Author: Marina Binsack
Protecting our shorelines from flooding, sea level rise and storm surges are of utmost importance to Bay Area decision makers. Most Bay Area residents probably don’t know the urgency of this matter, what actions we can take and how we can make them happen. Come June, all nine county residents will get to measure the significance of these issues by voting on Measure AA. But will they have all the information to make this decision? At the Bay Planning Coalition’s (BPC) Spring Summit on May 6th, speakers shared a great deal of knowledge aimed at better informing participants.
Our bay is an environmental gem that gives us great pride. It is also an economic hub of global innovation along the southern shoreline in Santa Clara County. On the eastern side are the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport in Alameda County while the west side of the bay is home to the Port of San Francisco and San Francisco International Airport. Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties also have some of the most vulnerable communities, meaning there is both a high exposure to flooding and other risks and a historic trend of socio-economic inequality.
At the summit, I got the chance to hear about a measure that may be the silver bullet. If passed, Measure AA would fund water quality improvement and restoration projects aimed at safeguarding all shoreline communities regardless of clout. David Lewis of Save the Bay took the opportunity to explain this measure and to urge participants not only to vote yes but to support it by donating to the action fund and talking to friends and family unfamiliar with the benefits of wetlands. Measure AA needs a 2/3 vote and consists of a $12 parcel tax earmarked for these projects. For some, this may seem like an extra expense when at the polls, but the reality is the cost will be greater in the long run if, in the words of Ben Franklin, we put off till tomorrow what can be done today.
Crucial investments in our future aren’t reserved simply for flood protection projects but also for innovative urban planning designs necessary to implement if we’re going to avoid retreating even further inland. At the forefront of this discussion is Kristina Hill, a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design and another panelist at the event. She expressed both enthusiasm and seriousness when she gave examples of works taking place in Hamburg, Germany, the Netherlands and Osaka, Japan.
Hamburg has the chance to start from the ground up, creating a new neighborhood in a former warehouse district along the Elbe River. Here, flooding is expected and incorporated into the design. In the Netherlands, an area familiar to flooding, large volumes of sand were transported along the water’s edge to form a broader barrier between land and sea in a process called rainbowing. In Osaka, high-rises were built behind what is termed a ‘super-levee’ and similar to the horizontal levee pilot project taking place at Oro Loma here in the Bay Area. These cities are headed in a direction where in future years they will still be habitable because discussions stopped and plans were put in motion. In the San Francisco Bay, the discussion continues and so do the questions of how to get to where we need to be.
Measure AA is a first step toward the more ambitious plans explored by Professor Hill, and furthermore, it will benefit both our big economic powerhouses and neighboring vulnerable communities to an equal degree. It will also benefit our vulnerable fish and wildlife and the supporting ecosystems that create this environmental gem that is the bay and our home.
This blog entry was written by Marina Binsack, Communication Intern for Friends of the San Francisco Estuary. Marina is graduating from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with an M.A. in International Environmental Policy. We wish her the best as she starts her career!
Friends of the San Francisco Estuary supports Measure AA.