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Council to Discuss Potential Impact of Sea Level Rise on Palo Alto

Council to Discuss Potential Impact of Sea Level Rise on Palo Alto

Scientists agree that climate change has led to global increases in temperature and sea level rise. The San Francisco Bay has seen 0.63 feet of sea level rise over the last century, and while opinions vary on the rate of the sea level rise, there is little disagreement that the pace is accelerating.

What does this mean for Palo Alto and how will the City need to prepare and adapt? That will be the focus of a study session on sea level rise at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 31.

The combination of sea level rise and possible changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change will mean low-lying areas surrounding the San Francisco Bay will flood more frequently and more severely, and areas that are already flood-prone will be inundated. There are about 2,700 Palo Alto properties that are currently at risk of flooding from a one percent (100-year) high tide event assuming no sea level rise, due to levees along San Francisquito Creek that do not meet federal standards. 

A number of critical City facilities and other infrastructure are within the floodplain such as the airport, golf course, animal services, Regional Water Quality Control Plant and U.S. 101. 

The main concepts outlined by staff to inform the discussion include:

• Protect (e.g. levees, floodwalls, wetlands)

• Adapt (e.g. build any new or substantially-improved structures elevated above future flood levels or as structures that can be submerged without sustaining appreciable damage)

• Retreat (e.g. either partially/seasonably or completely surrender an area to rising sea level)

Based on the Council's input and discussion, staff will return in the coming months with specific recommendations. Click here for the Staff Report.

Last Updated: May 2, 2016