Flooding Study Results Require Action

When heavy rains returned to California last winter after an extensive drought, some Bay Area cities experienced flooding for the first time in many years.  Now, a new study shows that kind of flooding will become chronic in many Bay Area locations in the decades to come.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report provides even more detail on how much climate change will affect specific Bay shoreline cities, and how soon.

As early as 2035, neighborhoods all around the Bay Area–on Bay Farm Island, Alameda, Redwood Shores, Sunnyvale, Alviso, Corte Madera, and Larkspur– would experience flooding 26 times per year or more, and that’s with moderate sea level rise.  By 2060, the number of affected neighborhoods grows to include Oakland, Milpitas, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and others along the corridor between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. If the sea level rises faster, that frequency of flooding will occur sooner. Read the full report at http://bit.ly/2vacc5j.

The report raises another problem. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s maps of flood-prone areas are outdated and don’t reflect sea level rise projections. Those maps determine where property owners can and cannot qualify for federally-subsidized flood insurance, and where communities must construct additional flood protection to retain that insurance.

Outdated maps give communities a false sense of security and lead to uninformed development decisions.  Just ask those homeowners near Coyote Creek in San Jose who were flooded out a few months ago.

The State of California and its agencies, including the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, should be aggressively reducing risks to people and property from climate impacts – that has been explicit in the State’s climate adaptation strategy since 2009.  Pressing FEMA for updated maps should be high on the priority list.

Here’s a report on the UCS study in the San Jose Mercury News, which quotes Save The Bay:

A Feb. 21 photo from a San Jose city worker shows flooding at 1742 Rock Springs Drive. (City of San Jose)
A Feb. 21 photo from a San Jose city worker shows flooding at 1742 Rock Springs Drive. (City of San Jose)

Chronic flooding from rising seas could plague many Bay Area waterfront communities such as East Palo Alto, Alameda and San Mateo within four decades, a nonprofit science group said in a report released Wednesday.

While other studies have predicted inundation of coastal cities, this new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists is the first to put dates on when towns that ring the San Francisco Bay would regularly experience chronic flooding.

Rather than slam shoreline communities with epic floods every few years, rising sea levels threatens to flood streets, yards, parks, homes and businesses in low-lying areas several times a year, the scientists said.

“Cities around the San Francisco Bay will begin to experience more frequent and disruptive flooding in the coming decades and will have to make tough decisions around whether to defend existing homes and businesses or to retreat,” said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, senior analyst in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS and a report author.

Airports and low-income housing in low areas are particularly vulnerable, the study said.

While airports can draw on business income to pay for defenses against rising seas, many poorer neighborhoods are hard pressed to afford bigger seawalls or levees or to move people out of flood-prone areas, said Kristy Dahl, a UCS climate scientist and co-author of the report.

She said the report underscores the need for federal policies to help local communities.

“We shouldn’t have some communities left behind simply because they don’t have the resources of their neighbors,” Dahl said in an Oakland press conference to discuss the study. “A large number of these communities don’t have the resources they truly need to adapt.”

Last year, the federal government announced its first grant to buy and relocate a small town — Isle de Jean Charles, La. — for $48 million after concluding it was not worth trying to save the community in place.

The Union for Concerned Scientists study assessed three scenarios — low, intermediate and high sea-level rise — by the years 2060 and 2100, depending on the pace of emissions and melting rates of polar ice. An interactive series of maps show when inundated communities may reach tipping point, with at least 10 percent of usable land flooded at least 26 times per year.

The study found that:

  • By 2060, in the high sea level rise scenario, parts of many Bay Area communities would face flooding 26 times or more per year, or every other week. Communities with affected neighborhoods include Alameda, Oakland, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Burlingame, San Francisco, Corte Madera and Larkspur.
  • By 2100, in the intermediate sea level rise scenario, chronic flooding would affect public infrastructure such as San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, San Quentin State Prison, Moffett Federal Airfield and the Bay Bridge.
  • By 2100, in the intermediate sea level rise scenario, two Bay Area communities would see more than 10 percent of their land chronically flooded: Alameda and San Mateo.
  • By 2100, in the high sea level rise scenario, more than half of Alameda, about 11 percent of South San Francisco and about 14 percent of Oakland’s land area would be chronically flooded.

“Imagine what it would be like to have your driveway and backyard flooded every every other week on average,” Dahl said, “And you can’t let your kids play in the back yard because it’s flooded.”

The “low scenario” assumes a San Francisco Bay water level rise of around 2 feet by 2100, a carbon emissions decline, and global warming limited to less than two degrees Celsius — in line with the primary goal of the Paris Agreement.

The “intermediate scenario” projects a four-foot water level rise and carbon emissions peaking around mid-century and about four feet of sea level rise globally. In the high scenario, emissions rise through the end of the century and ice melts faster, causing 6.5 feet of sea  level rise.

The group applauded efforts by cities such as San Francisco and Foster City, which already have begun planning where and how to build seawalls and levees. Other regions — such as the cities of Alameda, Hayward and Oakland and Contra Costa, San Mateo, Alameda and Santa Clara  counties — are close behind, identifying potential strategies.

Welcoming the report, David Lewis of the Oakland-based nonprofit Save The Bay said it underscored the need for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update Bay Area flood maps to reflect new projections. Those flood maps determine where property owners can and cannot qualify for federally-subsidized flood insurance, and where communities must construct additional flood protection to retain that insurance.

He urged the state to press FEMA to update the maps. Congress also must be prodded to provide funding for the updates, he added.

“If maps don’t incorporate projections for sea level rise — and for increased frequency of flooding from extreme storms independent of sea level rise — then communities have a false sense of security, and property values, as well as public and private planning and development decisions, don’t accurately reflect risks,” said Lewis.

“Ask those homeowners near Coyote Creek,” which flooded last winter, he said.


This article was originally published in The Mercury News by Lisa Kreiger and Denis Cuff on 7/12/2017. 

A Look Back at the Women’s March

On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.
On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.

I bought my tickets for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. two days after the election while overwhelmed by emotion and anger. It had been years since I’d been to a march. As a working mom, I started seeing my pride in and role of building partnerships at Save The Bay as my daily contribution to making the world a better place. So I arrived in Washington, D.C. before Inauguration Day feeling hopeless like many others. I was sick, missing my son and community back in Oakland, and not wanting to believe that the United States was about to swear in a dangerous and corrupt President Donald J. Trump.

“We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.”

 

But my despair was met with hope on Jan. 21, 2017—and I joined an estimated 1 Million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values.  And that is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in. You connect with others and experience moments of solidarity and cooperation for divisive days ahead.

We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.
We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist. We collectively represented a range of aspirations from criminal justice reform to investing in scientific research and addressing climate change to safeguarding LGBTQ rights. We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

Cheering traveled through an unending sea of faces and signs like waves. It was massive. The crowd was exuberant, most forgetting all of the effort it took to get there. We bought plane tickets, traveled long distances, organized, and prepared ourselves for the long cold walk ahead. At one point we got trapped in the National Mall, and people began boosting each other up on posts. People lent helping hands and words of encouragement as we all took turns one-by-one, vaulting three feet above the crowd to take in the full view. Before the march officially started, the route that was originally mapped out for us was already full and no marching could take place.  Enormous groups took alternative streets to march to the White House. We marched and waited hours to deposit signs on a fence that sent a clear message, “We are the 51 percent minority.”

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist.

The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. shook me up and inspired me to find new ways to live my days in hope and connection with other people. My eyes are wide open.  Resistance to the Trump Administration’s incredible power grab is going to require daily persistence. We all have the opportunity to find local spaces to show up and integrate taking action into our daily lives to protect the most vulnerable people and the planet. Because of the Women’s March, I will not forget that not only am I a Bay Saver, but I am also a part of the people’s majority and one of millions. We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.

Why I Will March 

I will participate in the Women's March in Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 21 not just for Save The Bay, but for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.
I will participate in the Women’s March in Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 21 not just for Save The Bay, but for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.

I distinctly remember my first protest march.  My school’s soccer team was supposed to play the Columbine soccer team the day of the now-infamous mass shooting.  The NRA’s annual convention was slated to be held in downtown Denver days after the shooting took place.  They did not cancel their convention out of respect for the victims, as many had hoped they would.

So, we marched.  We circled their hotel, holding hands, singing songs, and crying.  I was 17 years old.

My next protest march took place in downtown Boston.  Under the leadership of George W. Bush, the U.S. had just invaded Iraq.  As a graduating senior with a degree in modern political history, I was bursting with ideas and passion.  After all, I had just learned how world wars were started – power games between state and non-state actors, alliances, domino effects.  My friends and I were convinced the invasion was a mistake, and while we didn’t know it at the time, we would end up being right.

So, we marched.

A year or so later, now freshly ensconced in the progressive Bay Area, a friend asked if I wanted to join something called the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C.  Women’s equality, fair pay, and reproductive freedom have always been cornerstone values for me, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join with thousands of others in celebrating and advancing them.  And so, ignoring the hordes of anti-choice protesters holding graphic signs, we marched.  That march changed my life and led me to work professionally on women’s reproductive health issues for nearly a decade.

 you cannot isolate reproductive freedom from environmental justice, racial inequity from economic achievement, or education from poverty.” 

 

Now it is 2017, and I am no longer a fresh-faced teenager or an idealistic college student.  I’m a mother, a wife, and a leader at a respected environmental organization.  I am much more aware of my privilege, which has influenced in uncountable ways the opportunities I have been given and successes I have achieved.  I am acutely attuned to the connectivity of privilege, and how you cannot isolate reproductive freedom from environmental justice, racial inequity from economic achievement, or education from poverty.  These issues are inextricably linked – to march for one value means marching for them all.

And so, this Saturday, Jan. 21, I will march in Oakland, this time joined by my husband and our two-year-old son.  I will march for women’s reproductive justice and equality. I will march because Black Lives Matter, and I cannot escape nor deny my own white privilege or that of my son’s. I will march against climate change deniers because facts are facts, and in the coastal Bay Area we are on the front lines of this battle.  I will march for peace around the world and in the streets of Oakland, the city I now call home. I will march for my friends and family members who don’t conform to typical gender roles and should have the same freedom to follow their hearts and love who they love.  I will march for immigrants because less than two generations ago it was my grandmother on the boat far from her home seeking a better life.

I will represent Save The Bay at this march, but not just Save The Bay.  When I march on Saturday, I will be marching for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.

I hope you will march with me.

Why I’m joining the Women’s March

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I’m not a woman, but I will march with them, for them, and for our environment when I take part in the Women’s March on Saturday.

I am not the marching type, but I’ll be there for the SF Women’s March.  

You could say I’m torn. In general, I’m uneasy with the edge-of-chaos vibe of street protests. I’m unnerved by how often peaceful protests get hijacked by vandals and thugs, especially near my home in Oakland. And chanting mobs—even those that echo my personal opinions—tend to creep me out.

But I also believe that mass protest is one of the most powerful tools for giving voice to marginalized people and ideas. Protests can fuel a movement with spiritual strength and emotional resonance, and inspire the emergence of new leaders: Passionate change-makers who will keep fighting for what’s right, long after the crowds have dispersed and the headlines have faded. The promise of that real, sustained impact inspires me to march.

I am not a woman, but I will take part in the Women’s March.

Like millions of men across the country, I am deeply offended by the disgusting behavior toward women that we have seen from our new president. I am angry about the blatant sexism that played a far bigger role—on the left and the right—in Hillary Clinton’s loss than many of us want to acknowledge. And I genuinely believe that more women’s voices, on the streets and in the halls of power, are essential to restoring sanity to our country’s politics.

I am proud that my environmental work carries on the legacy of three strong, passionate women who faced the powers-that-be of their day, and created the country’s first real grassroots environmental movement. The legacy of Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick inspires me to march.

I’ll march for women, for the environment, and so much more when I take part in the Women’s March.

Over the months and years ahead, a real challenge for those of us who oppose the new administration’s awful policies will be to avoid infighting over what issues get attention and which fights get prioritized. If the Women’s Marches all across the country have any lesson for us going forward, it is that we must stand together across many issues—from reproductive rights to racial justice, press freedom to environmental protection and beyond. That’s how we show our collective power. The notion of joining together in a coalition of shared values, to protect people and planet, inspires me to march.

I’m Choosing People Over Politics

Allison Chan_07e (800x537)
As we witness the official upheaval of our country’s leadership, I am ready to collaborate with anyone who, regardless of their political views, are trying to do the right thing for people, communities, and our natural resources.

Like many of us, on the night of the election I cried.

I cried for women, for immigrants, for people who have been wronged by a racially-biased justice system, for the unemployed, for the LGBTQ community, and for our environment. I cried for the daughter I’m about to bring into the world, that the society she will be born into is one in which you can mock, ridicule, and verbally abuse people on national television and still win a presidential election.

So I stuck my head in the sand. I barely opened Facebook for weeks (gasp). I limited most of my online interaction to looking at people’s vacation and holiday photos. But in this virtual absence I did a lot of thinking. Certainly we have more power than we think—even in the election aftermath people across the country successfully demanded justice and change in their communities. We may have not been able to stop the inauguration or these asinine cabinet appointments, but starting today we can respond by being strategic, creative, and collaborative. And honestly, if you live in California, you have an obligation to keep your head up and show that change is possible, no matter who’s in the Oval Office.

“We may have not been able to stop the inauguration or these asinine cabinet appointments, but starting today we can respond by being strategic, creative, and collaborative.”

 

In the Bay Area, we’re in a double bubble: we have many local elected officials who are committed to ensuring safe and equitable communities where our natural environment will thrive, while our state legislators have vowed to resist any attempts by the administration to reverse the social, economic, and environmental progress we have made in our state and country. If we don’t take advantage of our favorable political circumstances here in California, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

As we witness the official upheaval of our country’s leadership, I’ve decided I’m ready to take my head out of the sand. I’m ready to do my part to ensure that the new administration is held accountable for any poor judgment and negligence that it demonstrates. I’m also ready to collaborate with anyone who, regardless of their political views, is trying to do the right thing for people, communities, and our natural resources.

That’s what really matters, and we must believe in our collective ability to succeed.