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Living With a Rising Bay: Vulnerability and Adaptation in San Francisco Bay and on its Shoreline


Local governments and land management agencies already face challenging issues, such as dealing with competing land uses, ensuring that adequate shoreline areas remain available for water-dependent uses, upgrading aged infrastructure, reducing traffic congestion, protecting habitat and water quality, maintaining flood protection, and providing public shoreline access.

Shoreline vulnerability assessments can help government agencies and the public understand how existing planning and management challenges will be exacerbated by climate change and assist in developing strategies for dealing with these challenges.

Two sea level rise projections were selected as the basis for the vulnerability assessment in this report: a 16-inch (40 cm) sea level rise by mid-century and a 55-inch (140 cm) rise in sea level by the end of the century. When BCDC initiated its effort to amend the Bay Plan to address climate change in 2009, the State of California was still in the process of formulating statewide policy direction for adapting to sea level rise. In 2010 the Coastal and Ocean Working Group of the California Climate Action Team (CO-CAT) developed a Sea Level Rise Interim Guidance document that advises the use of projections (relative to sea level in 2000) for the state that range from 10 to 17 inches by 2050, 17 to 32 inches by 2070, and 31 to 69 inches at the end of the century (based on work by Vermeer and Ramstorf, 2009).

Using the two sea level rise projections, the vulnerability assessment focused on three planning areas or systems: shoreline development, the Bay ecosystem, and governance. Key sectors within each system, such as land uses or subregions of the Bay, were used to assess their sensitivity, adaptive capacity and, ultimately, their vulnerability.

Primary Toolkit:

Climate Change Toolkit

Keyword Area:

Adaptation, Climate, Environmental Health, Land Use, Vulnerable Populations


Institutional Author:

San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Comission




Five most recent user comments

5 Stars of 5 - Extremely Useful
Comprehensive tool
By Matthew Davis
Living With a Rising Bay is a comprehensive report that walks readers through the process of assessing impacts, identifying vulnerabilities and adaptation planning. Although the tool is complex, there are takeaways relevant to any community grappling with the threat of rising sea-levels. 

5 Stars of 5 - Extremely Useful
Fantastic Tool
By Anonymous
This tool assesses vulnerabilities in shoreline, bay and governance and proposes strategies to address each. The climate change strategies include examples of “mainstreaming” climate change planning into existing planning efforts in order to be good stewards of the limited resources available to local governments (to include “no regret” strategies).  It also describes an adaptation planning process they developed that allows for flexibility in the strategies as new data analytical tools become available. Even though this tools is focused on strategies for a coastal area’s vulnerabilities, the process and some of the strategies themselves are applicable to other geographical areas and vulnerabilities.  While the scope of this tool may be more feasible to implement in larger population jurisdictions, the concepts are applicable to jurisdictions of all sizes.

The NACCHO Toolbox is a repository of available resources to help local public health practitioners. Tools are produced by local, state, and federal agencies, as well as academic institutions and other stakeholders. The contents of this Toolbox are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any official recommendations of NACCHO. NACCHO makes no express or implied warranty with respect to the contents and disclaims liability for any damages arising from or connected to the use of the material in this Toolbox.