AS A STOPGAP, SMALL VILLAGES PROPOSED FOR THE HOMELESS
Popular in Pacific Northwest, but local officials cast wary eye on ‘sanctioned’ encampments Page 11
HEALTH CLINICS AID IMMIGRANTS City concerned that federal agents will trail clients | Page 12
REALITY VS. TRUMP BORDER WALL Results might not match campaign promises | Page 12 $1.00
SEA LEVEL RISE: 2nd in a series
As state environmental rules come under attack, local leaders push to build new projects MISSION BAY
11 BUILDING PROJECTS VULNERABLE TO SEA RISE
DOWNTOWN 6 PROJECTS
TREASURE ISLAND 2 PROJECTS
OTHERS ON S.F. WATERFRONT 8 PROJECTS
Hundreds of acres in San Francisco could flood by 2100 if sea rise and storm surge reach 8 feet. Active building permits there exceed $2.3 billion in construction costs.
Warriors, Giants Benefit From Delay in Flood Study Report calling for expensive sea rise protection at Mission Bay was not shared with key officials or voters before development decisions. | Page 3
Developers Use Courts to Undermine State Law, Weakening Sea Rise Protections for Bay Area Cities By Kevin Stark // Public Press
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State and local leaders are slow to address a ruling that shifts liability for climate adaptation from builders to taxpayers. The development industry has a lot at stake. Scores of buildings are queued up for construction on prime waterfront land that scientists say could be intermittently or permanently underwater by the end of this century. These include big projects such as office parks, residential towers, hospitals and entertainment venues in which some of the largest development firms in the country have collectively invested tens of billions of dollars. Local leaders have touted tax revenues and their own political legacies to advocate large-scale development along the water’s edge — even amid warnings from climate researchers that many low-lying areas will require major public investment to be protected adequately. The state’s highest court has complicated governmental planning efforts. CEQA continued on page 8
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BRACING FOR FLOODS, SEEING SOLUTIONS Floating communities, barrier islands, wetlands — and financing to pay for it all | Page 5
8 NEW MEGADEVELOPMENTS MAPPED
They include a residential tower in S.F., a marina in Alameda, condos in Brisbane | Page 6
NEW SCIENCE FINDS ICE SHEETS IN PERIL Antarctic melting could raise seas on North America’s West Coast by 10 feet | Page 10 TIMELINE: ATTACKS ON STATE LAW | Page 8 ONLINE: SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG/SEARISE
san francisco public press
Photo by Anna Vignet // Public Press
alifornia politicians expressed outrage in March when details of a White House budget proposal suggested President Trump would slash a $1 billion environmental grant for restoring San Francisco Bay marshes. And they were apoplectic about the executive order revoking special status for wetlands considered until now to be “waters of the United States.” But when it comes to weakening environmental protections, sometimes California’s wounds are self-inflicted. For nearly a decade, the real estate and construction industries have pursued a legal strategy that has undermined the landmark 1970 state law that some cities had used to help protect their waterfronts from sea level rise, a Public Press review of thousands of pages of legal and planning documents shows. After lower courts chipped away at the long-held interpretation of the California Environmental Quality Act, the state Supreme Court in 2015 overturned decades of land-use law by upholding lower court rulings that cities could no longer require developers to take into account the effects of climate change on their projects. The decision has unsettled public officials and planners, and critics say it will allow real estate interests to saddle taxpayers with a gigantic bill to defend against rising seas. At the same time, the state Legislature, controlled by the Democrats, and Gov. Jerry Brown have neither proposed amending the law nor drafted new statutes to encompass the effects of climate change on coastal development. In January, Brown tasked scientists with reviewing the latest research on sea level rise, and preliminary
guidance is to be released this spring. Local and regional governments also have been slow to respond with new regulations or funding measures. Lawyers who specialize in compliance have circulated memos and held several meetings to share strategies for conforming to this interpretation of the law. Although many project plans do address sea level rise, public filings are now peppered with references to the 2015 case to inoculate developers from challenges by planning agencies or environmental groups.
INSIDE: MORE ON SEA LEVEL RISE
Luminaries including Kevin Durant helped break ground for the Warriors’ $1 billion waterfront home in San Francisco.
Illustration: Marcea Ennamorato and HyunJu Chappell // Public Press SOURCES: See Page 3
2 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017
SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS
FROM THE EDITORS
hreats to the First Amendment and disparagement of journalists have made national headlines with disturbing frequency in recent months. And yet, those blatant efforts to intimidate have had the opposite effect. Like similar nonprofit news organi ations around the country, we’ve seen a surge in support at the Public Press. Thanks to our readers for telling us — through comments and contributions — that you care about local investigative journalism. We are especially grateful to our institutional supporters. In February, we received our second $25,000 grant from the Craigslist Charitable Fund. The sea level rise cover story in this issue was supported by grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Strong Foundation for Environmental Values. All of that support builds on a $50,000 grant last fall from the Reva and David Logan Foundation. We are committed to matching the Logan Foundation gift dollar for dollar with new and increased contributions from supporters. You can help meet this challenge by becoming a member or renewing your membership in 2017 at a higher level. Last year we also received an INNovation Fund grant through the Institute for Nonprofit News, and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight FoundaDONATE NOW tion and the Democracy Fund, to facilitate do ens of meetings with community groups throughout San Francisco. Our goal for the program, called Public Press Live, is to talk face to face with people representing diverse perspectives. We Online: have learned a great deal from these conversations and picked up do ens of sfpublicpress.org membership ideas for news stories from neighborhood leaders. Mail: We are eager to connect with neighborhood, professional, religious and politiSan Francisco Public Press cal groups throughout the city. If you are affiliated with a group, organi ation, 44 Page St., Suite 504 school or business that would welcome a discussion about civic issues, let us San Francisco, CA 94102 know by writing to info sfpublicpress.org or calling 415-495-7377. We’re not Call: able to pursue every story tip we receive, but we are committed to listening to 15 5 the guidance, concerns and ideas you share with us.
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Spring 2017 • Issue 21 (Vol. 8, No. 1) Published April 10, 2017
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Crossword Puzzle by Andrea Carla Michaels
ANDREA CARLA MICHAELS
ACROSS 1. Bach composition 5. Morse code unit 8. Sphere 13. Hathaway of Hollywood 14. Half a sextet 15. Baseball's Hank 16. "A.S.A.P.!" 17. Towels or handheld blowers 19. Like some TV programming 21. 911 call respondent 22. Movie backdrop 23. Crazy 27. Famed New York restaurateur 29. Amazon buys: Abbr. 32. Bisque and borscht 33. Look at 34. The shallowest Great Lake 35. Chocolate-covered snack cake 38. Tolkien creatures 39. Gangland gal 40. "It's ___!" ("You're on!") 41. "The Bridge of San Luis ___" 42. Water bearer? 43. Wall Street worker 44. "You've got mail!" company 45. Japanese coin 46. Company with the stock ticker symbol HOG 54. Useful, slangily 55. Well-done's opposite 56. Chick sound 57. Five-time A.L. batting champ Boggs 58. "Grade A" purchase 59. Sights in suburbia 60. Hush-hush grp. 61. "You've got to change your evil ___..." DOWN 1. Prepare potatoes, in a way 2. Against 3. Fly in the ointment
4. Actor Rogen of "Knocked Up" 5. Alternative to a volunteer army 6. Sundial number 7. Ripped apart 8. Best man's catch, perhaps 9. ___ on the line 10. Oft-dunked cookie 11. "I wasn't ___ yesterday" 12. Naval off. 14. Unifying idea 18. Turn one's back on 20. Like some fogs 23. Member of the wedding 24. Nary a soul 25. Like many attics 26. Makes choices 27. Mosey along 28. Third Reich salute 29. Like a liberal arts curriculum
30. 31. 33. 34. 36. 37. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.
"Roots" hero Kunta "Like a Rock" singer Bob Initials on a brandy bottle Icelandic epic Wore an upside-down frown "With parsley," on fancy menus Coral creatures "Fiddler on the Roof" role "As You Like It" forest setting "Etc.," when tripled A couple of laughs One more time Express boredom CSIs compare them Barrymore or Carey "Roots," for one All-out feast "Untouchable" Eliot Strong acid, chemically
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SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017 | SPECIAL REPORT | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | 3
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront GLIMPSING OUR FUTURE
Decades from now — without new fortifications — San Francisco Bay could overtop the Embarcadero and flood the Financial District, SoMa, Mission Bay and elsewhere. But you can preview the flooding during king tides, when the sun, moon and Earth align, causing the highest water levels. Photo by Anna Vignet // Public Press
Projects Sailed Through Despite Dire Flood Study Giants, Warriors won approvals before voters and officials learned of risks By Kevin Stark // Public Press
city-commissioned environmental study that detailed how the Mission Bay neighborhood would be inundated by rising seas in coming decades went unpublished for more than a year while two showcase waterfront developments won key approvals from city officials and voters, a Public Press review of records shows. Before the Golden State Warriors scored a win at the Planning Commission for a new bayfront arena and the San Francisco Giants got the go-ahead from voters for plans to develop housing and offices next to AT&T Park in late 2015, city agencies and the Port of San Francisco sought input from major “stakeholders,” which included the two sports franchises. But they did not involve the district’s supervisor or the public, and did not widely distribute the June 2015 draft marked “final” before the official publication in September 2016 — two weeks after an official records request by the Public Press. Ten months earlier, voters had approved Proposition D, the Giants’ Mission Rock development, without being given a chance to compare the developers’ ballot-box claims about resilience to sea level rise with the independently researched report laying out the need to radically re-engineer the burgeoning neighborhood. The report describes the immediate need for public agencies to plan for massive physical barriers to protect against powerful storms and coastal flooding that are expected to increasingly threaten the city’s southeast and downtown over the next few decades. Costs will likely run into the billions, with taxpayers bearing most of the burden. “We don’t have 5–10 years before this process can begin,” wrote the authors of the report, prepared by SPUR, a San Francisco-based planning and urban research think tank. “The catastrophic events of Katrina and Sandy show that disasters with unimaginable impacts can happen tomorrow.” Though the report’s authors shared several drafts with the Planning Department staff, there is no record of members of the San Francisco Planning Commission having seen it before approving the Warriors arena in November 2015, not long after voters passed Proposition D. There is also no indication that drafts were shared officially with the Board of Supervisors before it approved both projects. Mayor Ed Lee advocated forcefully for both megadevelopments, which together would cost about $2.6 billion. His office and the port jointly requested the sea level rise study in early 2014, but missed several
emergency services center. District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the city’s southeastern shore, said she was not aware of the draft report’s findings before the board signed off on the Warriors’ and Giants’ plans. “I was not consulted in the drafting of the documents,” Cohen said. “Of course, I am interested and concerned by the looming impact of sea level rise.”
PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS FORESEEN
¯ opportunities to bring the report into public discussions about major waterfront developments. Three members of the city Planning Commission, which approved the Warriors basketball palace in November 2015, said they were kept in the dark about the dangers from rising seas in the city’s fastestgrowing neighborhood. Mission Bay is home to residential towers, offices, medical and research facilities, and the city’s new
The Mission Creek Sea Level Rise Adaptation Study presented strategies for massive public works projects that might be needed to fortify the shoreline against sea level rise. Ideas included reinforcing seawalls, building a tidal gate, creating offshore structures to lessen waves’ impact and elevating Third Street as a kind of levee. In one scenario, a large section of the neighborhood closest to the bay could be retrofitted to flood occasionally. That area would include the Warriors arena. The report cites a 2012 study by the National Research Council which found that global warming could raise bay waters above the current street level at Mission Bay in just a few decades. In an extreme scenario, builders engineering new structures could expect San Francisco Bay to
rise 4.6 feet above current high tide, plus 3.4 feet of storm surge, scientists found. Much of Mission Bay lies below the 8-foot level. The Mission Creek report warned forcefully against complacency: “The slow pace of sea level rise does not communicate a sense of impending threat; however, that danger could materialize in this community. It is urgent that work on solutions begins now because major developments in the inundation zone are currently being planned or built. It can take years or decades to conceptualize, design, earn public support, fund, permit and construct major capital shoreline projects.” Fuad Sweiss, the mayor’s adviser on sea level rise, said the study is part of the city’s broader resiliency planning process. Its recommendations include public-works projects that would extend beyond any individual development or even the borders of the recently established 303-acre Mission Bay neighborhood. He said the original six-month timeline for the report was overly ambitious for a project of this magnitude because it required fact-checking, consultation with many departments and new imaging data MISSION CREEK continued on page 4
ABOUT THIS PROJECT In 2015, the Public Press first reported on how rising seas could inundate coastal land in the Bay Area. Since then, we have discovered that state regulation of waterfront development has loosened, while local governments have been slow to respond. Parts of the California Environmental Quality Act that cities have used to compel adaptation to climate change face persistent attacks from the building industry. In San Francisco, officials actively promote large developments on the bay despite dire warnings from climate scientists. For this issue, we found that cities bordering San Francisco Bay have approved eight large developments in zones that could flood within decades — besides the 27 we mapped previously. To gauge how interpretation of state environmental law is changing, we searched public databases of active construction projects, and dozens of lawsuits and environmental impact reports filed with local planning agencies. To investigate a delayed report on flood risk, we used public records requests to track emails among local agencies. REPORTING: Kevin Stark, Mary Catherine O’Connor, Ellyn Beale, Noah Arroyo and Lulu Orozco EDITING: Michael Winter and Michael Stoll CARTOGRAPHY: Marcea Ennamorato DATA EDITING: Subramaniam Vincent PHOTOGRAPHY: Anna Vignet DESIGN: HyunJu Chappell ONLINE: John Angelico AUDIO EXTRAS: Audrey Dilling You can find our previous cover story and recent updates at: SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG/SEARISE
Much of Mission Bay and South of Market could flood by 2100 if sea rise and storm surge exceed 8 feet above current high tide, as some models predict. Red points indicate new development projects, including the Golden State Warriors arena and Mission Rock mixed-use development. Illustration by Marcea Ennamorato and HyunJu Chappell // Public Press
SOURCES: Sea rise data from U.S. Geological Survey; rendered building images from Google Earth
This project was made possible by donations from Public Press members, the Fund for Investigative Journalism (fij.org) and the Strong Foundation for Environmental Values (strongfoundationgrants.org).
4 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | SPECIAL REPORT | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront
As Experts Studied Sea Rise, Mayor Touted Big Projects MISSION CREEK from page 3
that reflected recent landscape changes made by developers. “We were busy with so many things that were related to sea level rise,” he said. “We had so many issues. We tried to unify the work by all city agencies under one umbrella.” Yet for all that work, the final report in September 2016 looked remarkably similar to a draft distributed to stakeholders in the summer of 2015, and contained the same core message: Mission Bay is in danger of flooding within the lifetime of buildings already in place or under construction, so the neighborhood needs to be redesigned as it is being built out. While several Planning Department staff were involved in reviewing drafts of the report for more than two years, one member of the Planning Commission, which oversees the department and grants city approval on major developments, said he had not read the report until its publication last fall — nearly a year too late to make a difference. Dennis Richards, the commission’s vice president, said he might have viewed the Warriors arena and other Mission Bay developments in a new light if the study had been available to the seven-member panel in 2015. “Given that this was not available, would we have done something differently?” Richards said. “That’s the question, I think.” By the time the report was released, the Planning Commission no longer had a chance to weigh in, and a lawsuit against the proposed arena, which the developers beat back in November 2016, was near resolution. “What’s really funny is that all of the appeals have been exhausted — and this piece of information comes out after the appeals have been exhausted,” Richards said.
Mayor Ed Lee, who called the Warriors arena his “legacy project,” at the January groundbreaking with team executives, coach Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant. Photo by Anna Vignet // Public Press
DEVELOPERS EYE EARLY DRAFTS The Port of San Francisco, the Planning Department, the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, among others, cofunded the $200,000 study, which was started in 2014 by a team of consultants led by SPUR, with help from the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis. The Public Press first inquired about the publication schedule in December 2014. In an email, Laura Tam, SPUR’s sustainable development policy director, said her government counterparts told her it would be published likely in “late January or early February.” In late February 2015, she said completion was delayed further because of “technical issues.” Reached for a comment recently, Tam said she could not recall any occasions when drafts of the report were presented to policymaking bodies. “As the SPUR project manager of this report I can share that it did not occur to me, and would not be typical for us, to share drafts of our study with the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors,” she said. AnMarie Rodgers, senior policy adviser with the Planning Department, was involved in the project until 2015. “As a SPUR report, it does not require city adoption,” she told the Public Press. Emails from the port show that in June 2014, Brad Benson, a project manager who oversaw the Mission Creek report, asked Lee’s office in an email if he could reach out to the Warriors’ developer, Strada Investment Group. “I want to make sure they don’t have any concerns about the study,” Benson wrote. Three months later, the Giants hosted a meeting at AT&T Park at which an early draft of the study and slides were shared with an array of stakeholders, including staff from Mission Bay Development Group and representatives from city agencies. At that time, the Giants were seeking voter approval to raise the height limit for Mission Rock, a $1.6 billion, mixed-use development with 1,500 homes along the south side of Mission Creek. That narrow channel separates Mission Bay from South of Market, and meets the bay at McCovey Cove, where homerun balls make a splash. The slides indicated that the final report would be drafted by November 2014 and published by March 2015. On Sept. 19, Tam followed up with the group by sending the draft presentation and requesting responses to design details within a week. “It seems important to share within your departments and teams at your judgment
The Warriors arena, recently named the Chase Center, is set to open in 2019. It is part of a 1 billion complex including office space for ber. Image courtesy of the Golden State Warriors so that the final product is the best it can be, and our key stakeholders are not surprised by it,” she wrote. Three days later, Tam outlined to the capital planning committee the city’s need for spending on major public works to protect Mission Bay from sea level rise. “We cannot just protect individual buildings,” Tam told participants at the Sept. 22 session. “We need something that protects the whole area in the long term.” The presentation made headlines — “Study: SF may need to build levee to protect Mission Bay from rising sea levels,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. But the draft report was not released. Later that fall, the project team began to further involve department heads and developers to “take more time to get people bought in to what we are doing,” Arcadis consultant Peter Wijsman wrote in an October 2014 email to Tam and Benson. Eight months later, in June 2015, a version of the study stamped as a “final draft” was circulated to the stakeholders group and the University of California, San Francisco. Fran Weld, the Giants’ vice president of development, said the team was “able to learn from the process.” She said the 28-acre Mission Rock site would be reengineered and could function as a levee. The Giants’ plan to raise the buildings to 5.5 feet above today’s mean high tide, surrounded with graded parks that drain to the streets and the bay. She said a Mello-
Roos tax — a special neighborhood-based real estate surcharge — would help pay for future sea rise protections. “We know we don’t know everything that will happen with climate change today,” she said, “so we are doing the best we can today and structuring the financing for what we don’t know in the future.”
LURING BASKETBALL BACK TO S.F. For the Warriors’ dreams of returning to San Francisco, the second time was a charm. In April 2014, the team’s brass abandoned its initial plan for an arena on Piers 30-32 near the Bay Bridge after it generated fierce political opposition from neighbors concerned that it would create congestion and block views. Instead, the team purchased its current 12-acre site in Mission Bay from cloud-computing giant Salesforce. Developing on a private plot instead of port property directly on top of the water eliminated the need for voter approval as well as reviews by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We just have to deal with the city agencies, and that’s a lot simpler, quite frankly,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob told the San Jose Mercury News. In December 2014 — a few months after the study began — Strada Investment Group received a draft to review. On Dec. 12, Benson emailed Strada ex-
ecutives about the adaptation study and design concepts. “We would very much like to share these with you to get your feedback, as the study area includes the arena site at its southern boundary,” Benson wrote. In a recent interview, Benson qualified that communiqué, saying he merely wanted to alert Strada to the existence of the study. “We didn’t get any feedback from the Warriors,” Benson said. Strada representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The team has said it would raise buildings and waterproof below-ground features. Environmental documents acknowledged that during a storm the main court, practice courts and parking garage could be flooded as soon as 2100, if the more pessimistic scientific predictions hold true. Benson said that he shared drafts with Planning Department staff, and that it would have been their responsibility to bring it to the commission. He described the Mission Creek study as a “thought exercise” to develop a range of concepts. “I think it will serve the public education function as it was intended,” he said. “The purpose of the report was never to inform development proposals,” Benson said. “It was not to inform development in Mission Bay. It was to look at the shoreline — what will happen to the shoreline over the next 50 or 100 years? It is a concept document.” But the study itself warned that large sections of the neighborhood, including the areas where the teams are building, would need expensive retrofits. Catherine Reilly, with the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, suggested in one email “that we set the tone” with “solution graphics” that are “attractive for reprint in a news article so that we do not only end up with the ‘sky is falling’ flooding map and the story of solutions is lost.” The mayor did seem concerned about the dangers of sea level rise to the megadevelopments he was pushing hard for in Mission Bay. In fact, his staff was working on multiple, parallel tracks to study the problem. In March 2015, Lee convened a citywide committee to coordinate sea level rise planning across departments. About year after that, the panel published an “action plan” for assessing flood risk for public buildings. That document received only a half-sentence mention of the Mission Creek study. But it did make a promise: A follow-up report would be completed by summer 2018 that would detail funding strategies and possibly new regulations on land use.
EXPERTS PROPOSE RADICAL MISSION CREEK RE-THINK The Mission Creek sea level rise study, released in September 2016, evaluated several options to protect the rapidly growing Mission Bay neighborhood from future floods. t left, a tidal barrier would close during storm surges. At right, another proposal shows the inlet converted into a fresh-water lake, with a levee blocking the tidal connection to San Francisco Bay. The study’s authors included urban research think tank S R, five local agencies, Dutch engineering consultancy Arcadis and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. READ ONLINE: SFPR.ES/MISSIONCREEKSTUDY
How Records Request Dislodged Long-Delayed Mission Creek Study The Public Press initially inquired about the Mission Creek study in late 2014 and was told that it was in draft form and delayed for more technical information, feedback or bureaucratic review. On Sept. 15, 2016, the Public Press emailed the Port of San Francisco’s head of communications, Renée Martin, requesting the Mission Creek study, which was prepared by SPUR, the San Francisco-based planning and urban research think tank. The port cofunded the study with the Planning Department and others. On Sept. 20, port project manager Brad Benson emailed Martin, Eileen Malley, the port’s general counsel, and Fuad Sweiss, Mayor Ed Lee’s adviser on sea level rise. “The study in question is in final draft form, with planned release on Monday or Tuesday,” Benson wrote, indicating Sept. 26 or 27. “This does not appear to be a public records request in my view. Is that a correct reading?” Malley responded that day: “Why don’t you think this is a public records request? It looks to me like a request for the latest draft copy of the Mission Creek Study: Adapting to Rising Tides. I had a conversation with Renee this morning regarding the Sunshine Act disclosure requirements for this type of document. Give me a call or stop by and I can review them with you.” The next day, Benson sent an email to city stakeholders saying that SPUR, with whom Benson had worked closely, would be releasing the report on behalf of the city and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. “Reporters/news outlets who have expressed interest include John King, PublicPress, and the NY Times,” Benson wrote. King is the urban design critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. Benson continued: “Report publication was delayed by a number of factors: a need to make sure that the SLR maps in the report include accurate data about street elevations in Mission Bay; a need to re-up the contract to revise the report to incorporate comments from City departments; and, for a significant period, collective focus on the recently released City SLR Action Plan.” By the end of the week, days before the scheduled release, the report had been sent to King. In an email, Laura Tam, director of sustainable development policy at SPUR, sent low-resolution copies of the report to a broader group of officials and developers, including the San Francisco Giants and the University of California, San Francisco. “Please note this report is embargoed until Monday afternoon. Do not send it to the media, share it, or put anything up on social media before Monday afternoon around 2 pm. We gave John King an exclusive and he is planning to have a story ready around then, and it will be in the Chronicle on Tuesday. After that it is fair game for you to share, and please do.” — The Editors
SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017 | SPECIAL REPORT | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | 5
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront
Solutions to Bayfront Inundation
lternatives include barriers, retreat and living on the water
rtisanopolis, by Gabriel Scheare, uke and ourdes rowley, and atrick White, was one of two winning designs in a contest that the San Francisco-based Seasteading nstitute and the Dutch firm DeltaSync sponsored. Each futuristic floating platform can be towed by a tugboat and interlocked to form sprawling formations behind a modular wave breaker similar to those used off Brighton, England. Image courtesy of the Seasteading Institute By Mary Catherine O'Connor // Public Press
he changing climate and shifting weather patterns are affecting each region of the globe differently, and not all coastal cities will experience sea level rise in the same manner. Even within the Bay Area, encroachment of bay water is sure to require a bigger response in low-lying communities, such as Alviso, near San Jose, than in places that, based on models, are less vulnerable, such as parts of Richmond and Brisbane. Likewise, there will not be a single most effective adaptation strategy, but many. Broadly, responding to sea level rise requires actions that fall into three categories: fortify infrastructure, accommodate higher water and retreat from the shoreline. Given the economic and cultural ties Bay Area residents have to the water — and because the level of the bay will rise slowly, unpunctuated by the type of hurricanes or cataclysmic storms the East Coast experiences — retreat is a hard sell.
DIKES, LEVEES AND WETLANDS But relying solely on bigger, more numerous “hard” solutions, such as dikes and levees, not only would harm the region’s aesthetic value, but also could undercut the effectiveness of restoring San Francisco Bay’s once-thriving wetlands and marshes — including a massive network of former industrial salt ponds in the South Bay. Municipalities, ecologists and planners agree that robust wetlands are key to adapting to rising sea levels. If done correctly, wetlands — natural fortifications against the encroaching water — will migrate upland to accommodate the level of the bay, which could rise a foot by 2050 and 5 feet by the 22nd century, according to some projections. For now, planners are using a more modest 3-foot estimate for 2100. Bay Area residents want to take action on sea level rise. Last June, voters approved Measure AA, a parcel tax that will put $500 million toward improving wetlands over the next 20 years. But unless it is done in combination with other innovative, potentially disruptive baywide adaptation measures, restoring wetlands will be like siphoning a few drops from a brimming bucket, said Nate Kauffman, a landscape architect and urban planning consultant.
OFFSHORE LANDFORMS Kauffman’s vision, called the Live Edge Adaptation Project, combines large-scale engineering, such as the construction of offshore landforms that would act as barrier islands and absorb wave energy, with tidal marshes that would form behind them. Leading up to the shoreline would be another engineered landform, such as a wide, sloping levee made of constructed wetlands to absorb storm surges, similar to the horizontal levee project in Hayward.
LIVE EDGE ADAPTATION PROJECT Constructed Offshore Landform stablishes a protective barrier, dissipating wave energy while providing valu able habitat and human spaces. omposed partially of dredged soils, P embraces a new natural resource stewardship paradigm. he bay s historical geography is echoed in a novel landform building approach.
Tidal Marsh Plains re constructed in the shal low basin shadowed by the offshore landform. hese se uester car bon, soak up storm wa ter and build habitat.
Waves riven by the wind sustain powerful scouring energy in areas of high fetch, a de structive impedi ment to marsh establishment and evolution.
Lagoons: ink the bay s tidal rhythm to the backing marsh. hese will be dynamic spaces on a daily basis, providing crucial stillwater habitat for wild life and destinations for people.
Horizontal Levee: Plays a crucial flood protection role while re establishing habitat and public open space on the bay shore. oupled to a management scheme incorporating our society s wastewater, it represents a progressive green infrastruc ture strategy.
ate auffman s ive Edge daptation roject categorically rejects postures of avoidance and resistance, and puts forth a bold new vision for a better Bay. Images courtesy of Nate Kauffman // LEAP : Live Edge Adaptation Project // n8kauffman.com
How could such a plan be achieved? Kauffman said that implementing the plan would have “huge resource and enormous economic implications” but that the concept is also his “vision and argument for a different way of doing things.” “Systems designed and built 100 years ago are not sustainable, and increasingly less so as we add more people to area,” he said.
REALISTIC, AFFORDABLE DESIGNS Beginning in April, an incentive program called Bay Area: Resilient by Design Challenge will bring together local governments, designers, planners and other stakeholders
to generate 10 design solutions aimed at addressing sea level rise in specific Bay Area communities. The program, inspired by a similar challenge in New York and New Jersey in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, is being underwritten by a $5.8 million grant, led by the Rockefeller Foundation. Past design challenges aimed at sea level rise have floated audacious ideas, such as building levees across the Golden Gate to separate the Pacific Ocean from the bay. What sets this challenge apart is that rather than starting with design concepts, which may or may not have realistic applicability, it seeks out cross-discipline teams willing to delve into vulnerabilities of localities and communities. The goal is to
generate adaptations that are visionary but also realistic, replicable and affordable. Allison Brooks, who as the executive director of the Bay Area Regional Collaborative coordinates adaptation-planning efforts of four regional agencies, is on the team implementing the Resilient by Design Challenge. She said that until this concerted effort, “local jurisdictions have been attempting, because no one else was doing it, to develop solutions to their sea level vulnerabilities. But we can’t think about issues related to climate and flooding from a jurisdictional standpoint, because climate does not pay attention to city lines.” The design challenge seeks to tap into sea level rise adaptation and planning efforts already underway, said Brooks, and use strategic plans developed in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland as guides. Although the 10 adaptation projects that resulted from the Resilient by Design Challenge on the East Coast are funded through $930 million in federal disaster relief, paying for adaptation in the Bay Area is likely to require capital project funding in the tens of billions of dollars.
REDEFINING ‘A NEW URBAN EDGE’ Gabriel Kaprielian, who directs the Design and Innovation for Sustainable Cities program at the University of California, Berkeley, said how we frame the expensive, complex tasks related to sea level rise adaptation is vital. “Can we think about these problems as opportunities to redefine a new urban edge?” he asked. When it comes to redefining that space, the hardest part might not be designing and engineering, but rather changing policy. Take, for example, the Port of San Francisco’s 100-year-old, 3-mile-long seawall that runs under the Embarcadero, absorbing the brunt of tides, boat wakes and storm swells. It is far from an adequate defense against rising seas, but remaking it in its current design could mean separating the city from the bay with a large concrete wall. As Gil Kelley, then-director of citywide planning for the city, told a panel on sea level rise last summer, no one wants that. Yet making the port more resilient might mean changing its mandate, Kaprielian said. He endorsed a redesign in which structures along the waterfront are raised, perhaps even floating so they can rise with the tide. Paying for such a change might entail creating public-private partnerships and adding commercial and residential spaces.
FLOATING ISLANDS, HOMES The California nonprofit Seasteading Institute is designing futuristic floating islands off French Polynesia, featuring solar power, sustainable aquaculture and ocean-based wind farms. The project’s pilot islands would cost a total of $10 million to $50 million and house a few dozen people, Randolph Hencken, the institute’s executive director, told The New
York Times. And the initial residents would most likely be middle-income buyers from the developed world. On a smaller scale are so-called amphibious developments. These structures are built on and anchored to land but have the ability to float during periods of high water. Unlike floating cities, these structures are already in use in New Orleans, the United Kingdom and Southeast Asia. Hope Hui Rising, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Washington State University School of Design and Construction, described amphibious housing concepts to residents of the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods during public workshops in January. She said amphibious housing could be built inside of large levees and, along with open spaces and parks, could help alleviate the compounding effects of coastal, river and inland flooding.
INCLUDING LOW-INCOME AREAS Most current Bay Area residents will not be alive at the end of the century and therefore will not know whether adaptations designed for 3 feet of sea level rise succeed or fail. What regulators can do, however, and what Bay Conservation and Development Commission executive director Larry Goldzband considers a priority, is to ensure that adaptations keep all communities safe and that changes made to one part of the shoreline do not harm adjacent areas. “Many of the neighborhoods that exist now along the bay are underserved neighborhoods, low-income,” Goldzband said. He pointed specifically to East Palo Alto, Alviso, West Oakland, the Canals District, Richmond and Hunters Point. Making sure they are not underserved by sea level rise adaptation plans is a priority for the commission. In considering environmental justice and the need for baywide solutions, Kauffman said people leading the region’s adaptation efforts should reflect the diversity and needs of the region, which is predicted to add 2 million people by 2040. Groups that have long been in the vanguard of efforts to protect the bay should accept that they need to make compromises to adapt to rising seas, Kauffman said. Adding fill to the bay has always been antithetical to groups such as Save the Bay, since the 20th-century extension of the urban shoreline disrupted the functioning of natural ecosystems. But under his concept, filling parts of the bay would be required. “We’re all going to be way dead before the more dramatic parts of this start to manifest,” Kauffman said, “so it’s easier for those environmentalists to keep fighting as they’ve always been than it is to reinterpret their mission or method for saving the bay. The net effect of all these people trying to protect pieces of the bay will mean that nothing happens and all of the bay is in worse shape.” Ellyn Beale and evin Stark contributed reporting and research to this article.
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront
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SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017 | SPECIAL REPORT | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | 7
These eight megadevelopment projects, in areas vulnerable to rising floodwaters on the edge of San Francisco Bay, join 27 we assessed in 2015
NEW MAJOR PROJECTS
20 acres, landfill, recycling and compost facility WHERE: Novato STATUS: Legal challenge denied DEVELOPER: Waste Management KNOWN COST: $39.6 million INCLUDES: Project cost estimate (for a new energy plant on the premises , land value
Canceled, postponed or under study
By Mary Catherine O’Connor and Kevin Stark // Public Press
A severe storm scenario on top of a high-end projection for sea level rise — for a total of about 8 feet
In 2006, a group of North Bay residents raised red flags over developer aste anagement’s interest in e panding its 20 acre landfill and recycling facility. fter arin ounty certified the pro ect’s 2008 environmental impact report, the group sued the county in part because of what it called an inadequate plan for adapting to sea level rise. nder the plan, every five years the facility’s operators are to assess, using the latest scientific pro ections, whether levees surrounding the property are tall enough to prevent ocean waters from flowing in, carrying waste to San Pablo Bay. Per this plan, Waste Management raised a levee once, in 2008, said Rebecca Ng, the county’s deputy director of Environmental Health Services. Waste Management did not respond to a request for comment.
Bay water up to the current, familiar shoreline and that will not be flooded
Artist rendering of Richmond Terminal One. Courtesy of Terminal One Development
Richmond Terminal One
13 acres, residential with public trail and park WHERE: Richmond STATUS: Construction to begin late 2017 DEVELOPER: Terminal One Development and Laconia KNOWN COST: $14 million INCLUDES: Land value, fees
14 20 15 12
17 18 4
This project will entail 21 single-family homes, as well as five condominium buildings containing a total of 2 5 flats, on a former oil and gas storage facility next to the Richmond Yacht Club. To adapt to a projected 3-foot increase in sea level and to mitigate storm damage, the buildings will be set inside the Bay Trail, to be built at nearly 11 feet above current sea level.
SHORELINE BUILDING BOOM ACCELERATES
27 MAJOR PROJECTS AS OF 2015
8 new projects: more than
9 One Mission Bay
27 other projects: more than
2.7-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Strada Investment
10 Central Waterfront
Neighborhood Mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPERS: Many
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO
11 Pier 70
28-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Forest City
SAN FRANCISCO SAN BRUNO
Pier 29, Embarcadero
Approximately 20,000-square-foot commercial development, within 123,000- square-foot pier WHERE: San Francisco STATUS: In approval process DEVELOPER: Jamestown KNOWN COST: $5.8 million INCLUDES: Project cost estimate
12 Executive Park neighborhood
14-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPERS: Universal Paragon Corp., others
BURLINGAME SAN MATEO
13 Golden State Warriors arena
11-acre sports complex WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Golden State Warriors
This pier, on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, was built in 1915 and was to be used as an event space for the 34th America’s up before a fire damaged the structure in 2012. It has been rebuilt and the Port of San Francisco is negotiating a lease with developer Jamestown to add commercial space to its bulkhead, which is one fifth of the total building site. he Sierra Club and other groups have objected, saying the space should be for recreational purposes, but the city said it needs the tax revenue it would receive through the planned use. The Port of San Francisco, which owns the land, will work with the developer to make an adaptation plan for future sea level rise, said Port Commission spokesperson Renée Martin.
14 India Basin
Mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Build Inc.
State University 15 S.F. Satellite campus WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Lennar Urban UPDATE: Still exploratory
he Bay Area’s current boom times represent a good news/bad news story. From Dogpatch to San Mateo to Alameda, bayside property is especially desirable — but increasingly complicated. Although Bay Area planners have in recent years elevated the role that sea level rise projections play in the permitting and design process, cities are still under pressure to approve more development quickly on under-used land. Perhaps, while sitting in traffic during that ever-congested commute, you’ve taken note of the skyline filled with cranes. Builders are in a frenzy as they attempt to meet the region’s demand for office space and housing. The Bay Area has outpaced the rest of the state and country in economic growth for each year since 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. But only 94,000 new housing units were permitted in the region between 2011 and 2016, despite the addition of 530,000 jobs, the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area found. Over the past decade, as housing prices have escalated, residents have looked farther afield for affordable homes, contributing to a 27-minute increase in average daily commutes, according to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index. A 2015 analysis by the Public Press found that Bay Area builders were investing more than $21 billion in 27 large waterfront projects at less than 8 feet above high tide. That elevation could see occasional flooding by the end of this century. Since then, developers have crafted plans for another eight large-scale commercial and residential construction projects in that zone. Though not all amounts are yet known, we have tallied more than $1.8 billion in costs associated with buying land parcels and building these proposed projects. Regionally, policies guiding sea level rise adaptation and design continue to be inconsistent. Of the new and in-progress waterfront developments, some failed to include any proposals to mitigate future flooding. For other projects in the permitting and approval process, rising water is a principal design consideration.
16 Mission Rock
28-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: Giants Development Services
17 8 Washington
4-acre lot, residential tower WHERE: San Francisco STATUS: Permits granted, demolition of current structure to start soon DEVELOPER: Paramount Group KNOWN COST: $218.6 million INCLUDES: Project cost estimate, land value, fees hen finished, this 21 story tower will contain 120 luxury condominiums as well as street-level commercial space. The project’s environmental impact report notes that, based on current pro ections, the bottom floor of the building will likely be inundated during a 100 year flood event by 2050. But developer Paramount Group faces no legal mandate to adapt the design to future sea level rise because the property lies outside the jurisdiction of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which requires risks associated with sea level rise to be assessed. Paramount declined a request for comment.
SUNNYVALE SANTA CLARA SAN JOSE
Courtesy of the Paramount Group
18 Ferry Terminal
27 North Bayshore
3 acres of ferry gates WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: WETA UPDATE: Begins May 2017
Development area Mixed-use development WHERE ountain iew DEVELOPERS: Many
Island 19 Treasure & Yerba Buena Island 450-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPERS: Treasure Island Development Authority, Lennar Urban, others
Federal Airfield 1,000-acre mixed-use development WHERE ountain iew
20 Hunters Point Shipyard
& Candlestick Point 750-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER: FivePoint Point 21 Burlingame 18-acre mixed-use
WHERE: Burlingame DEVELOPERS sia Pacific, Genzon Property Group
22 Lincoln Centre Campus
Mixed-use development office, lab, manufacturing WHERE: Foster City DEVELOPER: BioMed Realty Trust
23 Redwood City Saltworks
1,433-acre residential WHERE: Redwood City DEVELOPER Pacific entures UPDATE: No active proposal
24 Crossing 900
Mixed-use development WHERE: Redwood City DEVELOPERS: Hunter Storm Properties
25 Pete’s Harbor/Blu Harbor
Residential WHERE: Redwood City DEVELOPER: RWC Harbor Communities
26 Facebook West
22-acre corporate headquarters WHERE: Menlo Park DEVELOPER: Gehry Partners UPDATE: Project complete
28 Google Moffett
29 Google Moffett
Place Campus 55-acre mixed-use development WHERE: Sunnyvale DEVELOPER: Jay Paul Co.
30 Centennial Gateway
8.4-acre mixed-use development WHERE: Santa Clara
Point Site A 31 Alameda 68-acre mixed-use
development WHERE: Former Naval Air Station DEVELOPER: Alameda Point Partners
32 Brooklyn Basin Project
65-acre mixed-use development WHERE: Oakland DEVELOPERS: Signature Development Group, Zarsion Holdings Group, Reynolds & Brown
33 Oakland Army Base
Mixed-use development WHERE: West Oakland DEVELOPERS: California Capital & Investment Group, Prologis, City of Oakland, Port of Oakland
34 Jack London Square
Mixed-use development WHERE: Oakland DEVELOPER: Jack London uare entures
35 San Leandro Shoreline
Mixed-use development WHERE: San Leandro DEVELOPER: Cal-Coast Development
DATA SOURCES FOR FLOODING: U.S. Geological Survey; San Francisco Public Utilities Commission; Our Coast, Our Future. DATA SOURCE FOR DEVELOPMENTS: Public Press research. MAP: Marcea Ennamorato. REPORTING: Kevin Stark, Mary Catherine O’Connor, Noah Arroyo and Lulu Orozco
Former Potrero Power Plant 1201 Illinois St.
21 acres, mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco STATUS: In approvals, land remediation phase DEVELOPER: Associate Capital KNOWN COST: $71.5 million INCLUDES and value partial amount This property is owned by Associate Capital, an investment group that includes eBay’s Meg Whitman. Real estate developer District Development is remediating toxic soil at the site of this former power plant, as a first step to converting it to million square feet of housing and commercial space, plus public waterfront access. The developer has not yet submitted plans for the site, said spokesman P.J. Johnston, but it will “conform to existing and new planning requirements” around sea level rise.
Artist rendering of the 75 Howard St. project from a pier.
3.2-acre mixed-use development WHERE: San Francisco DEVELOPER Pacific Waterfront Partners UPDATE: Project cancelled
75 Howard St.
But adaptation is not cheap. The firm planning to redevelop the Alameda Marina, for instance, will spend $44 million to make the 13-acre site resilient to sea level rise and storm surges by rebuilding degraded sections of the landing and erecting a seawall. In part because long-term forecasting of future climate change is inherently imprecise, the exact amount of sea level rise that Bay Area communities are planning for varies greatly. Most agencies are using 2012 projections by the National Research Council, which predict a rise of anywhere between 3 and 4.6 feet by 2100 — enough to permanently flood the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, for example — not counting the possibility of 3.4 feet of surging water during extreme storms. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission has very limited jurisdiction over the Bay shoreline, from the water’s edge to just 100 feet inland. The regional agency requires developers to use climate change projections to assess the risk of structures being flooded by 2050. “We advise people to be conservative,” said Brad McCrea, regulatory director for the commission. “It’s easier to build for high water now rather than respond to it later.” But an uptick in the melting of the Antarctic ice fields means that earlier projections could be low. State law does not provide any hard numbers, and developers can pick conservative estimates as long as the science has been peer-reviewed. Bay Area planners are watching this closely. Until recently, developers had to complete vulnerability checks as part of the California Environmental Quality Act review process. The assessment included future flooding from rising water levels. But in 2015, a California Building Industry Association lawsuit challenged these standards and the state Supreme Court ruled that climate change was beyond the limited scope of these state environmental rules. Our map shows planned construction projects (go to sfpublicpress.org/searisemap for an interactive view). In many of these vulnerable areas, cities are encouraging new construction with special zoning and tax incentives.
684 acres, mixed-use development WHERE: Brisbane STATUS: City reviewing project through June 2017 DEVELOPER: Universal Paragon Corp. KNOWN COST: $1.37 billion INCLUDES: Project cost estimate, associated infrastructure costs Since 2006, developer Universal Paragon Corp. has been advancing this massive proposal to replace a defunct rail yard and landfill with ,000 housing units, a large park, and 7 million square feet of commercial space. Some Brisbane residents oppose the plan due to concerns over congestion, but SPUR, a Bay Area urban planning think tank, and other smart-growth proponents endorse it because it would provide dense housing and access to nearby Caltrain, SamTrans, and Muni buses and trains. If approved, construction could start in 2019 and take up to 20 years.
2.8 acres, 76 condominiums WHERE: San Mateo STATUS: Completed, October 2016 DEVELOPER: The New Home Company KNOWN COST: $42.6 million INCLUDES Pro ect cost estimate construction only , land value This 76-condominium project resulted in the removal of one-third of an acre of seasonal wetlands, and the developer, which declined to comment for this story, made up for that by buying credits meant to finance wetland restoration elsewhere. he developer also added two landscape features, called bioswales, to remove pollutants from runoff into adjacent wetlands. The structures were not designed to accommodate rising sea levels.
Artist rendering of Brisbane Baylands development.
Courtesy of Universal Paragon Corp.
Alameda Marina Redevelopment Proposal
44 acres, mixed-use redevelopment WHERE: Alameda STATUS: Master Plan submitted, in approval phase DEVELOPER: Bay West Development KNOWN COST: $44 million INCLUDES: Site improvements (to prep land for construction
Artist rendering of Tidelands Condominiums development. Courtesy of the New Home Company Inc.
Almost 90 percent of the Alameda Marina is still undeveloped. his pro ect would fill much of that open space by adding about 670 residential units and 200,000 square feet of commercial space, reconstructing the shoreline in the process. The developer has said it will build seawalls to shield the property from at least 24 inches of projected sea level rise, per the city of Alameda’s requirements. Its design accommodates future adaptive measures, such as increasing the seawall height above that level, according to the project plan.
8 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | SPECIAL REPORT | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront
Building Rules Are Weakened, State Inert CEQA from page 1
The decisive case, California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, did not turn specifically on sea level rise but ultimately limited the reach of the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. In their opinion, the justices accepted the argument from one of the state’s biggest developer lobbying groups that the act concerned only the “effects of a project on the environment,” and not changes in the environment that could affect a project. Those include risks from sea level rise flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, shifting wind patterns, air quality and carbon emissions that warm the atmosphere. As a result, industry lawyers argue that under CEQA, waterfront developers no longer appear to be required to pay for expensive fixes to protect their properties from flooding by elevating building entrances, waterproofing ground floors, constructing levees or seawalls or using other engineering techniques. The Public Press found that since 2011, developers of at least eight major Bay Area waterfront projects have included key language from court rulings in dozens of land-use filings and lawsuits, some in an effort to block requirements to build or pay for flood protection measures. Six of the projects used this tactic in environmental planning documents filed after the high court’s ruling in December 2015. Among our findings: Statewide, developers, cities, environmentalists and others have argued about the scope of CEQA in at least 15 real estate lawsuits since 2009, when courts in Southern California began reviewing challenges to the law. Two cities — San Francisco and Menlo Park — have used the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the CEQA reinterpretation to justify their own land-use plans. Three companies seeking to build on the San Francisco Bay waterfront have used the industry association case to attack regulations or suits: the Golden State Warriors; Facebook, which expanded its Menlo Park campus; and the Redwood Landfill in Novato. Developers of five other major projects, including the mixed-use development at Pier 70 in San Francisco being built by Forest City, cited the language limiting CEQA in environmental review documents or in court when analyzing sea level rise, air quality, wind or other environmental effects. In July 2015, the Public Press reported that scientists projected that sea level rise, combined with the severe storm surge, could push the bay 8 feet above today’s high tide by 2100. Leading agencies, such as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, concurred with that finding. A citywide task force last year issued a wide-ranging report outlining the dangers to the city’s heavily urbanized eastern waterfront.
Attorney Andrew Sabey represented the building industry in a case limiting state environmental rules. “Cities have planning law,” he said. “You should be using it.” Photo by Anna Vignet Since then, predictions for sea level rise have only worsened. Scientific papers have documented the accelerated melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and glaciers in Canada — both the result of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution from industrial activity. These measurements, combined with new atmospheric models, have pushed the federal upper-limit prediction for occasional flooding above 8 feet along the California coast by 2100, even without a storm. For more on the science see page 10.) Despite growing alarm, local land-use approvals on the waterfront seem to have speeded up. At least eight large-scale developments situated below 8 feet in elevation are proposed, including a residential tower on Howard Street in San Francisco and a marina in Alameda, the island city that could be more than half flooded by 2100, according to the most pessimistic sea rise scenario. See story and map, page 5. The building industry’s main critique of CEQA is that it is abused by opponents of development. Industry lawyers tell stories of “not in my backyard” neighbors tying up or derailing what they call perfectly benign projects with what developers consider picayune complaints about auto traffic, wind patterns or shadows cast in parks. Major local industry players, such as the Bay Area Council and Bay Planning Coalition, supported the effort to dismantle key portions of the law. “Requiring developers to account for external environmental
CHRONOLOGY OF ACTIONS ON SEA LEVEL RISE
impacts on projects was never the intent of CEQA and would mark a profound and fundamental change in the law, creating unreasonable and extremely costly barriers to infill development that is our best opportunity to address our housing crisis,” said Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications at the Bay Area Council. The push-back on the use of CEQA to address climate change, however, goes a step beyond the usual complaints by neighbors.
“Requiring developers to account for external environmental impacts on projects was never the intent of CEQA.” Rufus Jeffris, Bay Area Council In its Supreme Court case, the California Building Industry Association argued that the law “really is not the right tool” to address sea level rise. Andrew Sabey, an attorney with Cox, Castle & Nicholson, who represented the association, said cities do not need state law to do their jobs. “There is a robust world of planning and zoning law, a robust world of federal or state laws that can be considered,” Sabey said.
Cities, he said, “should be doing planning and exercising their police powers. It goes back to the analogy that isn’t perfect: A lot of legislative muscles were allowed to atrophy. You have planning law. You should be using it.” But Chris Kern, a city planner in San Francisco, said that for years his office relied on CEQA to regulate private development threatened by flooding, and that no existing local ordinances allow him to require changes to developments that may become unsafe as the bay rises and stormrelated flooding becomes more frequent. Some environmental lawyers who use CEQA to challenge developments worry that real estate interests are passing off costs to the taxpayers. Government agencies could be on the hook for protecting poorly defended buildings that they are still permitting for construction. “It’s so wrong,” said Doug Carstens, a managing partner of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, a law firm based in Southern California that represents environmental and community groups. He said developers are arguing that a problem exists — but it is no longer their problem. “People have these concerns and want answers, and developers are saying, ‘We don’t have to give you an answer,’” Carstens said. “It’s putting blinders on.” According to Richard Frank, director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at the University of California, Davis, developers are working hard to
Call for Sea Rise Plan Coordination: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issues an executive order directing state agencies to plan for sea level rise. NOV. 2008
consolidate their state court victory. “They will continue to argue for a limited application of the California Environmental uality Act whenever they can,” Frank said.
BASKETBALL BY THE BAY
The waterfront’s latest marquee project — the future San Francisco home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team — broke ground in January. The project, which includes the arena and a nearby office complex, sits directly across the street from San Francisco Bay and a few feet above the current level of the water. (The exact height has changed in successive drafts of the architectural renderings. When it opens for the 2019-2020 season, the newly christened Chase Center will anchor the city’s 303-acre Mission Bay neighborhood, south of downtown, where new offices, medical campuses and residential buildings are rising every year. In March, Uber Technologies announced that it had acquired a significant stake in two office towers within the arena project, and that thousands of employees would occupy half of the 580,000 square feet of office space. The Warriors’ last environmental report, approved in 2015 by the Planning Commission, acknowledged that sea level rise could get bad enough to flood pla as and the
Lawyers for Developers Share Tactics In 1995, the Diablo Valley Ranch, a drug rehab facility in Contra Costa County, planned to expand. The problem? According to neighbors, the land it wanted to build on was contaminated with oil and toxic chemicals. The company made what was then an obscure argument: The California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s premiere environmental law, did not require developers to consider how the environment might influence its pro ect, only how the project would affect the environment. Today, developers are using the same reasoning to push back on the ability of Bay Area cities to regulate waterfront development and protect residents from rising sea levels, a product of human-caused climate change. Over the last two decades, as developers won over judges in more and more state courts, lawyers began peppering these phrases in environmental impact reports, lawsuits and responses to public comment. — Kevin Stark
3 JUNE 2011
Baird v. County of Contra Costa; Bi-Bett Corporation
City of Long Beach v. Los Angeles nified School District
The Court of Appeal rules that Contra Costa County does not have to address existing soil pollution in a landuse decision. The case contradicts previous rulings and is largely ignored for more than a decade.
The Court of Appeal rules that school officials are not obligated to account for existing air pollution from a nearby highway when deciding where to put a new facility.
“The purpose of CEQA is to protect the environment from proposed projects, not to protect proposed projects from the existing environment. CEQA is implicated only by adverse changes in the environment.”
CEQA continued on page 9
San Francisco Bay Plan: The Bay Conservation and evelopment ommission updates sea level rise findings and policies. Shoreline developers will now be asked to base their climate change analysis on consensus science.
CHRONOLOGY OF LEGAL BATTLES
// Public Press
e digress first to make the point that generally, the purpose of an environmental impact report is to identify the significant effects on the environment of a project not the impact of the environment on the project, such as the school’s students and staff.”
South Orange County Wastewater Authority v. City of Dana Point; Makar Properties LLC The Court of Appeal rules that a proposed mixed-use development cannot be blocked on account of pollution emanating from a nearby sewage treatment plant.
“The argument is that the environment needs to be cleaned up to make it suitable for the project, rather than vice versa … The Legislature did not enact CEQA to protect people from the environment…”
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles; Playa Capital Company LLC The Court of Appeal rules that a developer seeking to build condominium and commercial space on a wetland does not have to address “impacts relating to sea level rise as a result of global climate change.”
“But identifying the effects on the project and its users of locating the project in a particular environmental setting is neither consistent with CEQA’s legislative purpose nor required by the CEQA statutes…”
SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017 | SPECIAL REPORT | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | 9
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront
Court Rulings Give Developers More Leverage CEQA from page 8
arena’s basement during a storm in 2100. Possible remedies include berms around the perimeter or, in a pinch, strategically placed sandbags. (For more on San Francisco’s sea-rise planning in Mission Bay, see page 3.) Despite these challenges, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee remains a champion of the arena, which he has called his “legacy project.” He stood alongside executives and basketball players to plunge a ceremonial golden shovel into a dirt pile at a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 17. The team defeated a bitter legal challenge in November by arguing, in part, that CEQA no longer required the team to protect against environmental impacts such as sea level rise and wind. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera celebrated the rigorous legal defense in a press release: “A small group of opponents had threatened to litigate ‘until the cows come home,’ despite losing in court every step of the way,” he wrote. “Well, guess what? The cows have come home.” This is a crucial moment for environmental planning in California. Last fall, Brown declared California would lead the battle to prepare for the effects of climate change. In a fiery speech in San Francisco’s Moscone Center before thousands of scientists, Brown said California would step in where Washington had failed to do the right thing. Responding to threats to defund NASA’s Earth Science division, Brown issued a headline-grabbing one-liner: “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite.” But land-use regulation is generally less high profile than energy policy or climate research. More than a year after the state court ruling, the state has not given much help to local governments. The Office of Planning and Research, which Brown oversees, has proposed new guidance for local governments on how to interpret CEQA in light of the court’s ruling. But an early draft suggests that it will not recommend that cities or courts continue to use CEQA as a regulatory tool to address climate change. In November, the California Building Industry Association sent a letter to the planning agency requesting that any new rules include direct language from the court’s opinion. In January, the planning and research office posted the letter online after the Public Press filed a public records request. Brown has criticized CEQA since at least 2012, and called for local land-use policy to be streamlined. The reform, he said, was “the Lord’s work.” Last year, he pushed for the deregulation of new market-rate developments that included affordable housing. Brown’s proposal to award these projects approval without environmental review — the so-called asof-right provision — faced fierce opposition from environmental and labor groups and failed to win support in the Legislature.
LOCAL RESPONSE MUTED In summer 2015, the Public Press calculated that Bay Area builders had invested more than $21 billion in 27 major new shoreline developments in areas vulnerable to sea level rise. Records showed that in San Francisco alone, scores of smaller buildings in the Financial District, Mission Bay and South of Market could also end up
under water. (For articles and interactive maps, visit sfpublicpress.org/searise.) While many cities touching the bay said they were studying the problem, few had set any limits on development, such as zoning and building codes. San Francisco Planning Department officials said at the time that they required developers to raise the land or set buildings back. Using the reporting process outlined by CEQA, planners provided developers with a checklist that included a review of the effects of future flooding and references to the most up-to-date sea rise predictions. Kern, the senior planner, said CEQA was a nimble tool that could adapt with the changing science. But after the ruling, while the department could encourage developers to address rising seas, it could no longer force them to do so. Kern said cities might need to adopt new regulations. “That is something that we have been discussing in the city for some time,” he said. A committee convened by the mayor last year said that any such proposal would come by 2018 at the earliest. Sea level rise was not the focus of the state Supreme Court ruling. At issue were strict pollution standards for allowing development in areas with dirty air. The ruling criticized what lawyers called
going to get bigger, and we have to figure out how we’re going to prosper in spite of that,” he said. One unfortunate possibility, he said, is abandonment of the lowest-lying ground: “Retreat may well become necessary.”
DEVELOPERS ATTACKED LAW The “reverse application” of CE A first came under scrutiny in a 1995 appellate court case, Baird v. County of Contra Costa, which centered on an addictiontreatment organization that planned to add a 20-bed treatment center for teenage boys. Neighbors sued, saying nearby land was contaminated with petroleum in open ponds at a former Shell Oil plant. The court held that a developer did not need to consider how existing toxic hazards might affect new residents. “The purpose of CEQA is to protect the environment from proposed projects, not to protect proposed projects from the existing environment,” the judge
which includes sea level rise, are not considered impacts under CEQA.” A similar fight emerged around a shoreline garbage dump in Marin County. A San Anselmo-based environmental group, No Wetlands Landfill Expansion, filed suit in mid-2012 challenging the state-approved enlargement of the Redwood Landfill in Novato, the largest such facility in the county. The landfill is near San Francisco Bay and the Petaluma River, and levees would need to be fortified and expanded in five to 10 years. “There is no indication how Redwood must design and construct the levees,” environmentalists wrote. Officials said levees were last expanded in 2008. Landfill representatives said in court filings that Redwood did not want to commit to levee expansion, given the “unknowns associated with sea level rise,” but promised to review and update flood-protection plans every few years. Again, landfill lawyers employed the same CEQA-limiting language as in other cases. Initially, the appeals court judges were skeptical and agreed to review the climatechange analysis. They said that if water breached a levee, thousands of pounds of solid waste would pour into the river and ultimately the bay. This would clearly be “an impact on the environment.” But after reviewing the company’s planning documents, the judges ruled in favor of the landfill, saying they trusted the company to review levee improvements every five years for “the entire remaining operating life of the landfill.” Redwood Landfill staff did not respond to requests for comment. Rebecca Ng, deputy director of Marin County’s environmental health department, said the expansion had not begun.
“The Legislature did not create CEQA to protect people from the environment.” 2011 Court of Appeal ruling from Orange County the “reverse application” of the state law: “Agencies generally subject to CEQA are not required to analyze the impact of existing environmental conditions on a project’s future users or residents.” That wording left many planners, developers, lawyers and policymakers confused about the circumstances in which climate change might be relevant. Lower courts may bring more clarity by ruling in future cases in which developments “exacerbate existing environmental hazards.” Ellison Folk, a partner in the environmental firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, represented the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in the case. She said the ruling created a “gap” in regulation. “I think agencies have the ability to do this kind of analysis and regulate to address sea level rise,” she said. “You can still use the CEQA process as your vehicle for doing that — because the Supreme Court said that if you want to do that, you can. There’s just nothing that requires you to.” Without new state or local laws, many environmentalists place their hopes in regional planning. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which was formed 50 years ago to stop developers from filling in the bay, voted in October to create a regionwide climate adaptation plan. But the agency’s own land-use jurisdiction is limited to 100 feet inland from the shoreline, so its challenge will be to cajole normally competitive cities to work together. Larry Goldzband, the executive director, said that with water now creeping inland, cities on the shoreline will face hard choices. “Everybody in the Bay Area who deals with planning, or is a planner, or has to work with planners recognizes the bay is
LAWYERS STRATEGIZE NEXT MOVES
The court rulings have strengthened the hand of lawyers working for the building industry, who gathered several times in the last year to plan their next moves on behalf of developers. Last Oct. 5, the Bay Planning Coalition, whose mission is to convene industry and municipal groups around development and watershed issues, held a meeting billed as an “expert briefing” at the law office of Wendell Rosen Black & Dean LLP in downtown Oakland. CEQA experts distributed case summaries with key conclusions and language that could be worked directly into environmental impact reports. The main agenda item addressed the nuances of the 2015 California Building Industry Association ruling from the state Supreme Court. Planners and policymakers from local governments were invited. Sabey, the building industry association lawyer, works at 50 California St. in San Francisco, which attorneys jokingly call “CEQA headquarters,” where the political sausage of Bay Area real estate development is made. While lawyers on other floors of the building — which has sweeping views of the bay, including hundreds of acres of land that could someday be below sea level — may disagree, Sabey said cities have relied too much on the California Environmental Quality Act. “There will be that case where sea level rise is a CEQA issue,” he said, “but it should be a rare bird, where you are causing an impact because of your project.”
Attorney Ellison Folk defended the regional air district in state Supreme Court. She said the 2015 environmental ruling was shortsighted and ambiguous. Photo by Anna Vignet // Public Press wrote. But this case was considered an outlier and was not relied on as precedent. Lawyers and judges largely ignored its arguments for more than a decade. Then in 2009, conservative appellate courts in Southern California began repeating language from Baird. In City of Long Beach v. Los Angeles Unified School District, another court held that CEQA did not require the district to mitigate the effects of toxic air pollution when constructing a school close to a freeway. In South Orange County Wastewater Authority v. City of Dana Point in 2011, the Court of Appeal held that CEQA did not require residents of a proposed subdivision to mitigate odors from a wastewater treatment plant. “The Legislature did not enact CEQA to protect people from the environment,” according to the ruling. Sea level rise first came under consideration in Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles in 2011. Developer Playa Capital wanted to build condominium and commercial space on a wetland in Los Angeles. The land trust sued, saying the developer did not adequately “discuss impacts relating to sea level rise as a result of global climate change.”
Regional Sea Rise Study: The National Research Council publishes a comprehensive study of how sea level rise will affect the West Coast. The intention is for city planners to use the information as a tool for long-range planning. JUNE 2012
Again borrowing language from Baird, the court argued that CEQA did not apply. The purpose of state-mandated environmental impact reports, it said, “is to identify the significant effects of a project on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on the project.” After Ballona, some Bay Area developers similarly argued that they no longer had to offer engineering solutions to climaterelated flood risks. In 2012, Facebook submitted designs for its new 430,000-square-foot headquarters in Menlo Park, parts of which were just a few dozen yards across from — and a few feet above — San Francisco Bay. The documents claimed that structures would be “raised above future flood risk.” But officials from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the city of East Palo Alto and Save the Bay found the plan to be “inadequate” and asked for “possible options for providing adequate flood protection.” Facebook followed the anti-
CEQA lawyers’ script on how to challenge the law’s authority. Quoting Ballona, the company argued that the review process required developers to “evaluate the effects of the project on the environment, not the effect of the environment on the project.” The answer satisfied the Menlo Park City Council, which approved the project. The facility opened for business in March 2015. Late last year, Menlo Park changed its general plan, proposing new transportation and significant building in the neighborhoods of Belle Haven, Flood Triangle, Suburban Park and Lorelei Manor. During public comment, one resident challenged city planners to “detail the number of new residential units and the amount of nonresidential square footage that would be added in areas prone to sea level rise.” The city responded that it required new development to be elevated 2 feet above the level that the Federal Emergency Management Agency now considers part of the flood zone — a standard that the agency has never updated to account for sea level rise predictions. Like private development lawyers, the city echoed the recent court cases: “The environment’s effects on a proposed project,
Report on Waterfront Building Boom: Comparing scientists’ predictions with land-use permits from around the Bay Area, the Public Press finds that builders are investing more than $21 billion in new shoreline development.
Subramaniam Vincent contributed data analysis for this report.
San Francisco Sea Level Rise Action Plan: San Francisco adopts guidance documents for addressing the threat of sea level rise for all public facilities and outlines ob ectives for coastal flood planning and mitigation. JULY 2015
Facebook Campus Project In applying for permits for a new 22-acre campus in Menlo Park, the social media giant faces criticism from environmental groups, regional agencies and the neighboring city of East Palo Alto, centered on inadequate planning for sea level rise. The company responds to most of the comments with boilerplate language from recent court cases saying it is not responsible for protecting the property from climate induced flooding.
“CEQA requires an analysis of the effects of a proposed project on the environment…the purpose of an EIR is to identify the significant effects of a pro ect on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on the project…”
No Wetlands Landfill Expansion v. County of Marin et al., Redwood Landfill Inc.
California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District
The Court of Appeal green-lights the expansion of Marin County’s largest garbage dump. The court says it trusts the company to review levee improvements every five years for the remaining life of the landfill.
The California Supreme Court rules that the intention of the California Environmental Quality Act is to protect the environment, and does not apply to the effects on people or property from future climate change. California and local officials acknowledge that it will be hard to require developers to plan for changes such as sea level rise.
“… EIR had no duty to analyze or mitigate the environment’s effect on the project (as opposed to the project’s effect on the environment). But Ballona Wetlands is distinguishable because, although the I may not specifically say so, future sea rise here presumably would not only impact the project but would also impact the environment by contaminating waterways…”
“In light of CEQA’s text and structure, we conclude that CEQA generally does not require an analysis of how existing environmental conditions will impact a project’s future users or residents.”
General Plan, City of Menlo Park Menlo Park releases a general plan covering a wide variety of goals including land use, transportation, utilities and public investment. One commenter recommends the city “detail the number of residential units and amount of non-residential square footage that would be added in areas prone to sea level rise,” but the city responds that it is no longer obligated to do so. “…Per the recent California Supreme Court decision in the California Building Industry Association [CBIA] v Bay Area Air Quality Management District [BAAQMD], issued December 17, 2015, the environment’s effect on a proposed project, which includes sea level rise, are not considered impacts under CEQA unless the proposed project would exacerbate an environmental hazard…”
Mission Bay Alliance v. Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure; Golden State Warriors Arena LLC The Court of Appeal rules in favor of the Golden State Warriors in its application for a $1 billion development including a basketball arena and office comple . he legal challenge had focused on the effects on traffic and wind patterns, mentioning sea level rise only parenthetically.
“Defendants argue correctly that CEQA does not require analysis of the wind impacts on the project. [T]he purpose of an FSEIR is to identify the significant effects of a pro ect on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on the project.”
OCT. NOV. DEC. 2016 2016 2016
San Francisco’s Natural Resources Management Plan The City of San Francisco, which owns a golf course and natural area in coastal San Mateo County, issues a wide-ranging parks management plan calling for keeping the level of wetlands artificially stable. In comments, the Sierra Club objects that the proposal “will lack any resiliency in the face of increased climate stress and inevitable sea-level rise.”
“The purpose of an EIR is to provide public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effect which a proposed project is likely to have on the environment.”
Graphic by HyunJu Chappell // Public Press
10 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | SPECIAL REPORT | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017
SEA LEVEL RISE: Wild West on the Waterfront By Kevin Stark and Ellyn Beale // Public Press
cross California, policymakers and urban planners at every level of government are struggling with how to respond to new computer models that show massive ice sheets in Antarctica on the brink of collapse. The melting of fields of ice in West Antarctica could send sea levels to heights twice those estimated by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change just a few years ago, according to the new estimates published in Nature. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melted, it would push water along North America and in San Francisco Bay far higher than the global average. The most extreme estimates suggest that sea levels could rise by more than 8 feet globally and as much as 10 feet in the Bay Area, even without a storm. Compounding that, recently published research from the North Pole shows that melting glaciers and ice caps in Canada’s Arctic are contributing significantly to rising seas. Only Greenland holds more Arctic ice than Canada. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown convened a scientific working group to review the latest studies. The group is expected to release guidance in the spring that boosts the amount of sea level rise California cities should plan for. That would shift the target for Bay Area planners, who, after years of deliberation, had only just settled on a consensus estimate. Those figures might already be outdated. “We all know that’s out the window,” said Larry Goldzband, executive director of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the nation’s oldest coastal zone regulator. In October, the agency began creating a baywide plan to adapt to sea level rise. In coming years, the commission plans to produce renderings, engineering designs and financing documents for a proposed fix, which is expected to cost billions of dollars. With polar ice melting faster than governmental decisionmaking generally happens, it is a race against science and time. “We have 27 members of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and 13 of them are locally elected officials,” Gold band said. “They want to see us get this done.” San Francisco leaders are also grap-
Local Planners Brace For Antarctic Ice Melt
Photos via NASA
Jan. 24: Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic ice sheet.
pling with how to protect the city from rising waters. Their strategy has been informed by the work of David Behar, director of the climate program at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He is following the research closely. “When it comes to sea level rise, what happens in Greenland and the Antarctic are the biggest uncertainties,” he said. But for now, despite the new research, he is not recommending any changes to city policy. “We cannot change our guidelines every time a new article comes out,” said Behar, who chairs the city’s Sea Level Rise Committee. “Otherwise we’d be
Jan. 26: Satellite captures a portion of the glacier starting to break off.
Jan. 31: The relatively small iceberg was estimated at up to 1.2 miles.
changing our targets every few weeks.” Behar does not believe the latest projections have reached a scientific consensus, and he is looking for other model-based studies that confirm the conclusions in the Nature paper. “The question we are asking ourselves is, is this actionable science? The jury is still out on that,” he said. In 2015, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee asked all city departments to prepare the waterfront and public facilities for the threats posed by climate change. What emerged was a sea level rise plan billed as a “call to action.” By next year, San Francisco is expected to produce a list of
project investments “to best improve climate resilience” with potential funding sources. The city based its plan on research on the effects of climate change on the West Coast conducted in 2012 by the National Research Council. The study predicted that the rise in ocean levels would accelerate later this century, inundating thousands of acres of shoreline. Under what Behar said is the “most likely” scenario, water could rise by some 3 feet by 2100. The model also included an upper range where the bay could rise by 4.6 feet, a worst-case scenario in which greenhousegas emissions continue unabated, raising
the temperatures of the atmosphere and the seas. Add to that 3.4 feet of surging water and the total rise could hit 8 feet during a bad storm. But the new research in Nature shows how rising greenhouse-gas emissions could melt the Antarctic ice sheet, contributing several feet of sea level rise independently. The models were based on studies of how high global sea level was during warm periods in the distant past, and simulations showing how rising temperatures can splinter ice sheets and force massive chunks to calve off. This research, conducted by geoscientists Robert DeConto and David Pollard, was included in a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which included runaway projections for the San Francisco Bay Area. The ice sheets in the Antarctic are massive. If all the ice were to melt, the mass of water that enters the oceans could disrupt the Earth’s gravitational field and rotation, magnifying sea level rise off North America, according to Rutgers University’s Robert Kopp, an author of the NOAA report. “The consequence of the gravitational changes is that you have a sea level fall near the ice sheet and a greater than global sea level rise far away from it,” he said. Another scientist scrutinizing the latest research is Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the governor’s working group. The potential for sea level rise is “enormous,” he said. The oceans are warming and that warm water is getting onto the ice shelves and melting them from above. At the same time, the water levels are rising and pushing the ice up. “There are these massive ice sheets — glaciers that are coming down to the coast,” he said. “They’re being buttressed by these big ice shelves.” The NOAA analysis was released on the last day of Barack Obama’s presidency at a moment when, fearful that the Trump administration would destroy key data or make it inaccessible, federal climate scientists were scrambling to store climate data in safe servers. Oceanographer William Sweet, a co-author of the NOAA report, told The Washington Post that the scenarios provide “communities a better sense of what the future might hold with continued sea level rise so they can plan accordingly and have better insights and make smart decisions about how they want to plan for the future.”
King Baudouin Ice Shelf, East Antarctica: 984 feet
Transamerica Pyramid, 853 feet
Photo by International Polar Foundation
State Water System Built for a Climate We No Longer Have By Lauren Sommer // KQED Science
any Californians are still in disbelief that after five years of too little water during the drought, now the problem is too much water. Heavy winter storms have done more than cause problems at Oroville Dam, where thousands of people were evacuated after erosion of a critical spillway. They have also stressed thousands of miles of levees and flood infrastructure downstream of the major dams. Some say it is a wake-up call because the state’s warming climate could mean more of the same. With rivers running high, levee patrols have been on high alert for any sign of damage. Earlier this year, 60 feet of levee collapsed on Tyler Island, near the town of Walnut Grove in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A huge crane was brought in to dump
rocks in the gash, in the hope of preventing the river from breaking through. “Every hour we work, we’re safer,” said Mello, a farmer on the island who anxiously watched every rock load. “We’re not out of the woods yet by a long shot.” Nearby farms and homes would be underwater without the levee, as the island sits 17 feet below sea level at its lowest point. Mello watched the levee disintegrate in just 15 minutes. “This shouldn’t be a surprise,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, climate scientist at Stanford University. “It’s actually exactly what’s been predicted by scientists for at least 30 years.” Diffenbaugh says while drought and floods aren’t new to California, climate change could make them both more extreme. “If it’s hot out, water is going to evaporate,” Diffenbaugh said. “And that’s what happens with soils. We’re getting more
frequent occurrences of low precipitation leading to drought because the temperatures are higher.” During wet years, warmer temperatures will cause more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow. The snowpack is also showing signs of melting earlier. California’s water system was designed a century ago, around having a predictable snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which acts like a frozen reservoir, storing water until the spring. California’s flood system can handle that slow melt, but is not really equipped for a huge amount of runoff all at once, Diffenbaugh said. “Our water system was really built in an old climate,” he said. “It’s a climate that is no longer the climate of California.” As California’s dams have struggled to handle the influx of winter rain, some are calling for more water storage projects to be built.
“Clearly our water model isn’t working,” reads a recent editorial in the Modesto Bee. “We need more dams.” But even if dams are big enough to capture flood events, the channels below the dams may not be able to handle higher flows. The spillway on Don Pedro Dam near Modesto was opened recently for the first time in 20 years, to prevent the reservoir from overflowing. But the amount of water operators could release has been limited by the capacity of the river channel below it. “This flood here has really tested us,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “We’ve found we have quite a bit of levees to work on.” Dams also are not the only option for storing water. “The biggest source of water storage in California is groundwater and it always will be,” Lund said. California has been experimenting with diverting floodwater onto fields, where it can seep into aquifers that were drawn down dramatically during the recent drought. That could potentially allow
Photo by Daniel Schwen // Wikimedia Commons
reservoirs more room in the winter to catch extreme runoff events. “If we’re able to move some of the storage to aquifers,” Lund said, “that should free up more storage in the reservoirs to capture that now bigger annual cycle of wet months.” The challenge for improving California’s flood readiness has long been funding. The state has identified billions of dollars of flood control projects and needed levee maintenance, as part of its Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. “One of the big holes in our water system is that we don’t have very good regular funding for flood control,” notes Lund. Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced plans to spend $437 million on improving flood infrastructure, with money from a combination of sources, including federal dollars and Proposition 1, which California voters passed in 2014. KQED Science brings you award-winning science and environment coverage from the Bay rea and beyond, by the flagship orthern alifornia BS and R affiliate.
SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | 11
Activists, City Spar Over Tent Villages How well they work depends on whom you ask By Zachary Clark // Public Press
an Francisco voters expressed their frustration with tent encampments by banning them from sidewalks in the November election. One controversial solution to getting street dwellers into housing involves temporary, “sanctioned” camps like those being tried around the Bay Area, elsewhere on the West Coast and across the country. As a concept, sanctioned encampments are city-approved communities of self-managed people living in tents or tiny structures, generally on underused city-owned or leased property. Amenities typically include portable toilets, showers, trash pickups, food deliveries and kitchen space. The idea is to minimize the proliferation of tents along sidewalks while honoring the autonomy of residents and streamlining efforts to support them. They are meant to be a stepping stone to permanent housing. San Francisco officials, however, have not been keen on the idea. During a recent interview on KALW-FM radio, Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said the city favors its “navigation centers,” which provide emergency short-term shelter, over sanctioned encampments. He also told the Public Press that approved, self-managed encampments such as those in Seattle and Portland, Ore., “have all failed miserably” by essentially reinforcing, instead of resolving, homelessness. One local activist hopes to prove him wrong. Amy Farah Weiss, founder of the nonprofit Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge and a 2015 mayoral candidate, has led the effort to gather support for city-approved camp spaces, which she calls “sanctioned transitional villages.” These villages would operate within the system for people unable to find permanent housing after a 30-day stay in a navigation center. Weiss said she has private funding to test the idea here. Two local philanthropists have pledged a total of $20,000 for a threemonth pilot program to house 10 to 15 people, including couples, in 10 structures, she said. The donors wish to remain anonymous but say the pledge is guaranteed. Instead of tents, residents would sleep in wooden structures that accommodate two people each and are big enough to stand in. The tiny structures would each cost $650 to make and include storage space, a lock and a rain tarp. The villages would be governed by a set of rules and community feedback. “The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing knows we have this money and that we’re excited to use it and find a location to start the pilot program,” Weiss said. Identifying locations is one of the main challenges. “I think it’s a shame we have so much city-owned property that remains underutilized,” Weiss said. The number of “underutilized” cityowned properties is hard to quantify. But the city’s most recent surplus property list, from March 2016, comprises 54 vacant cityowned lots in San Francisco, eight of which contain empty buildings. It is not clear how many of these sites could accommodate the kind of encampment Weiss envisions. Kositsky and his deputy, Sam Dodge, have not publicly reconciled their stated resistance to official camps with the claims of Weiss and others that the department has apparently expressed interest in the concept. As of late February, the Public Works department had identified 70 unsanctioned camps across San Francisco — several on vacant, city-owned land — and rated them based on safety conditions. After voters in November passed Proposition Q, which made sidewalk camps illegal, Public Works began dismantling them, starting with those ranked most unsafe. Campers are then encouraged to relocate to the city’s navigation centers for 30 days, with the goal of finding permanent housing. Two centers are operating, a third is set to open this month, and three more are planned. But more than 70 percent of homeless campers left the navigation center, possibly returning to the streets, according to data that the city published in February and that Weiss cited. One recent makeshift community called Box City consisted of sheds of wood and found materials along Seventh Street, beside the Caltrain tracks and under Inter-
When ublic Works crews dismantled Box ity on Seventh Street, beside the altrain tracks and under -280, more than 20 of the 0 residents went to navigation centers for temporary shelter. Photos by Noah Arroyo // Public Press
state 280. When city workers dismantled it in January, more than 20 of the 30 inhabitants agreed to move into a navigation center. But expectations were mixed. “I don’t want to go to the navigation center,” said RJ Noble, a former Box City resident, the day before the structures were removed. “What’s the point of going for 30 days and then back to the streets again?” Roland Limjoco, another camp resident, said, “We have no choice but to go to the navigation center. Let us stay here if we follow the rules, keep the streets clean. We’re adults here.”
“We have no choice but to go to the navigation center. Let us stay here if we follow the rules, keep the streets clean. We’re adults here.” Roland Limjoco, camp resident It is not surprising that homeless people seem to prefer encampments to shelters, too. Chris Herring, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, said he has interviewed scores of residents of sanctioned camps in several cities and they always say camps are better than shelters. Though he said sanctioned camps would reduce homelessness, he also is convinced that the model would not work for everyone. The most effective system entails a diversity of options, including camps, shelters and navigation centers, said Herring, who has collaborated with the Coalition on Homelessness, a San Francisco-based advocacy group, on reports and grant applications. Since the post-election push to clear pop-up settlements, Weiss has focused on improving remaining camps as much as lobbying for new, sanctioned ones. “I see value in what the city is doing, giving everyone the opportunity to get off the street,” Weiss said. “But at the same time, it’s an incomplete solution at present because nobody is going out to the camps and working with residents to prepare them for the navigation center. After 30 days, they’re just returning to the streets.” Security and support would be easier to provide to organized homeless communities, Weiss said. She said that unsanctioned encampments, police complaints and 311 calls would steadily shrink with the help of
sanctioned villages, and that these villages would cost only a fraction of what is spent policing and dismantling unsanctioned camps. For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Public Works spent $8.4 million on encampmentand homeless-related cleanup costs, nearly all of it on labor. This fiscal year, which ends June 30, $5 million has been spent. But that is just a fraction of what the city estimates as the larger cost of policing homeless encampments. A report by the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the city spent $20.6 million in 2015 on “sanctioning homeless individuals for violating quality-of-life laws.” The report said the Police Department accounted for about 90 percent of those costs. The report cites a 34.8 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in incidents “involving the homeless violating quality-of-life laws” even though the homeless count grew by only 3.9 percent from 2013 to 2015. “This system of mass citations makes people homeless longer,” Herring said. Weiss is not the only local advocate trying to get the attention of policymakers. In a first for the group, the Coalition on Homelessness delivered a petition to Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors in midJanuary titled “Encampment Residents Call for Human Rights Based Solutions” and signed by 619 people. Tent encampments are among its recommendations. The executive director of the Coalition on
Vacant city-owned lots in San Francisco, eight of which contain empty buildings
Homelessness, Jennifer Friedenbach, said the group had drafted a policy paper on “safe and dignified sleep spaces” and would present it to Kositsky. This is the first time the coalition has weighed in on the encampment concept. The coalition maintains that while encampments are not a permanent solution to homelessness, they do offer short-term benefits. “For many homeless people, the traditional shelter system, with a structured setting feels most safe for some while others prefer less rule intensive shelter model of the navigation centers. However, these style of shelters do not serve everyone well, and a safe and dignified sleep space would better serve this latter group,” said the paper, which emerged from studying Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Ore., and other cities where camps have been established. In the Bay Area, Oakland has one sanctioned encampment, while San Jose is pursuing the idea. In February, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to fund 100 prefabricated micro-units for homeless people, but it has not settled on whether they would be for “temporary/short-term/transitional or
Right 2 Dream Too was established in 2011 on private property in Portland’s Old TownChinatown neighborhood and provides shelter for about 70 to 100 people a night. Developers have filed suit to evict the residents. Photo by Visitor7 // WikiMedia Commons
long-term habitation.” Oakland established its camp in October 2016 with the “Compassionate Communities” experiment. The city set aside $190,000 to bring toilets, fences, counseling and trash-pickup services to a camp at Magnolia and 35th streets, with the goal of moving everyone into housing by March 31. But city officials are struggling to meet the project’s deadline, largely due to heroin use that is more widespread than initially anticipated. In January, San Jose began soliciting proposals to build the state’s first “Bridge Housing Communities” — interim housing for homeless people on city-owned or leased property in all 10 city council districts. The city’s plan for “tiny homes” and other “unconventional housing structures,” made possible by legislation enacted in October, allows it to suspend the state’s restrictive building codes after declaring a “shelter emergency.” A community is expected to house 20 to 25 people in “emergency sleeping cabins,” portable structures accommodating one or two persons each and equipped with electrical power and lighting. Each community would have restrooms, communal space for cooking and dining, an on-site property manager and off-street parking. Ibrahim Mubarak, a Portland-based activist who founded the homeless advocacy organization Right 2 Survive, said he was consulted by San Jose officials. He cofounded and lived in two of Portland’s four sanctioned encampments, Right 2 Dream Too and Dignity Village, which were among the first of their kind in the country. None is funded or managed by the city. “We teach people how to advocate for themselves, provide workshops, speaking engagements,” said Mubarak, who is board president of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella group that includes the Coalition on Homelessness. “Residents are around their peers, they build community, feel safe and figure out what they need to do to become successful. It works.” Herring said sanctioned camps have not appeared in San Francisco because there has not been an organized demand for them here, at least not until Box City. He said most of the camps in the Pacific Northwest began as resistance activism before the campers paired with churches and began making demands on their cities. “Advocacy and resistance in other cities is stronger, so camps came,” Herring said. San Francisco has become more open to the idea in the past year, he added, but that is not the message most officials have promoted. “There’s movement on this now,” Herring said.
12 | SFPUBLICPRESS.ORG | SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC PRESS, SPRING 2017
Building Trump’s Wall? Six things to know about the U.S.-Mexico border — present and future — and only a third said they wanted him to do so.
By Elizabeth Aguilera // CALmatters
The border runs about 1,900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. A barrier — made from concrete, steel mesh and/or barbed wire — stands along about a third of it, in areas U.S. Customs and Border Protection deems vulnerable to illicit crossborder activity. Some segments are a solid metal wall; others are composed of various materials and have spaces between the barriers or mesh, making those sections less a wall than a fence. Types include: Primary fencing, typically 18 feet high with steel bollards or pickets to impede pedestrians and vehicles. Secondary fencing, typically 15 feet high and constructed with horizontal rails in the form of steel tubes and fence fabric that is either mesh or perforated metal sheeting. Along the existing wall or fence, 36 miles have double fencing with both primary and secondary barriers, and 14 miles have three layers of fencing, according to Customs and Border Protection. The San Diego area is one of the most fortified, with 46 miles of primary fencing and 14 miles of secondary fencing — and enough room to accommodate the road that runs between them. In addition, the federal government patrols some border areas by using drones, ground sensors, cameras and thousands of agents on the ground. “There is some very good and very effective fencing and other infrastructure in place now, but it is only a fraction of the border. Some of it is outdated or wearing out and in a lot of places they need to extend it, and in a lot of places they need to make it more effective by adding another layer,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., which supports immigration restrictions.
THERE ALREADY IS A WALL ALONG ABOUT A THIRD OF THE BORDER
EVEN PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS NOT MAINTAINED THAT THE U.S. SHOULD BUILD A WALL ALONG THE ENTIRE SOUTHERN BORDER
Originally Trump said he wanted a solid wall, 35 to 40 feet high, but later he backed away from that and said it could include other types of barriers, such as fencing. The executive order he issued in January said, “Wall shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or
A WALL IS NOT A NEW CONCEPT
A barrier or wall has been advanced by every administration since at least that of Ronald Reagan. After a wave of undocumented immigrants arrived from Mexico and Central America in the 1980s — fleeing economic crises and civil wars — the Reagan administration beefed up border security with more personnel and surveillance. In the early 1990s, local officials began calling for physical barriers near urban points of entry. The first walls to be built along the border were made of corrugated metal that had been landing strips during the Vietnam War. Those barriers led people to attempt crossings in harsher and more dangerous areas. After 9/11, more barriers went up.
6 Some areas of the border are secured with double-fencing. Photo via U.S. Customs and Border Protection other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.” But his order does not specify a wall or fence along every mile of the border. Even Trump himself, as early as last February, acknowledged in an MSNBC interview: “We don’t need 2,000 (miles), we need 1,000 because we have natural barriers . . .” There are also other prohibitions, such as a decades-old treaty with Mexico that bans any barriers from blocking the flow of rivers. And the Tohono O’odham Nation Native American reservation, which resides on border territory, has already said no to Trump’s plan. To override that tribal resistance, the Trump administration would need a congressional bill condemning the land and taking it from the reservation’s trust. The executive order calls for, within 180 days, a study assessing southern border security, the geophysical and topographical aspects, and the availability
of federal and state resources. The president is relying on authority granted by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which mandated about 700 miles of barriers, of which at least 653 primary miles have been completed. The act called for double fencing along most of the border, but only 36 miles of double fencing stands was ever finished. That overall project stalled because Congress did not fund the final phase.
MANY MILES ALONG THE BORDER CANNOT SUPPORT CONSTRUCTION OF A WALL
The hundreds of miles of border that remain unfenced fall into three categories: those deemed too challenging for wall-building because of mountains or other rugged and rough terrain, those on Native American reservation land, and spaces identified for fencing that was never completed because the last
project ran out of money. The largest swath of border without a barrier is in Texas.
CRITICS SAY IT’S NOT GOING TO HELP
The proposal is “likely to lead down a very bad road,” said David Shirk, a border expert at the Washington, D.C. Woodrow Wilson Center, a nonpartisan policy research organization. Critics insist it will create more dangerous conditions for migrants who do cross the border and will not eliminate or reduce undocumented immigration. They point to studies and government statistics showing that illegal immigration has been in decline for several years, due in part to the 2008 U.S. recession. A recent poll by Fox News found that only about a third of Americans believe Trump will actually build a border wall
IT’S STILL UNCLEAR WHAT IT WILL COST — OR WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR IT
Trump originally said his wall would cost about $8 billion to $12 billion. Other cost estimates have run much higher. As a rough comparison, when the existing border barrier was built, it cost an average of nearly $4 million per mile, according to the Government Accountability Office. Trump also had famously promised that Mexico would pay for it. But the very day the new president’s order was issued, Mexico’s president said his country would not do so. The Trump administration responded by suggesting a 20 percent import tax on Mexican goods, but press secretary Sean Spicer later told reporters that the tax is just one possible way to pay for the wall. Although some news accounts reported that in late January House Speaker Paul Ryan had committed Congress to paying $12 billion to $15 billion for the Trump wall, here is what Ryan said: “The point is, we’re going to finance the Secure Fence Act, which is the construction of the physical barrier on the border.” Remember, the intent of that act, passed under the Bush administration, was to double-fence just 700 miles of the border — almost all of which have at least a single barrier now. matters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.
As Healthy S.F. Serves Mostly Spanish Speakers, City Vows to Shield Undocumented Clients By Noah Arroyo // Public Press
hen the city’s landmark universal health-care program started serving uninsured residents in 2007, its users were spread throughout the city and most spoke English as their primary language. Since the federal program known as Obamacare came into force three years later, those demographics have shifted dramatically, as tens of thousands of residents have been moved on to Medi-Cal or Covered California, a recent city report shows. Today, the city program, Healthy San Francisco, predominantly serves Spanish speakers and people living in the city’s southeast neighborhoods, where poverty is high and educational attainment low — and where undocumented immigrants are concentrated. Because Healthy San Francisco also covers noncitizens, the Department of Public Health might have the names of hundreds or thousands of people in the country illegally. And that list could be of special interest to the Trump administration, which has made moves to ramp up deportation efforts. If pressed, however, city officials say, they would refuse to surrender those names to the federal government. “We can’t envision a scenario where we would turn over those records, given medical privacy laws,” said John Coté, communications director for the City Attorney’s Office. Information about Healthy San Francisco’s participants is entirely under San Francisco’s control, since the program receives no federal dollars, he said. Overall, the city receives more than $1 billion in federal funding, which could be at risk if the Trump administration targeted San Francisco and other cities that shield undocumented immigrants. Healthy San Francisco covers people who cannot afford or qualify for care under the state Medi-Cal program or the Covered California insurance marketplace, and has always been accessible regardless of employment or immigration status. It was those especially vulnerable populations who remained in the local clinic-based system. The Department of Public Health operates the city program, which offers most services free to low-income residents through do ens of city-run and nonprofit health centers. It retains addresses for all current and previous participants, but
it does not record anyone’s immigration status. If the Trump administration managed to access the data, it could not discern which residents were here illegally, said Colleen Chawla, the health department’s director of policy and planning. The city’s ability to safeguard sensitive personal information will soon be a focus of the new Budget and Finance Federal Select Committee of the Board of Supervisors, said Chelsea Boilard, legislative aide to District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who sits on the committee. The panel will assess which city policies could face attack from the White House and design strategies for responding. “The conversations are just beginning,” Boilard said. “This issue is definitely a priority.”
enrollment had dropped to 14,404, with 73 percent speaking primarily Spanish, 21 percent English and 3 percent Cantonese or Mandarin. Citywide, 12 percent of residents speak Spanish, and 18 percent Cantonese or Mandarin, according to the health department’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. Remaining Healthy San Francisco users cluster in the city’s southeast section. At peak enrollment, 46 percent lived in five eastern San Francisco neighborhoods: Mission, Excelsior, Visitacion Valley, Bayview-Hunters Point and the Tenderloin. But by 2016, those neighborhoods accounted for 91 percent of participants. Undocumented immigrants appear to live in higher proportions in those neighborhoods as well, according to 2013 citywide
DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS After Healthy San Francisco’s 2007 launch, enrollment rose quickly, and peaked at 54,348 participants in the 20102011 fiscal year. But people began dropping off after Obamacare — the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — was enacted in 2010. After federal health reform picked up speed, most enrollees remaining in Healthy San Francisco were those who did not qualify for Medi-Cal or could not afford health insurance through the exchange, or who could not qualify because they were not legal residents. As Healthy San Francisco’s numbers dwindled, the health department estimated that enrollment would ultimately stabilize at 18,000 to 19,000 people, and that 17,000 of them would be undocumented immigrants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2013. Asked about those figures in late January, Chawla told the Public Press, “I don’t know where that estimate came from, but I would not want to guess at the legal status of the remaining HSF members.” She said language and other demographic information might be “proxy measures” for characterizing how many participants are undocumented. At peak enrollment, about half of all users spoke English. Cantonese and Mandarin speakers together constituted the next-largest group, followed by Spanish speakers. When enrollment declined, Spanish speakers became the dominant group. By the end of fiscal year 2015-2016,
ED LEE, SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR “Let today’s lawsuit be a reminder to the nation that San Francisco is a city that fights for what is right.
data analyzed by the Public Policy Institute of California. The data, broken down by ZIP code, showed that the highest density of undocumented immigrants was in 94110, which contains most of the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods. High concentrations live in those other southeast neighborhoods, as well as on Treasure Island. The ZIP code 94102, spanning Hayes Valley and the Tenderloin, also has large estimated migrant populations. Several of the neighborhoods are marked by extreme poverty and low educational attainment, according to the city’s fiscal 2015-2016 report about Healthy San Francisco. For example, at least 25 percent of residents in Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Hayes Valley, Chinatown, the Tenderloin, South of Market and the Mission District live below the federal poverty level ($12,060 for a single-person
household) and have not completed high school.
FEDERAL CHAOS PROMPTS RESPONSE On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to encourage federal and local law enforcement to work together to detain and deport undocumented immigrants accused of crimes. District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, a first-generation Iranian-American who represents the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhoods, called it “a sad day in our nation’s history.” “We have a tyrant and a fanatical person who has pretty much taken over the presidency,” he said. “He’s targeting anyone he feels can be easily scapegoated.” Referring to the city’s undocumented population, Safai said that “about 99.9 percent of the people are law abiding and, frankly, doing work that not a lot of people want to do.” He expressed confidence that the Department of Public Health would protect personal information about Healthy San Francisco’s users. Trump issued another executive order on Jan. 27 that called for various travel bans on certain refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order’s enforcement nationwide, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the suspension. In early March, Trump issued a similar executive order with narrower focus; it was suspended by several federal district courts. In the days before the travel bans were suspended, the immigration system was thrown into chaos as travelers were detained or sent back upon arriving, spurring protests at major U.S. airports, including San Francisco International. City officials felt compelled to respond to the tense, unpredictable political upheaval. The day Trump issued the first ban, the city’s Department of Public Health emailed all staff and workers at local nonprofits to reassure them after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents visited the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in the Mission in search of a convicted sex offender facing deportation, the San Francisco Examiner reported. “This brief visit by ICE sounds an alarm for many members of our community,” wrote Barbara Garcia, the health depart-
ment’s director. “We are working with community organi ations, the mayor’s office and other city agencies to ensure that all San Franciscans, including immigrants, continue to access services in their communities. We are consulting with the city attorney to make sure we have the strongest legal advice moving forward.” Other city agencies quickly followed suit. The following weekend, the San Francisco Unified School District sent out an automated phone call to parents to try to assure them that their children would not be vulnerable to prying immigration agents. In his State of the City Address on Jan. 26, Mayor Ed Lee promised that San Francisco still would not assist federal enforcement of immigration laws, unless compelled by specific laws or court orders. City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued the Trump administration on Jan. 31 over an executive order that threatened to withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities. In a press release explaining the lawsuit, Herrera’s office said City Hall receives about $1.2 billion a year in federal funding. “The president’s executive order is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” Herrera said. “That is why we must stand up and oppose it. We are a nation of immigrants and a land of laws.” The mayor added his support in a separate statement. “Let today’s lawsuit be a reminder to the nation that San Francisco is a city that fights for what is right,” Lee said. “We will not waver in our commitment to protect our residents.”
CROSSWORD PUZZLE SOLUTION FROM A2