Friday, August 18, 2023

San Francisco Looking Ahead To The Cleansing Waters Of The Pacific Washing Away The Political Taint Of 60 Years Of Mismanagement.

From Yahoo News, February 22, 2023:

SAN FRANCISCO — On a brisk February morning, a portable orange traffic sign set up near the intersection of Mission Street and Embarcadero shuddered in the wind, blinking a warning to passing drivers: “Caution: King tides.”

Waves from San Francisco Bay now regularly breach the pier and spill into the streets at this spot during tidal surges and helped convince city officials that sea level rise caused by climate change is no longer a problem that can be ignored.

“It was into my second year that I realized that my whole job and the organization was going to do this work,” Port of San Francisco executive director Elaine Forbes, who was appointed to her position in 2016 by then-Mayor Ed Lee, said beneath the Ferry Building’s broken clock tower, its hands fixed to either high noon or midnight as it undergoes repairs. “You’re on the line of defense.”

A semi-independent entity, the port oversees 7.5 miles of the city’s coastal facilities along the bay, leasing out a wide array of properties, including landmarks like Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the Ferry Building, a cruise ship terminal and Oracle Park, where the Giants play baseball. Its revenues are crucial to the city’s bottom line, and in 2018 Forbes mobilized her office to help ensure the passage of Prop A, a voter initiative that raised $425 million in taxpayer funds to begin addressing repairs and seismic upgrades to a 3-mile section of the city’s crumbling, more-than-100-year-old sea wall in anticipation of sea level rise.

“We said at the time, this is really a down payment for the problem,” Forbes recounted.

Since then, projections for how bad that problem will get have only become more dire. In 2020, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the nonpartisan fiscal and policy adviser to the California Legislature, issued a report stating that under a scenario of continued high greenhouse gas emissions, San Francisco could see as much as 7 feet of sea level rise by 2100.

In response to that grim new estimate, Forbes and the port’s commissioners announced last fall that they were partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a comprehensive yearlong study examining how best to protect the vulnerable waterfront. Doing nothing, everyone seemed to agree, was not an option.

“The increased frequency of flooding that you’ll see as the bay comes up and you have more frequent tidal flooding, the numbers are in the billions in terms of the damages that will accumulate from that,” Brian Harper, a director of planning with the Army Corps, told Yahoo News.

But just as significant increases in sea level will result in monumental damages, adequately protecting communities from the additional rise will also become much more expensive. Complicating San Francisco’s efforts, the pandemic has badly diminished revenues from tourism and financial district foot traffic, forcing port officials to go hat-in-hand to city, state and federal entities in search of money to use to harden the coastline against rising waters.

“We’re not even at a scale to pretend to be able to pay for this project,” Forbes said. “We have a $114 million balance sheet, maybe a little higher. If we’re lucky, we have a $25 million capital budget that we squeeze out of our net revenues.”

While noting that any estimate on how much a fix will cost depends on what the Army Corps recommends in its report, Forbes speculates that the range could end up between $10 billion and $30 billion. Other experts, however, believe that guess could be too low....


It's possible I misunderstood the thrust of the article. 

On the other hand, foregoing the project frees up some cash for the reparations plan:

"The $5 million payments could top $100 billion — many times the $14 billion annual budget in San Francisco —
and London Breed , the city’s mayor, has not committed to cash reparations"
New York Times, May 16, 2023

So a win-win.