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What is the City Doing About Adapting to Climate Impacts?

What’s Been Done So Far

The City is working with others from around the Bay Area to develop tools to engage community members effectively in envisioning a future that is resilient to the effects of climate change and other natural and man-made disasters. The City is a member of the Bay Area Climate Adaptation Network, the Marin Climate and Energy Partnership, the BayWAVE Executive Steering Committee, the Marin Wildfire JPA, Drawdown: Marin, and a variety of other agencies and efforts involved in studying and planning. Some San Rafael specific projects and studies are listed below. See our Projects Page for more information about our current projects in San Rafael.

Climate Adaptation – Sea Level Rise, San Rafael, California White Paper, January 2014.

This ‘white paper’ was developed by Paul Jensen with assistance by a Sustainability Intern and the Department of Public Works. The intent of the white paper was to catalogue the studies and resources conducted to date that could serve as a resource for future adaptation planning efforts related to sea level rise and flood impacts. It concludes with a list of potential next steps for the City to take, including preparing a sea level vulnerability assessment. It also included two appendices: A) San Rafael Levees and Shorelines, and B) San Rafael Possible Opportunity Areas for Adaptation.


San Rafael Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, June 2017

Local governments are required to prepare and adopt a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) pursuant to the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  The successful completion of an LHMP makes the jurisdiction eligible to apply for federal funding pre and post disaster. The San Rafael LHMP analyzes risks and identifies mitigation strategies to reduce the City’s vulnerability to hazards such as wildfire, flooding, storms and erosion, drought, and heat emergencies. It includes climate-related impacts including sea level rise using assessments by Cal-Adapt and the BayWAVE vulnerability assessment among others.


BayWAVE Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment, June 2017

In 2017, the County of Marin, in partnership with local jurisdictions, developed a sea level rise vulnerability assessment for the eastern Marin shoreline from the Golden Gate Bridge to the county line north of Novato. The goal of the BayWAVE project was to increase awareness and preparation for future sea level rise impacts. The assessment is an informational document that catalogs impacts with six different scenarios across the entire bay shoreline. The best available science was used to complete the report with a range of projections. The report presents asset profiles describing parcels and buildings, transportation networks, utilities, working lands, natural resources, recreational assets, emergency services, and cultural resources. It also includes municipality profiles that detail all asset vulnerabilities for each exposed municipality in the study area.


Resilient by Design Challenge: Elevate San Rafael, May 2018

This project was part of a year-long collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials and local, national and international experts to develop innovative community-based solutions to strengthen the Bay Area’s resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes. The Elevate San Rafael project envisioned a new future for the San Rafael waterfront that not only physically elevates infrastructure and development but also raises the quality of life and social connection for everyone. Design solutions addressed near term needs directly, and a long-term strategy for large scale resilience in an equitable way.  The proposal frames necessary accompanying policy and finance mechanisms to stimulate and guide change in an equitable way.


San Rafael Climate Change Action Plan 2030, May 2019

In 2019, the San Rafael City Council adopted the San Rafael Climate Action Plan 2030 (CCAP 2030). CCAP 2030 primarily focuses on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution that causes climate change. CCAP 2030 also acknowledges the need to address and adapt to the effects of a changing climate in the following two programs: Program SA-C4: Sea Level Rise –  Prepare and adapt to a rising sea level, and Program SA-C5: Climate Change Adaptation – Prepare for and respond to the expected impacts of climate change.


Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan, March 2019

The San Rafael Wildfire Prevention and Protection Action Plan (WPPAP) outlines various goals to proactively and aggressively address the growing risks associated with wildfire. The primary objectives of the plan include the following:

  • Ordinance changes to mitigate wildfire risk
  • Additional staffing, funds, and resources to address hazards
  • Expanded and new public outreach and education
  • Expanded and new fuel reduction
  • Expanded and new preparedness efforts
  • Improving and increasing vegetation management plans (VMPs)


San Rafael General Plan 2040, with Flood Risk & Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report

Building off the more current resources and utilizing the BayWAVE Vulnerability Assessment as a foundation, City staff has prepared the Flood Risk & Sea Level Rise Adaptation  Report, which has been incorporated into General Plan 2040. The purpose of this report is to “set the stage” in providing initial guidance on how an adaptation plan is to be developed and what is to be included in the plan.  The report presents the following suggestions for developing an adaptation plan:

  1. Establish clear objectives through a community-based process
  2. Utilize Adaptation Land Use Planning – Guidance for Marin County Local Governments
  3. Identify policy and regulatory measures
  4. Identify the appropriate adaptation tools and strategies
  5. Identify financing measures and funding sources for implementation

Click here to learn more about General Plan 2040.

Tiscornia Marsh Restoration Project

The Tiscornia Marsh site covers 20 acres of tidal marsh and bay lands located north and outboard of East Canal Street. The property, which is owned by Marin Audubon Society, is adjacent to the Albert J Boro Community Center and Pickleweed Park. The Marsh has experienced considerable erosion along its bay ward edge, which is attributed to direct wave action from the bay. Through this project Tiscornia Marsh would be restored to its former extents by beneficially reusing dredged material from local sources. As part of this process, the City has released a Draft Environmental Impact Report and will be receiving comments until October 26, 2021.

Learn more here on the Tiscornia Marsh Project and EIR.

Canal Community Resilience Planning Project

The City of San Rafael was awarded $700,000 in September 2022 from the California State Coastal Conservancy and $62,000 from Marin Community Foundation to establish a planning team and conduct a community-informed feasibility study for East San Rafael.  See our Projects Page for more information.

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