Report: Sea Level Could Rise At Least 7 Feet Along California's Coastline By 2100
Speaker 1: 00:00 You are listening to midday edition. I'm Alison st John. It's already common knowledge that the longer we wait to prepare for sea level rise, the more expensive it will be. A new report out of the California legislative analyst's office has some sobering news about how local governments are preparing and how sea level rise will affect our communities, including how it will complicate our already critical housing shortage. Our guest is Rachel Eylers from the California legislative analyst's office and the lead author of the report. Rachel, thanks for joining us. Speaker 2: 00:31 Thanks so much for having me. Speaker 1: 00:32 So I noticed that your report contains graphs of which parts of the state risk, the highest sea level rise and San Diego is at the top of the list. How high does, does your report estimate? We could see sea level rise within 10 years? Speaker 2: 00:45 Well, within 10 years, the scientists actually have a relative certainty, at least comparatively. Uh, it's looking like about between half a foot and a foot, more or less around the state and including San Diego. We have greater uncertainty as the years get further. But uh, also the potential for the high sea levels gets more and more Speaker 1: 01:08 and uh, San Diego is expecting higher sea level rises than say San Francisco even Speaker 2: 01:13 slightly. Yeah. Speaker 1: 01:14 Now San Diego and of course the state as a whole is in the midst of a housing crisis. And your report suggests California would need to start building 100,000 more housing units annually and coastal cities to mitigate the problems caused by sea level rise. I know that here we need between 10 and 20,000 a year and we've only issued about 7,000 housing permits this year. So how could the sea level rise affect our housing goals? That's not something we thought about much till now. Speaker 2: 01:40 Yeah, I mean it really complicates things because if you look at a land where we might be able to build housing and, and is undeveloped right now and looks like a good spot for, for adding some units, a lot of that land could potentially flood. So that takes it out of consideration or perhaps should take it out of consideration. And then some of our existing stock, uh, for housing right now also faces the likelihood of flooding in future years. So it really constrains the availability of, of where we could build housing at a time when the state is really focusing on that as a goal to try and address some of our housing shortage and housing affordability challenges. Speaker 1: 02:19 What are your estimates of how many housing units could get taken out of commission? Speaker 2: 02:23 You know, we haven't done that kind of kind of estimate. I don't know that anyone has, but I think that's probably information that really should start being part of the conversation at this point. Speaker 1: 02:33 Well, it's interesting because we've already seen the real estate sector resist any attempt to make it more public. How sea level rise could affect property along the coast because it would affect the, the, the values. But your report is calling on a local governance to, to require this information to be part of any kind of real estate transaction in the future. Right? Speaker 2: 02:54 Yeah, I mean, in fact we're actually recommending that the state legislature, uh, have that requirement statewide. We do have disclosures right now for risks like earthquakes and uh, uh, for wildfires. So we think this is pretty consistent and in fact, there's actually more certainty that we will as a state experience some sea level rise than for example, earthquakes, which we don't know the certainty. So we think it's important information for a buyers and sellers to have, uh, because there is, you know, kind of a lack of public awareness at this point of the risks that we're facing. Speaker 1: 03:30 So, so that's for houses that already exist. But as you mentioned, there's the areas where new development might be going up. Is there much evidence that local governments are still permitting developments and land, which could be flooded within the century? Speaker 2: 03:44 I think because it is so much uncertainty at this point and, and lack of awareness both from the public as well as public officials, it just feels like something that's really far off right now. And, uh, local governments are trying to make decisions and respond to the challenges in front of them. So I don't think it is as much of a part of the conversation and planning as it really needs to be. So that's one of the, um, areas of focus of this report is to try and increase the public awareness that though this feels like something that's far off, it's actually something that's coming sooner than we would then we think. And we really need to take it into account in our, in our planning discussions and decisions. Speaker 1: 04:23 Now your report puts much of the responsibility for dealing with this crisis on local government, but isn't it incumbent on the state to play a pretty significant role? I mean, how much money is the stadium MOC to help local governments adapt? Speaker 2: 04:36 Yeah. You know, most of the land use decisions across the state have always lain with local governments and, and there's no indication that anyone wants to change that at this point. So, uh, the state, however, as you noted, has a really important role as well. So in our recommendations to the legislature, it's really focusing on how can the state support local governments in making their decisions and doing the preparation. And some of that is providing funding, uh, to help with planning, uh, coordination and also with providing resources and research and technical assistance from the state level so that local governments don't feel that they're in this on their own and everyone's having to recreate the wheel around the state. So we think the state can play an important role. But again, most of those decisions have always been invested with local governments. Speaker 1: 05:28 Your report does state some sums of money in the tens of millions that the state is willing to spend. Are you recommending that the state weigh in with some more help? Speaker 2: 05:36 Yeah, we found it, you know, it's roughly 70 million over the past five years that the state has provided for some of the planning and preparation activities that have been undertaken thus far. But yeah, that is one of the themes of our report is, is greater investment from the state, uh, in supporting local governments, both in the planning and especially planning across jurisdictions, but also in really doing the work to start implementing some projects and see what works. So we can test some of these strategies. Uh, and, and pair state funding with local funding to try and get some more going on the ground to see what works before the water levels are so high that immediate action needs to be undertaken. Speaker 1: 06:20 Right. Well, speaking of strategies, you define three options of how people could respond, either building walls or barriers which we've seen or making buildings adapt so they can accommodate regular flooding or relocating buildings further away from the ocean. Do you actually recommend any particular strategy? Speaker 2: 06:37 I mean, we think local governments are going and the state as well are been in need to use all of these strategies, uh, depending on the situation. And another thing that, that folks should consider is, is using a combination at different times depending on what the situation is. So maybe some of the, uh, protecting or armoring, not maybe not walls, but potentially, uh, building up sand dunes, building up wetlands, some of the soft armoring approaches that could help buffer waves in the coming decades. W which could help by time before we need some of the more drastic, uh, more difficult, um, approaches which probably will be needed too. Such as relocating key infrastructure Speaker 1: 07:23 a lot to think about. So thank you so much for your report, Rachel. Speaker 2: 07:26 I thank you for having me to discuss it. Speaker 1: 07:28 That's Rachel ALS from the California legislative analyst's office. Speaker 3: 07:36 [inaudible].