility of housing within the coastal zone, and create policies that will protect this important housing resource from the impacts of sea level rise, erosion, and coastal flooding.
  4. Promote local economic vitality. A significant amount of Pacifica’s retail sales and transient occupancy tax is collected from businesses that are located within the coastal zone. The taxes collected from these areas support services provided to all areas of the City. Sharp Park, Rockaway Beach, and West Linda Mar are all commercial centers that will directly benefit from increased awareness of issues like sea level rise and identification of strategies that reduce their collective vulnerability.
  5. Preserve and enhance coastal access. Beach and bluff access to the coastline is a crucial element of Pacifica’s coastal character and is valued by the community. The Adaptation Plan will allow the city to identify where bluff erosion, sedimentation, and sea level rise may threaten coastal access.

What is a Local Coastal Plan?

A Local Coastal Plan (LCP) provides policies that guide development within the Coastal Zone.  A LCP is comprised of land use policies and an implementation plan. 

Under the State Coastal Act, the Coastal Commission has decision making and permit authority in the Coastal Zone. The Coastal Act provides for the adoption of LCPs by cities and counties in conformance with the Coastal Act, and once adopted and approved by the Coastal Commission, transfers permitting authority to the City. This is important in retaining local control over decisions that impact the community and acknowledges the unique characteristic of local communities and regional interests within the framework of the Coastal Act.

The Coastal Commission retains permanent coastal permit jurisdiction over tidelands, submerged lands, and public trust lands, and the Commission also acts on appeals from certain local government coastal permit decisions.

Does the City already have a Local Coastal Plan?

Yes, in 1980 the City of Pacifica adopted its current Local Coastal Plan land use policies and it has not been comprehensively updated since that time.

An update to the Pacifica LCP has been drafted, but it has not been adopted by the City or certified by the Coastal Commission. Further, the 2014 Draft LCP Update does not consider impacts from sea level rise or provide comprehensive adaptation policies. 

The City is conducting this sea level rise planning effort in order to prepare for future coastal erosion, flooding, and severe storms. In addition, incorporating the Adaptation Plan into the Draft LCP Update will bring the document into conformance with Coastal Commission policy directives for LCP adoption.

Where is the Coastal Zone?

In Pacifica, the Coastal Zone Boundary generally includes all land that is west of Highway 1, with limited exceptions.

In the Local Coastal Plan Update process, what does the City Council have the authority to decide vs. what the Coastal Commission will decide?

The California Coastal Commission will need to approve the Local Coastal Plan Update and will determine if it is consistent with the Coastal Act. There are a variety of ways the City can comply with provisions of the Coastal Act. The City Council will determine the most appropriate policies for Pacifica, then the LCP Update will be forwarded to the Coastal Commission for approval.

How will this Sea Level Rise Planning effort impact public and private properties?

The Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan will become part of the City's Draft Local Coastal Plan and will contain policies that will help the City assist property owners (public and private) in planning for and addressing future sea level rise, storm surge, coastal flooding, and erosion.  At the current stage of the process, it is too early to know the exact policy outcomes. It is therefore important to become involved and provide your input.

I have read that this Sea Level Rise Planning effort will be used by financial institutions and insurers. Is this accurate?

It is not known if or how third parties will use the City’s Local Coastal Plan and Adaptation Plan. However, it is important to note that the City is not creating new hazard data. The study is relying on existing hazard data produced by agencies such as such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State of California Ocean Protection Council. The hazard data used in the City’s study is already readily available to the public and financial institutions and insurers.

If I own property in the coastal zone what will be different about the permitting process between today and when the Local Coastal Plan Update is adopted?

The permitting process is expected to remain the same or very similar to how it works today. Properties in the hazard areas are already asked to consider Coastal Commission guidance when contemplating development. After the Adaptation Plan is adopted, property owners will benefit from acceptable strategies as defined in the Plan which will provide consistency and assurance.

Is the City going to prevent development or redevelopment in the Coastal Zone and let the ocean destroy properties?

The City has identified Preserving Housing and Promoting Economic Vitality as two of several goals and benefits of this process. The City of also aware of legal considerations when contemplating any type of policy affecting private property. The Adaptation Plan will identify options available to help public and private property owners prepare for future climate change impacts.

I’ve heard it said that ESA, the consultant working on this Local Coastal Plan Update / Sea Level Rise Planning effort, favors solutions that let the ocean destroy properties. Is this true?

No, ESA does not have a predetermined opinion concerning various solutions for sea level rise.  And, the City Council has the final say on what solutions go into the Local Coastal Plan Update/Adaptation Plan.

Where can I find documents related to Pacifica’s sea level rise planning studies and the Local Coastal Plan?

More information on sea level rise planning and the Local Coastal Plan can be found at the City’s Sea Level Rise project webpage: www.cityofpacifica.org/SeaLevelRise

How is the sea level rise planning effort being funded?

The City received a $188,000 Local Assistance Grant from the Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy. The City is also contributing in-kind staff resources.

What is the schedule for the sea level rise planning effort and modifications to the Local Coastal Plan?

The schedule is available on the City’s Sea Level Rise webpage: www.cityofpacifica.org/SeaLevelRise.

How can I participate in Sea Level Rise Planning?

Public involvement is a very important part of the process! The City will host several public meetings and workshops throughout the Sea Level Rise Planning effort.  Please request to join our mailing list to receive updates on the status of the project and public outreach events.  Information is available at www.cityofpacifica.org/SeaLevelRise.

The first public workshop is scheduled for February 13th at 6pm in the Council Chambers, 2212 Beach Blvd. 

Where can I find more information on sea level rise science and potential impacts?

The County of San Mateo has prepared a very helpful FAQ that covers these topics. Please visit http://seachangesmc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/FAQ.pdf for more information.