Adapting to Rising Tides: Mission Creek waterfront area in San Francisco

This Project is part of an international collaboration between the Netherlands-based Stichting (Foundation) Delta Alliance, the City and County of San Francisco (City), the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and SPUR to develop sea level rise adaptation alternatives for the Mission Creek waterfront area in San Francisco.

In 2008 the Dutch national government initiated the Knowledge for Climate Research Program. This program is aimed at conducting research and development of adaptation strategies to make the Netherlands climate proof for the future. One of the program objectives is to engage with other coastal areas around the world to share the outcomes of the research program, learn how these other regions are adapting to climate change and build a network of organizations that are involved in adaptation planning. Stichting Delta Alliance was created as a non-profit to administer and manage the international projects.

In California the collaboration with BCDC started in 2008-2009 with the ‘San Francisco Bay: Preparing for the Next Level’ adaptation study. One of the major outcomes of the project was a ‘simple and effective’ Strategy Development Method (SDM) for adaptation planning. This method facilitates consideration of ecological and economic growth ambitions for different types of shoreline to come to a preferred adaptation approach.

Project Area and Stakeholders
The adaptation planning project will focus on the Mission Creek area, situated on the northeast side of San Francisco.  Mission Bay, the largest project in the Mission Creek area, is rapidly developing from a former rail yard into a vibrant neighborhood with a new university research campus, new jobs, offices, housing, parks and open spaces and commercial retail areas, including a hotel. The Mission Bay project extends over most of the north and south shorelines of the creek west of the 3rd Street Bridge and along the Bay shoreline south of the creek. East of the 3rd Street Bridge, the north shore of Mission Creek is developed with AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and the South Beach Marina. A shoreline park, a large parking lot and large finger pier facility anchor the south shore of Mission Creek.  A subsidiary of the San Francisco Giants is negotiating a development project for the parking lot (Seawall Lot 337) and pier facility (Pier 48), which would extend the urban and open space character of the Mission Bay project to the northeast corner of the Project area. A San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) sewage and storm water pumping plant anchors the west end of the creek.

Mission Creek is one of the City’s lowest-lying areas and is potentially vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise as well as stormwater runoff. The Port owns and manages much of the waterfront property on the east side of San Francisco and is therefore viewed as the principal agency for protecting the waterfront areas it manages from flooding.  However there are many other responsible agencies, landowners and stakeholders that would be affected by sea level rise and storms with an interest in developing appropriate, effective adaptation solutions. Other participating city agencies in this effort include: SFPUC, the Departments of the Environment, Public Works, Planning, Capital Planning, and the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure.  Private partners include the San Francisco Giants and the Mission Bay Development Group.

Project Goals and Objectives
This Project seeks to build the capacity of San Francisco to address the risks of flooding from sea level rise and storms by developing adaptation alternatives for the Mission Creek area and continuing the exchange of knowledge and information between the Netherlands and California (United States). The four main Project objectives are:

  1. Develop sea level rise and storm water adaptation alternatives for the Mission Creek area portion of the City’s waterfront, including assets within the Mission Creek area, based on the findings of a high-level vulnerability assessment
  2. Apply the lessons learned from the Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) project in Alameda County to the Project area
  3. Further develop and refine the adaptation Strategy Development Method (SDM) to incorporate equity, finance and governance in the selected adaptation methodologies
  4. Exchange knowledge and best practices on climate adaptation between the Netherlands and California

Project Deliverables
The project will result in three deliverables:

  1. A final workshop that presents the project area’s vulnerability assessment, adaptation strategies, and invites project partners to discuss next steps and implementation strategies, including possibly a follow-up MOU
  2. A technical report containing data, maps, interim reports from the project, lessons distilled from the ART Project and the SDM, and a clear explanation of adaptation strategies and alternatives for the project area
  3. An ‘executive summary’ type of report that distills the most important findings, visual information, and alternatives from the technical report that is more accessible to a broader audience.

Project Roles and Responsibilities
This project will be undertaken by participating public agencies, a project manager and a consultant team. Below is a description of the main roles and responsibilities of each project partner.

  • Port of San Francisco is the lead city agency in this project and provides the grant for matching funding to SPUR. Port staff will support the consultant team in providing available existing data and will coordinate with other City agencies to collect data that resides outside of the Port. Port staff will provide knowledge to inform the vulnerability assessment and development of adaptation options. Several City agencies will provide critical data, knowledge, insight and guidance to the project and serve on a technical advisory committee.
  • BCDC is the primary point of contact in the partnership with the Netherlands and Delta Alliance. BCDC staff will serve in a hands-on technical role and contribute significant in-kind staff time to support every phase of the project and bring in the lessons learned in the ART Pilot Project in Alameda County.
  • Delta Alliance is the grant provider from the Dutch side. Delta Alliance will support the consultant team by making connections with knowledge and information that has been developed in the Knowledge for Climate Program. Delta Alliance will not be involved in day-to-day activities within the project, but will participate in two conference calls over the course of the project with SPUR, the consultant team and other project partners as desired to discuss progress and deliverables.
  • SPUR will act as the project manager and will be responsible for managing the budget, schedule and deliverables and will facilitate meetings between the various project partners, and between the project management team and the technical advisory group. SPUR will administer the grant funding provided by the City of San Francisco, and will also provide technical input and feedback to the consultant team on project tasks and deliverables.
  • Consultant Team consisting of Alterra and ARCADIS (lead) will contract with Delta Alliance and SPUR separately. The consultant team has primary responsibility for executing the scope of work described below.

The organizations listed above with the exception of Delta Alliance will form the project management team (PMT). The PMT will meet biweekly in person or over the phone to discuss progress of the project. The PMT will meet more frequently on an as-needed basis to prepare for TAC meetings or deliverables.

Other City agencies and key stakeholders will be represented in a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and will meet in person four times over the course of the project: at the kickoff and closing workshops, and two other times at key points in the project to provide input to the project. The TAC consists of the SFPUC, the Departments of the Environment, Public Works, Planning, and Capital Planning, and the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure. Private partners include the San Francisco Giants and Mission Bay Development Group. Other agencies and entities that may participate in the project through briefings and data-sharing include the SF Municipal Transportation Authority, Caltrain, FEMA, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the Department of Emergency Management, and others.

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