Surrounded by beautiful golden hills and sparkling water, San Rafael appears to be safely nestled in a protected crook of the northern San Francisco Bay. But there is a largely invisible danger that our city needs to address. Global sea level rise threatens a large area of San Rafael as much of our waterfront is unprotected and difficult to access in case of emergency. The good news is that community organizations, residents, and business owners are already working together to create plans for emergency preparedness.
What are the Risks?
Flooding poses several very real risks to San Rafael’s people and property:
- 25% of San Rafael’s population lives within the 100-year flood zone in East San Rafael (approximately 15,000 people live in the Canal, Spinnaker/Bay Point Neighborhoods.) In a major flood, these neighborhoods would suffer great loss without adequate preparation. Homes, automobiles, and business inventories would be flooded. A toxic stew of household chemicals, sewage, gasoline, oils, and fluids could be released into the flood waters.
- Businesses providing 66% of San Rafael’s sales tax revenue would be disrupted
- An elementary school, Al Boro Center, grocery stores, the County Health and Wellness Center and a fire station could be flooded.
- Access to East San Rafael could be cut off (Bellam Boulevard and Francisco Boulevard East could be flooded and unusable).
- Our immigrant community — the people Marin County depends on to provide services ranging from health care, construction, food and beverage, maintenance and repair — could be forced out of their homes and lose their transportation (automobiles) to jobs.
Working Together Against Flooding, Earthquakes and Sea Level Rise
The Multicultural Center of Marin (MCM) has convened a new group dedicated to helping the the Canal community become better prepared for natural emergencies. The Canal Emergency Preparedness Committee (CEPC) is comprised of local leaders and business owners, plus city officials. Regular members include Douglas Mundo (Director of MCM), Maite Duran (Alcohol Justice), Quinn Gardner (City of San Rafael, Emergency Manager), Milton Davis (Davis Sign Co.), Erick Winkler (Red Cross), Maggie Lang (CERT), and Jeff Rhoads (Resilient Shore).
The expectation of all participants is to share skills, knowledge, and expertise to identify what’s best for local families and communities in the event of a disaster. Their vision is threefold:
- To foster an authentic community engagement process that incorporates social justice
- To create realistic, actionable plans that will be executed in a timely manner
- To collaborate with the City of San Rafael and others to solve problems and find opportunities that benefit all people equitably
The CEPC aims to foster an authentic community engagement process that results in concrete solutions. The group meets 10 times a year, and the next meeting will occur in February. Meetings are open to anyone who is interested in participating, so please check Multicultural Center of Marin’s website for exact date. Although the CEPC is still in its inception, they have already achieved several of their immediate goals.
- CEPC members collaborated on a draft emergency response plan, which will be refined and finalized this year.
- In 2018, the San Rafael Fire Department and Alcohol Justice youth and adult training program joined together to provided bilingual emergency preparedness training for community members. Quinn Gardener provided leadership for the effort. She joined the Fire Department as its new Emergency Preparedness Coordinator in 2018.
- In 2018, the Red Cross completed a smoke and carbon monoxide detector installation program in the Canal Neighborhood in cooperation with the CEPC.
- During 2018 National Night Out, the CEPC provided resources and information about emergency preparedness to the East San Rafael community.
2016 FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map showing the Central and East San Rafael Valley. Downtown San Rafael is in the upper left corner and the Junction of US 101 and I-580 is in the center. The bay is on the right side. The light blue area would become flooded in a “100 year” storm (1% probability in any year) with the water depth dependent on elevation. A flood would happen during the simultaneous occurrence of a king tide and major storm with rain for several days. This kind of atmospheric river storm caused the great Redwood Empire 1964 flood. At its peak, the Eel River discharged as much water into the Pacific as the average flow of the Mississippi River. Without adaptation and flood risk reduction measures, the blue area will eventually be inundated by the bay.
Emergency Preparedness Planning for the Future
Short Term Objectives:
- Address immediate life safety concerns including fire safety (smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, family emergency preparedness plans)
- Improve emergency preparedness response within the community
- Improve emergency notification to residences and businesses. Informing people of predictable events including impending floods hours before they occur will allow orderly actions to move people and property out of harm’s way.
- Identify escape routes and safe places to go (for example high ground to move automobiles and people to – the former land fill site including Target and Home Depot is the highest ground located in East San Rafael)
Longer Term Objectives:
- Harden critical community facilities, including Al Boro Center at Pickleweed Park and Bahia Vista School, so they can serve as community refuges in the event of a flood or earthquake.
- Improve access and egress to and from East San Rafael including a pedestrian bridge over the Canal, building the missing section of Kerner Boulevard and a new interchange on I 580 that also connects Kerner Boulevard to Andersen Drive
- Prepare and Implement a Shore Resiliency Plan for East and Central San Rafael
What You Can Do to Help
The Emergency Preparedness Council is seeking volunteers. You can get more information or sign up here. But also, emergency preparation begins at the individual level. Protect yourself in the event of a disaster. We recommend:
- Prepare a Disaster Kit (PDF)
- Create an Evacuation Plan (PDF)
- Get CERT Trained
- Sign up for the Marin Emergency Notification System.
- Get to know your neighbors
We welcome your input! Please email us questions, ideas, or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org