The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) was created in 1965 to protect and enhance San Francisco Bay and encourage the Bay's responsible and productive use for this and future generations. As we learn more about the potential impacts of climate change, particularly rising sea level rise, and its implications for shoreline development and the Bay's natural resources, BCDC has developed a Climate Change Program addressing the issue, with several initiatives.
Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Program
The Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Program works with stakeholders around the Bay Area to understand their vulnerability to sea level rise and how future flooding will communities, businesses, infrastructure, and natural systems. Since 2011, the ART Program has conducted research and provided tools, guidance, and information to local cities and counties to help support complex decision-making around climate adaptation. ART has conducted projects at the regional, local, and sectoral scales.
The Bay Shoreline Flood Explorer, BCDC’s online flood mapping tool, is intended to be used as a planning guide to understand where our shoreline is at risk from current and future flooding from sea level rise and storms.
Recent ART project include
The ART Program has also completed the following ART projects
- Alameda County Art Project
- Contra Costa County ART Project
- Eastern Contra Costa County
- Hayward Shoreline Resilience Study
- Oakland/Alameda Resilience Study
For more information on the ART Program, visit the ART Portfolio website.
Plans and Policies for Rising Sea Level
The two objectives of the San Francisco Bay Plan are to protect the Bay as a great natural resource for the benefit of present and future generations and to develop the Bay and its shoreline to their highest potential with a minimum of Bay filling. Recent amendments to the Bay Plan have focused on promoting shoreline resilience in light of climate change.
Climate Change Bay Plan Amendment
BCDC updated the Bay Plan in October 2011 to address the expected impacts of climate change in San Francisco Bay. See a summary of the Climate Change policies, and the full findings and policies within the Bay Plan.
Policies for a Rising Bay
The Policies for a Rising Bay Project, released in November 2016, was a NOAA grant-funded project during which BCDC collaboratively evaluated fill policies in light of sea level rise to develop policy options that would promote shoreline resilience and Bay protection.
Public Workshop Series on Rising Sea Level
In 2016 the Commission initiated a public workshop series to increase its efforts to address rising sea levels in the San Francisco Bay region. The workshop series provided the Commission, stakeholders, and other members of the public with an opportunity to reflect upon past and current efforts to address rising sea levels and to determine the best approaches for BCDC to undertake going forward.
Fill for Habitat Bay Plan Amendment
On October 3, 2019, BCDC took a historic step by adopting a major amendment to the Bay Plan (BPA No. 2-17) to allow more fill in the Bay for habitat projects. While BCDC was created to limit harmful fill in the Bay, the agency found this change to be a necessary response to rising sea level. The policy changes are expected to increase the resilience of coastal habitat around the Bay by allowing more fill for sea level rise adaptation of these natural areas, and by addressing a range of topics including project monitoring and adaptive management; pilot projects; project sustainability; and natural and nature-based features for shoreline protection. The new policies are expected to take effect in early-mid 2020.
Environmental Justice and Social Equity Bay Plan Amendment
On October 17, 2019, BCDC, for the first time, took steps to recognize the history of environmental injustices around the Bay Area. BCDC adopted a major amendment to the Bay Plan (BPA No. 3-19) that incorporates principles of environmental justice and social equity into the planning and permitting of shoreline projects throughout the Bay Area. These new policies are intended to ensure that all feel welcome at the Bay shoreline, disproportionate project impacts are addressed, underrepresented communities are involved in the development of the Bay, and all benefit from BCDC’s work.
Incorporating Climate Change into BCDC’s Regulatory program
As part of the project application analysis, BCDC’s Regulatory Program engages in the following activities related to climate change:
Implementation of the California Ocean Protection Council’s Sea Level Rise Guidance through the San Francisco Bay Plan Climate Change policies:
- Sea level rise risk assessments are required for larger shoreline projects
- Fill in the Bay may be placed to protect development from flooding and must be:
- set back to avoid flooding
- elevated above expected flood levels
- designed to tolerate flooding
- or employ other means of addressing flood risks
- Shoreline protection projects must be designed to withstand effects of projected sea level rise
- Public access must be designed and maintained to avoid flood damage
- Ecosystem restoration projects must be designed to provide space for marsh migration as sea level rises
Participation in the Bay Restoration Regulatory Integration Team (BRRIT), which was created to improve the permitting process for multi-benefit wetland restoration projects and associated flood management and public access infrastructure in San Francisco Bay
San Francisco Bay Trail creation and enhancement for the continued promotion of non-motorized transportation, carbon emissions reductions, and public access across the region
Wetland restoration project assessment in accordance with the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals and other regional ecosystem targets
Other Resources on Sea Level Rise
- California Ocean Protection Council Updating the State of California Sea-level Rise Guidance
- NOAA Office for Coastal Management Sea Level Rise Viewer
- Our Coast Our Future (OCOF)
- The Climate Central – Surging Seas
- California King Tides Initiative
- Bay Area Climate Action Network (BayCAN)
- Coastal Hazards Adaptation (CHARG)
- Bay Area Regional Collaborative (BARC)
- Resilient by Design
- San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority
- The San Francisco Estuary Institute Operational Landscape Units
- San Francisco Bay Adaptation Atlas
- San Francisco Estuary Partnership
- U.S. Geological Survey
- State Water Resources Control Board Climate Change Program