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Building on the Bay

SEA LEVEL RISE THREATENS WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

NEW CONSTRUCTION WORTH BILLIONS COULD BE FLOODED WITHIN DECADES

The Bay Area’s current waterfront building frenzy includes at least $21 billion in housing and commercial construction in low-lying areas that climate scientists say could flood by the end of the century. In examining approval processes for new buildings on the edge of San Francisco Bay, our team found that some cities are greenlighting waterfront development without planning for the long term or fully accounting for the future cost of reconfiguring large projects to resist flooding.

In light of a new convergence in scientific projections — in which sea level rise could drive floodwaters during extreme storms as high as 8 feet above today's high tide — some scientists and community activists are calling for reforms. That may not happen before all these new waterfront communities and office parks get built. Developers say they can raise the land, waterproof basements and build levees and seawalls much higher to protect residents and businesses. But critics say the burden of protecting new real estate is being passed on to the taxpayers of the next two or three generations.

» READ THE STORY »

 

1. Major S.F. Bayfront Developments Advance Despite Sea Rise Warnings

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

Published July 29, 2015


2. As Science Gets Better, Dramatic Sea Rise Seems More Certain

Why 8 feet is an unlikely but worrisome possibility

Published July 29, 2015


3. Map Shows $21 Billion in Construction at Risk

We found 27 proposals for major construction projects that could be flooded in decades due to climate change

Published July 29, 2015


4. Hear From the Experts

Researchers and policy professionals weigh in on sea level change

Published July 29, 2015


5. With Dozens of Local and Regional Governments, Baywide Planning is Hard

Local governments are struggling to coordinate against sea level rise with efforts worsening adjacent towns

Published July 29, 2015


6. Bay Area Governments Study Sea Level Rise, but Few Set Limits on Development

Cities and counties working to revise obsolete land-use plans based on inconsistent flood maps

Published July 29, 2015


7. Four Ways to Guard Against Sea Level Rise

Bay Area cities have four main options to fight against sea level rise

Published July 29, 2015


 


8. Mission Bay Pioneers

Working and living in a new waterfront neighborhood

Published July 29, 2015

See coverage of this project from Mother Jones, KQED, San Francisco Magazine and more. 




ABOUT THIS REPORTING PROJECT

In recent years, researchers in many disciplines have mapped detailed projections for potential flooding as sea levels rise. And, importantly, these models now mostly agree. The Public Press compared these models against local and regional policies and with recent building permit data. The research reveals that billions of dollars worth of planned development could be threatened by rising waters within a human lifetime.

REPORTING: Kevin Stark, Winifred Bird, Michael Stoll, Emily Dugdale, Lulu Orozco, Paul Lorgerie, Sophie Murguia, Caroline Cakebread and Tanya Dzekon

EDITING: Laura Impellizzeri, Kevin McKean and Katherine Bourzac

CARTOGRAPHY: Marcea Ennamorato, Maia Wachtel and Brittany Burson of the UC Berkeley Cartography & GIS Education Lab

PHOTO & VIDEO: Eric Lawson, Peter Snarr and Dayvon Dunaway

ILLUSTRATION & DESIGN: Erika Rae Langdon, Clark Miller, Emily Underwood and Anna Vignet

ONLINE: Amanda Hickman

SPECIAL THANKS: John Upton of Climate Central

THIS PROJECT WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY DONATIONS FROM PUBLIC PRESS MEMBERS, AND BY A CHALLENGE GRANT FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO FOUNDATION