Missing the Boat on Sea Level Rise Plan


Current policy decisions are shaping our shoreline’s future, and Alameda is missing the boat. 

On May 30, the Planning Board unanimously approved a plan for the Alameda Marina that provides protection for three feet of sea level rise, even though the State of California says we should anticipate six feet. The project calls for increasing the sea wall’s height in the future “should it be necessary.” No one from the board bothered to address this concern or ask who will pay for the adaptive measures should a three-foot wall prove inadequate.

Days later, on June 5, Mayor Trish Spencer, Vice Mayor Malia Vella and Councilmember Jim Oddie decided not to pursue putting an infrastructure bond measure on the ballot that included climate-adaptation revenue. The bond, to be paid back in 36 years through property taxes, would have provided funds to specifically upgrade storm drains and pump stations to prevent flooding and keep pollution from the Bay. It would also have provided specific funds for repairing sidewalks, streets, potholes and city buildings.

The Council instead decided to pursue a sales tax ballot measure for this November’s election that would indefinitely increase our local sales tax by a half-cent to pay for city services, such as public safety and social programs.

Meanwhile on that same night, 80 percent of voters in Foster City approved a $90 million bond measure to raise their existing levees to reduce flood risk. The move avoids residents having to pay annually for flood insurance as required by FEMA. Residents’ property taxes will repay the bond.

It’s time for Alameda leaders to get on board and become as proactive as Foster City. It would be less expensive to prepare for high water and storm surges now rather than having to respond later.

A new citywide climate-adaptation policy is expected to be released a year from now, in June 2019. This will highlight costly infrastructure needs.

Having infrastructure bond money already lined up would allow us to both implement the climate adaptation recommendations and get started tackling the $200 million worth of repairs and upgrades currently identified by the Public Works Department.

We could also be doing something immediately at the City Council level. The Alameda Marina project goes before the council for final approval on Tuesday, July 10. Hopefully, the Council will adjust the height requirement for the new sea wall (which will be owned by the city, but constructed by the developer) so that it is in line with the state’s current sea-level-rise projections.