Recognizing the threat that sea level rise poses to South San Francisco over the coming decades, officials and community members will convene to discuss strategies for protecting the city’s share of the Bayshore from flooding.
South San Francisco officials will host Tuesday, Jan. 12, a discussion with county Supervisor Dave Pine, San Francisco Estuary Institute representative Jeremy Lowe and Richard Mullane with architecture firm Hassell Studio to discuss sea level rise protection opportunities.
City Manger Mike Futrell said the conversation will address the dangers associated with sea level rise, as well as the variety of alternatives that exist to safeguard the residents and businesses included in the potential flood zone.
For his part, Futrell noted the urgency of advancing the initiative immediately to assure South San Francisco is adequately prepared for when the Bay’s water is projected to begin encroaching on to land.
“You don’t see the evidence of it today, but it is not something that is a quick and easy fix,” he said. “So we need to get working on it.”
The discussion is moving ahead with a general plan update, which officials are hoping to continue refining over the coming year with the expectation of adoption by next year.
In South San Francisco, Futrell said infrastructure along the city’s north shore and eastern region has largely been bolstered through a combination of natural alternatives and investment from companies developing new workspaces.
Left unprotected is a southern stretch where attention has been focused to protect the billions of dollars in commercial investment by the city’s biotech industry, as well as residents and companies in the Lindenville neighborhood.
“A large portion of the city is projected to go under water, or be at risk of going under water,” said Futrell.
Futrell said the city’s options for addressing sea level rise span from doing nothing and allowing waters to rise unencumbered to building a wall around South San Francisco to fend off any potential threat.
He framed both options as tremendously expensive, either in costs associated with moving the millions of square feet of development or building an impenetrable sea wall. San Francisco International Airport, the southern neighbor of South San Francisco, is planning to build a sea wall — which Futrell said is easier for an isolated entity than an entire city.
In pursuit of a compromise, Futrell said hybrid models offering natural protection as well as engineered solutions will be examined by officials, community members and experts planning the project.
While the hybrid alternative may be less costly than the other two options, Futrell did not mince words regarding the price tag associated with any strategy ultimately adopted.
“No matter what we design, it will be massively expensive,” he said.
To this point, South San Francisco has collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on plans. Ultimately, Futrell said officials are hopeful to work with the federal government on the project with hopes of receiving some financial assistance.
It is yet to be determined the exact costs facing the city, and Futrell said ultimately those who own land in the threatened area could be asked to share some of the financial burden associated with the effort.
“It’s too early to tell whether that is something the city can handle with its existing revenue, or will we have to look at the businesses that are being impacted — they have the most at stake,” he said.
Before the conversation can reach such detailed levels, Futrell said officials and community members must aggressively work in pursuit of determining the best way to protect South San Francisco.
“We want to approach it with some urgency,” he said.
The sea level rise discussion will occur 6 p.m.. Tuesday, Jan. 12. Visit shapessf.com/event/addressing-sea-level-rise-and-flooding-cac-forum-4/ for more information.