Despite a unanimous vote on Thursday by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), it hasn’t been easy planning process for the state agency that regulates development along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The state agency approved a first-of-its kind policy that makes sea level rise part of regional planning decisions.

Google Maps image of the Bay Area from Cal-Adapt’s online interactive sea level rise tool
“It’s kind of like childbirth,” said Will Travis, the Executive Director of the commission.

“It wasn’t an easy thing to get done,” he said. “Some didn’t even believe that climate change was happening, and some weren’t aware of the great impact that sea level rise will have the Bay Area.”

The new rules require developers to plan for rising sea levels in their proposals for waterfront property. Business groups and cities cried foul when the policy was first released, saying it would hurt economic development. Travis says they tried to strike a balance.

“Large parts of Silicon Valley are below sea level today,” he said. “Our region, I think, will be uniquely hit hard by flooding from sea level rise unless we get out in front of it and deal with it.”

State scientists studying our changing climate, say that sea level could rise nearly six feet by the end of the century.

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Lauren Sommer is a science reporter for KQED QUEST.

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