Possible Adaptation Strategies
There are many strategies available to address the challenges of sea level rise. San Mateo County Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessments have identified three key categories of adaptation strategies: (1) emergency preparedness and resilience efforts, (2) shoreline and site-specific strategies, and (3) policies, plans and procedure updates to address sea level rise.
- Adopt new development standards and ordinances for at risk areas.
- Utilize nature-based solutions, including vegetated, permeable, and tree-covered surfaces, water detention systems and habitat restoration.
- Update building design standards and codes to incorporate flood risk best practices.
South Coast Strategies
- Implement protection approaches that attempt to stop erosion or flooding.
- Plan for accommodation approaches that allow for erosion and flooding while minimizing damages.
- Consider managed retreat or hazard avoidance, which relocates or realigns potentially vulnerable infrastructure.
Communities that invest in adaptation understand that the alternative—inaction—will likely result in costly damage, cleanup, and emergency repairs.
In 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved a Sea Level Rise Policy for County-Owned Assets. The Policy requires that sea level rise is considered in all County-owned and operated assets, design and construction projects, leases, and property acquisitions and dispositions.
These projects must also consider local and regional sea level rise adaptation and flood mitigation projects that could reduce impacts on County-owned assets prior to developing plans to modify existing facilities.
The intent of this policy is to understand the vulnerability of County-owned property and assets over their life cycle; develop an incremental approach to adaptation based on the current and future level of risk; and coordinate with other communities on developing regional solutions.
Implementation of this policy is expected to increase the useful life of County facilities; protect residents and staff today and assure County operations will be continuous; reduce the current and future risks from sea level rise and flooding; reduce liability; and reduce insurance premiums and impacts to property value.
Based on this policy, all new facility projects funded by the County shall be sited, designed, constructed, and adaptively managed to minimize sea level rise risks over the life of the project. Following a baseline assessment of sea level rise vulnerability, existing facilities and properties will be subject to this policy during the Capital Improvement Planning or acquisition process, if major renovations or replacement of existing facilities and infrastructure are located in areas at risk from sea level rise beyond what will be protected through local or regional planned sea level rise adaptation projects.
Learn more through the 2019 San Mateo County Sea Level Rise Policy for County-Owned Assets (PDF) and Implementation Plan (PDF).
The SeaChange SMC Community Resilience Grants Program supported cities and organizations in developing solutions that reduce impacts from sea level rise. Learn more.
Nature-based strategies protect shorelines from coastal flooding by creating, restoring, or emulating natural coastal features, such as wetlands, dunes, or reefs. These strategies reduce erosion and mitigate storm surge, wave action, and still-water flooding associated with coastal flood events.
SeaChange SMC worked with Stanford’s Natural Capital Project (NatCap) and the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) to explore and evaluate a menu of nature-based sea level rise strategies for the County’s Bay shoreline. The project identified “Operational Landscape Units” OLUs with shared geophysical and habitat characteristics suited for particular sets of adaptation strategies. These natural “neighborhoods” cross jurisdictional and traditional decision-making boundaries making coordination essential to achieve successful adaptation.
Five factsheets summarize the San Mateo County bayside risks from sea level rise, nature-based opportunities to reduce these risks, and the potential ecosystem services that could be achieved through OLU-focused nature-based strategies. Learn more:
- Yosemite-Visitacion OLU Factsheet (PDF) covering the bayside area from City and County of San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley and northern South San Francisco in San Mateo County
- Colma OLU Factsheet (PDF) covering the bayside area starting from the middle of South San Francisco through a small northern section of City of San Mateo
- San Mateo OLU Factsheet (PDF) covering most of City of San Mateo including Coyote Point and a northern section of Foster City through City of Belmont
- Belmont OLU Factsheet (PDF) covering most of Foster City through Menlo Park
- San Francisquito OLU Factsheet (PDF) covering the bayside area from just north of the Dumbarton Bridge in Menlo Park, through East Palo Alto to Santa Clara County’s City of Palo Alto.
This project was funded by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Climate Ready SMC Pilot Project: East Palo Alto Community Vulnerability Adaptation Sea Level Rise Planning Project
Acterra (Climate Resilient Communities) built the capacity of East Palo Alto community leaders in sea-level rise vulnerability planning and identified preliminary community-defined adaptation strategies. The project included a hands-on water reclamation and rain garden project co-installed by youth. Project partners included the East Palo Alto Climate Change Community Team and organizations including Anamatangi Polynesian Voices and Youth United for Community Action.
County of San Mateo South Coast Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Report
This assessment documents the current and future impacts of sea level rise on the South Coast region of the county, from the southern end of Half Moon Bay to Pescadero, and includes potential physical and economic impacts on buildings, roads, farmland, and recreation. The report provides an overview of adaptation options and guidance for planning and implementing resilience strategies in an equitable and community-oriented way.