Letters from the Executive Director
San Rafael has hired an Adaptation Planner
The City of San Rafael has hired an Adaptation Planner, Kate Haggeman from Miami/Dade County, Florida – a major step in preparing a Shore and Watershed Adaptation Plan for the city. We will discuss the timing of Kate’s arrival, our aspirations for the Plan and how we can welcome and orient her to San Rafael.
Kate’s arrival represents a major commitment by the city to address climate change impacts on San Rafael. The City Council has approved funding for a three-year contract with a primary focus is on sea level rise and flood risk adaptation: this will likely be sufficient to complete a Shore and Watershed Adaptation plan. One of the greatest challenges we face is securing funds for planning. It is much easier to find money to build projects, but you need a plan to proceed with projects. The city is stepping up with funding for planning.
Latest News on the Southeast San Rafael I 580 interchange Proof of Concept
My colleague Rick Philips and I attended a meeting June 30th with the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) General Manager Anne Richman, the TAM design team, City Public Works staff, Council Member Maika Llorens Gulatti, and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni.
To clarify: the Proof of Concept study is separate from the US 101 – I 580 Direct Connector project. All studies require identification of project parameters. For the Proof of Concept, this included maintaining the I 580 freeway alignment is its present location without any adjustment. Caltrans would require the freeway to be raised above the 100-year flood plain and consider sea level rise if the alignment is modified. This requirement is eliminated when these issues are addressed elsewhere. Additionally, the design team elected to not relocate southeast San Rafael I 580 access and egress from Bellam Boulevard and Francisco Boulevard East to the proposed Interchange.
We will discuss the project parameters, the rationale behind them and their impact on the preliminary findings of the Proof of Concept. We seek your thoughts and comments on next steps.
Updating the Sea Level Rise Maps
Laurie Williams with Marin County Public Works is working with Chris Choo, who prepared the Bay Wave county bay shore vulnerability assessment. Laurie is responsible for adding map layers to the county map data base showing sea level rise at different elevations over time. This will be accessible to the public through Marin Maps. We will discuss her project and how this will impact planning for the future.
2021 has been an eventful year for Resilient Shore. The Covid pandemic prevented us from meeting in person and scheduling tours and other events. However, we have continued to work with the City of San Rafael, the Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods, community stakeholders, Transportation Authority of Marin, public agency staff and elected officials. Our virtual MeetUps, forums and other meetings have been well attended and productive.
Remarkable progress has been made this year despite the challenges. Most of this is due to the voluntary efforts of our core team and community partners. Some of 2021 highlights are shared here.
San Rafael 2040 General Plan and Downtown Precise Plan
The San Rafael adopted the 2040 General Plan and Downtown Precise Plan and certified the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the two plans in June. The General Plan is updated every 20 years, requiring considerable resources, staff time and community effort. The process took over three years. Jeff Rhoads was the Resilient Shore and historic preservation representative in the 24-member General Plan Steering Committee. The city’s project manager Barry Miller and Community Development Director Paul Jensen did a masterful job shepherding these complex plans and EIR through to completion with considerable community participation and support.
The General Plan includes policy and actions to address sea level rise, reduce flood risk and promote preservation and enhancement of wetland and riparian habitat. We are gratified to have contributed to this. The most relevant to our mission are prioritization of actions to prepare community focused San Rafael Shore and Watershed Adaptation and area plans for Southeast San Rafael/Canal Priority Development Area. Ideally the two planning projects and their environmental analysis and mitigation actions will be coordinated and occur concurrently.
Like the General Plan, these projects will take considerable resources and community participation. We are committed to assisting the city in securing the funding and your community support that will be required.
Community Flood Insurance
Core team member Kathy Schaefer has led our focus on addressing flood risk in the Canal and other San Rafael neighborhoods. She has been working closely with the State Insurance Commissioner’s office and Munich RE, a private insurer, on providing pilot programs for community insurance, parametric insurance and coverage for renters and disadvantaged community members. These programs would be an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and would be based local conditions and actual risk. Modeling of flood risk is constantly improving. The NFIP 2.0 program is poised to set new insurance premiums to better underwrite projected claims nationwide. Historically California has paid out thirty times more in premiums than it has received in claims. Most of the NFIP payouts have gone to repeated flood victims along the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
The alternative private insurance programs have the potential of reducing premiums for many and potentially funding infrastructure to reduce flood risk. The parametric insurance would not require individual claim assessments instead being based on the depth of inundation in a flood and automatic payouts.
Kathy prepared a California Resilience Grant application in September to pursue the private insurance pilots and reduce flood risk including nature-based solutions. We were not successful in securing the grant in in this round. Applications were submitted for $14 million in projects with only $2 million available. We will apply again in the future as persistence and lessons learned pay off. In the future, Resilient Shore plans to work together with the Canal Alliance, Engeo and other partners to implement the pilots.
North Point San Pedro Road and Sea Level Rise
The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) includes the remarkably intact shore ecosystems and adjacent woodlands and grasslands in China Camp State Park along North San Pedro Road. Portions of the road are currently inundated by “king tides” (very high winter tides) as well as by large storms and will be flooded more frequently, deeper, and for longer as the sea rises.
This route provides the only vehicle access to China Camp State Park for recreation, education, and tribal uses, it is a commute corridor, and is a second means of emergency egress for the communities on the Point San Pedro Peninsula and for our emergency responders. State Parks says China Camp receives over 400,000 visitors annually!
Core team member Stuart Siegel is the NERR’s Interim Manager and Coastal Resilience Specialist and is working with State Parks, Marin County, Friends of China Camp, Point San Pedro Road Coalition, Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association, recreation and conservation interests, regulatory and resource agencies, and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria to identify adaptation alternatives for the road. Options range from raising the road through earthen fill and/or causeways, relocating the roadway, or incremental small raising combined with improving marsh hydrology.
The many stakeholders are engaged in the process of vetting the alternatives based on access, environmental, cultural, and engineering considerations, and the ability secure funding. Watch for a late January stakeholder meeting for this effort, to be convened by Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly.
The NERR project adds to Stuart’s extensive portfolio of bay wetlands restoration efforts.
101/580 Direct Connector
Resilient Shore has been working with Baypoint Lagoons, Spinnaker Point, Canal Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce East San Rafael Group and other community stakeholders to address persistent southeast San Rafael access problems and daily congestion at the Bellam Boulevard interchange. 15,000 people will be isolated in a 100-year flood by 101/580 freeway and flooded roadways. Backing of stopped vehicles onto Northbound 101 and Eastbound 580 from Bellam is a daily inconvenience and results in many accidents.
Resilient Shore has advocated for broadening the planning scope for Transportation Authority of Marin’s (TAM) Northbound 101 to Eastbound 580 direct connector to include the 580/101 corridor from Richmond to the Sir Francis Drake 101 interchange. We have three objectives. These include doing the comprehensive planning and environmental clearance for the corridor now to accelerate completion of phased improvements. This would save money, time and reduce accidents. We want to address the serious public safety and access problems and make sure the connector project doesn’t prevent solving these in the future.
Resilient Shore’s Rick Philips and Jeff Rhoads have prepared a potential solution to remedy many of the existing challenges in the corridor. This would relocate all southeast San Rafael 580 access away from Bellam Boulevard to a new interchange halfway between the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and 101. Bellam access to and from northbound 101 would remain unchanged.
The new interchange would connect the missing portion of Kerner Boulevard near Shoreline Parkway to Andersen Drive west of BMW of Marin. Kerner would once again be a two-way street between Bellam Boulevard and Irene Street. This could provide an additional access point for southeast San Rafael. It would provide the ability to use Kerner Boulevard to evacuate vehicles from neighborhoods to high ground around Home Depot and Target in preparation for a flood emergency. Additionally, the problem of traffic backing up onto the freeways could be alleviated.
TAM has graciously decided to have its engineers prepare a proof of concept for this unproven but potentially game changing “moon shot”. Resilient Shore is grateful for TAM’s decision and met with them in early December to initiate the study. We look forward to meeting again in January with the TAM team and a working group of our local elected officials. We thank Anne Richman, TAM’s General Manager, Mayor Kate Collin, District 1 Council Member Maika Llorens Gulati and District 4 Supervisor Dennis Rodoni.
We need your help!
Emergency access and egress for southeast San Rafael including the Canal Neighborhood is severely limited by the freeways. Evacuation from a flood or other emergency for the 14,000 residents, key businesses and critical social services is seriously impaired by poor access. The freeways and SMART are also at flood risk and in the path of rising seas. We all experience daily delay on 101, 580, and Bellam and Sir Francis Drake Boulevards.
The current design alternatives under consideration by TAM do little to resolve these – and many other – deficiencies. Our May 19th, MeetUp discussion will be about what is being done to change this situation and how we can make our voices heard in the next few weeks to help improve the 101/580 project – and transform it from a “connector ramp” project into a “corridor” project.
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
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.
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.
To view 2018-2019 newsletters, please select by issue:
Don’t miss an issue! Sign up now for our newsletter.