Peninsula cities band together as sea level rise threatens homes, businesses

FOSTER CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Climate experts have long identified the Peninsula as vulnerable as sea and bay levels rise. Leaders in San Mateo County and its 20 cities have banded together to plan and fund projects to raise levees and control flooding.

With sunny skies and warm temperatures, this Good Friday is a perfect day to take a walk or bike ride along the San Francisco Bay Trail, which runs atop the levee in Foster City that protects its residents from bay waters. However, the levee is no match for the rising tide that's expected.

RELATED: U.C. Berkeley study predicts dramatic sea level rise for the Bay Area

"We know with substantial certainty that the bay will rise by three feet by the turn of the century," said Dave Pine, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, "and as we see storm events in the years ahead, we are going to have flooding."

Pine and other Peninsula leaders gathered on Friday for a summit at Canada College in Redwood City, ominously titled, "Floods, Drought, Rising Seas, Oh My!" They are working collaboratively on hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in projects to address sea level change, flooding and water quality.

The levee in Foster City is one example. Residents of Foster City are being asked to approve a $90 million bond measure in June to raise the levee. Its integrity is important to the value of homes lining Beach Park Boulevard across the street where the home values range from $1.3 million to $1.9 million. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, determined in 2014 that the levee must be raised.

RELATED: Scientists say Great Barrier Reef damaged due to global warming

"If the project doesn't move forward," said Jeff Moneda, Foster City's public works director, "there is a concern as people sell properties, they would have to disclose that we're in a flood hazard area, and historically, Foster City has not been in a flood zone designation."

It's believed San Mateo County is the most vulnerable region to sea level rise in all of California. The shore is lined with well-known companies like Facebook, which is contributing money toward a study of the levees protecting its Menlo Park campus.

However, some projects do run into controversy, such plans for a stormwater capture facility that requires excavation at a park.

"And even though you're going to return the park to its natural state afterward," said Matt Fabry, "that's a significant impact on a community, and we're definitely starting to see pushback from communities." Fabry is in charge of the stormwater runoff program for the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County.

The hard lifting starts now and is expected to take decades to address.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on nature.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.