Letters from the Executive Director

Winter 2021

Friends and Colleagues!
We start out our February letter on an optimistic note: with a new administration, we’re more solidly on the path to a new normal in our quest to tame the pandemic and its impacts on our lives.
During last Sunday’s 60 Minutes, in case you missed it, Bill Gates threw down the gauntlet for us with his announcement that the U.S. has to lead the world in getting to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Getting to Net Zero by 2050 – or earlier – is our generation’s moon shot. Locally, this means doubling down our efforts to reduce flood risk and adapt to rising seas: including, but not limited to sequestration of carbon in salt and brackish marsh restoration. The payoff is tremendous: not only will we protect what we value, we will build a better San Rafael with repaired ecosystems with improved public access to open space.
Which brings us to Resilient Shore’s current focus: building a stakeholder coalition to work with the city to create a Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan. Congruent with this focus, we hope you’ll take the time to respond to our stakeholder survey on this link.
As part of our coalition-building focus, we will jointly host next month’s March MeetUp with Sustainable San Rafael, where we’ll discuss actions we can take together for sea level rise adaptation and getting to net zero.
Here more news I’m excited about: this month the City submitted a letter of interest to the Association of Bay Area Governments for $800,000 to fund preparation of a Southeast San Rafael/Canal Neighborhood Plan and $150,000 for a technical assistance grant. An invitation for a formal application is expected this summer. The planning grant is available to San Rafael and the technical assistance grant is competitive. Addressing flood risk and sea level rise are a key part of the planning effort, and successfully securing this funding will be a downpayment for a Shore and Watershed Adaptation plan. It will take considerably more to create a comprehensive community-led plan, and this is a wonderful start.
Mayor Collin shared her priorities for the city with the Chamber of Commerce East San Rafael Group in early February. Particularly inspiring to forward-planning wonks like me, is her comprehensive physical planning focus in addressing the city’s main challenges. Her priorities include Climate Change: Emphasis on Sea Level Rise and Wildfire Prevention, Economic Recovery, Housing the Un-housed and Racial Justice. Her success as mayor depends on our active engagement and support.
More “hot-off-the-press” announcements will be forthcoming! Stay tuned.

2020 has brought the best and worst of times for Resilient Shore and the City of San Rafael.

We accomplished much of what we set out to do in spite of myriad pandemic challenges.  2020 was big year for setting the local policy groundwork to prepare a San Rafael Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan.

As wonky as this sounds: policy matters.  It sets the direction for the city’s actions including allocation of staff, resources and funding.

Shore adaptation and flood risk reduction are now identified as one of San Rafael’s top 5 priorities.  Our new mayor, Kate Colin, has identified this as one of her key personal operatives. The 2040 General Plan draft includes policies and programs addressing these existential issues. The General Plan, Downtown Precise Plans and joint environmental impact report certification are tentatively scheduled to be before the City Council for approval in mid 2021. Additional detail on the 2040 General Plan follows this summary.

Resilient Shore has contributed to this critical effort by engaging with stakeholders and working with city staff. Our core team members have provided many video conference presentations to stakeholders and neighborhood groups, organized monthly MeetUps and published our email newsletter Shore News.

Your executive director has assisted city staff through the General Plan process as a Steering Committee member making presentations, providing policy and technical information and reviewing drafts. He has also participated in the BCDC Adaptation Atlas. Our core team member Kathy Schaefer continues to focus on risk reduction strategies including parametric insurance and alternatives to the National Flood Insurance Program. Stuart Siegel continues his work on wetlands restoration and maintains a key role on addressing adaptation strategies for North San Pedro Road through China Camp for the National Ecological Research Reserve.

The pandemic has severely impacted both the City and Resilient Shore. City staff has shifted much of its focus to pandemic response. And like most of us staff has had to work from home.  City budget impacts have been dramatic with over twelve million dollars in projected revenue loss in the eighteen months starting in March 2020. Community Development staff has either lost or is unable to fill 12 positions due to fiscal constraints.

Fortunately, the city has applied for a Proposition 68 grant for adaptation planning and is poised to apply for an OBAG Grant for an area plan for Southeast San Rafael/Canal Neighborhood. It has budgeted $150,000 for project management. The city is eligible to apply for individual ABAG planning grants of up to $800,000 each for Southeast San Rafael/Canal and Northgate this year. These can represent a great start towards a $2,800,000 budget we believe will be required for the Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan, Southeast San Rafael/Canal Area Plan and environmental clearance.

Resilient Shore’s fundraising activities have been crippled with most giving focus on pandemic response and our inability for direct social contact.  We have made due with the initial tranche of donations received from the beginning of 2020.  Unfortunately, our funds are depleted and team members have had to provide uncompensated services to keep going. Overhead expenses are now coming out of pocket.  Our situation is not sustainable and we need financial support to continue our work on your behalf.

Your help is both deeply appreciated and needed at this critical time.

Please consider giving to the Resilient Shore project care of MarinLINK https://marinlink.org/donations/

Of the things we have learned from our meetings with neighborhood organizations and other stakeholders, the most often heard is “How do we get to shovel ready projects?”  People are increasingly aware of both flood risk and rising seas and want to do something about it.  The answer lies in accelerating a Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan and environmental review while taking into account the needs and values of stakeholders.  This isn’t a hasty process. It’s an efficient one that addresses technical and financial feasibility, and social and environmental imperatives.

As we move forward into 2021 our efforts will be on building a Stakeholder Coalition and keeping the city focused on the need to proceed quickly with a stakeholder driven Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan.  We all need to be there to help as informed stakeholders and as advocates encouraging and supporting our elected leaders and city staff get this project funded, staffed and underway.  With the challenges the city faces from the lingering impacts of the pandemic, we need to keep this as a top priority for the City. This requires committed action and tenacity.

We are now assembling the Stakeholder Coalition and continuing to proactively monitor the city’s progress and assist the city on identifying and securing grants where appropriate.  We are committed to having voices heard and working toward an actionable Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan leading to shovel ready projects. We need your help: Join us to get this done.

San Rafael General Plan 2040

San Rafael staff, consultants and community representatives have been working on an update of the general plan for the last three years.   Resilient Shore has been represented by Jeff Rhoads who served in the steering committee and continues to provide input during the public comment period.

Our primary focus, flood and shore resiliency and climate change mitigation, is addressed in four general plan elements: Chapter 3 Land Use, Chapter 4 Neighborhoods, Chapter 6 Conservation and Climate Change and in Chapter 8 Safety and Resiliency.  The last chapter is the most directly relevant. Some highlights include:

  • A program to prepare a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan
  • Maps identifying FEMA flood hazard areas (1% annual probability/100year flood zones) and Predicted 2050 tidal Inundation
  • A program requiring disclosure of flood and sea level rise inundation risk in real estate transactions
  • A program addressing coordination and cooperation with Marin County, including the formation of a joint powers authority and working with and federal and state resource agencies

The Neighborhoods element includes a program to prepare a Southeast San Rafael/Canal Neighborhood Community Plan. This is a rare opportunity for coordinated forward planning when combined with preparation of a San Rafael Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan.

The city has set aside a FY 2021/2022 budget of $150,000 for project management and is eligible to apply for an ABAG $800,000 planning grant for a Southeast San Rafael/Canal Neighborhood Community Plan.

The General Plan will also include two Appendices: Appendix D Flood Risk and Adaptation Report (Prepared by the Community Development Department), and Appendix E Sea Level Rise Adaptation Technical Guidance Study (Commissioned by the Department of Public Works). These in combination with the BCDC Adaptation Atlas and the Marin County Bay Wave Vulnerability Assessment the foundation for preparation of a community and stakeholder based Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan.

The link to the 2040 General Plan Draft is: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/gp-2040-document-library/

Public comments on the 2040 General Plan, Downtown Precise Plan and Environmental Impact Report can be submitted in written form or via video conference at scheduled public hearings over the next several months.

Being Grateful in Midst of the Pandemic

Like all of you I’m keeping calm and carrying on in the midst of the pandemic. Fortunately, our remarkable bay shore is a short walking distance away from my home. I can find the way to my happy place while maintaining my sanity and social distance!

In Marin, access to quality open space is one of the things that makes the pandemic tolerable. It’s helping us to survive this ordeal. Contemplate for a moment how previous generations worked so diligently to preserve our precious natural wonders.

We are responsible for passing these blessings onto future generations with contributions of our own.  As we forge ahead to reduce our flood risk and adapt to sea level rise, let’s work to create symbiosis with our world through more resilient human communities and natural environments.

We’re grateful for the progress the City of San Rafael is making to start a Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan. We have accompanied the City along the entire journey and look forward to the City Council adopting the 2040 General Plan early next year. Preparing for sea level rise and increasing flooding is a top priority of the General Plan.

Our mayor elect, Kate Colin, is a strong advocate of community involvement in civic affairs. She is also committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation for San Rafael. We are grateful for her new role in our city government and wish her Godspeed.

Over the next few months we will be working with neighbors, environmental organizations, land owners and others to assemble a Stakeholder Coalition to work with the City to create a Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan. The goal is straight forward: active stakeholder participation in the plan to assure it is responsive to your needs and interests.

What would you like to share in our next MeetUp November 24?  What are you grateful for in the midst of this once in a century crisis?  What are your thoughts about the Stakeholder Coalition? 

We’re looking forward to sharing thoughts with you.

Together we can do this!

Jeffrey D Rhoads, RA LEED AP

Executive Director

Summer 2020

All Hands on Deck!

The Covid-19 Pandemic has grabbed our attention and disrupted our world. However, the Climate Crisis isn’t going away. Its urgency is just more evident. The seeds for transformative change are planted during times of crisis.  Now is the time for bold action!

Resilient Shore is recruiting. We want you!

We need donors:  People willing to fund our work to bring people together, secure grants and assist the City of San Rafael in preparing a citizen based Adaptation Plan for our bay shore and watersheds.

We need thought leaders: People with vision, prepared to lead others in making our environment more resilient to the impacts of the Climate Crisis.  Folks who are prepared to show ways to eliminate greenhouse gas, sequester carbon and reduce our ecological footprint.

We need community activists: People prepared to organize neighbors and communities to reduce flood risk, adapt to rising seas and improve access for the Canal Neighborhood and Southeast San Rafael.

We need people fluent in Spanish: To help us reach our underrepresented neighbors.

We need citizen scientists, engineers and designers: People prepared to roll up their sleeves to participate in research, analysis and design for adaptation solutions.

We need citizens and stakeholder representatives: People prepared to participate in the creation of the Adaptation Plan, propose ideas, consider their impacts and help identify adaptation solutions for San Rafael.

Tell us who you are and where and how you can help. 

The Bay Area crushed the Novel Corona (Covid-19) Pandemic curve with early strategic action.  Let’s do the same with the Climate Crisis and our City.


Spring 2020

San Rafael’s General Plan 2040 has been underway for about 18 months. Preparing for rising seas is a concern shared by city staff, consultants and the steering committee. Paul Jensen, the city’s Director of Community Development, is writing an Adaptation Report to include as an appendix in the new General Plan. The report will summarize available information on hazards and planning strategies and will provide a basis for preparation of an Adaptation Plan in the future. Additionally, General Plan land policies are proposed to identify areas at risk from flooding and sea level rise and measures to reduce risk for future construction.

Resilient Shore is focused on ensuring San Rafael’s General Plan 2040 includes a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan. We aim to help the City by assisting in securing grants, working with the Marin Community Foundation, and preparing our community – including all the varied stakeholders – to be active and informed participants in a citizen-driven planning process.

Our success with providing timely and engaging content is dependent on your continued interest and willingness to share your own shore and waterfront stories. Get in touch with us! Some possible topics include habitat conservation and restoration, historical aspects of our shoreline, recreational activities, maritime businesses, flood risk and solutions, emergency preparedness, and evacuation strategies.

Resilient Shore is a team of biologists, engineers, flood risk managers, town and landscape scale planners, community engagement specialists and other experts.  We are a community supported non-profit project.  Help us make our shore better and more resilient by making tax deductible contributions to Resilient Shore through MarinLINK our fiscal sponsor.

Note: Beginning in 2020, Resilient Shore newsletters are published entirely online, and available by subscribing to our mailing list.

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