Climate Change

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.

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

For more information on the ART Program, visit the ART Portfolio website

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.

On July 20, 2017, BCDC unanimously initiated two amendments to the San Francisco Bay Plan to address fill for habitat projects and social equity and environmental justice.

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.

As part of the project application analysis, BCDC’s Regulatory Program engages in the following activities related to climate change:

  • 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

Resources