Urgent and Unprecedented Opportunity to Protect Our Communities and Preserve Our Healthy, Living Bay

Our Bay Alive Campaign’s efforts to safeguard Bay ecosystems and enhance our communities’ resilience to sea level rise are yielding promising results! Cities and regional agencies are increasingly examining vulnerabilities, adopting policies to support sea level rise resilience, and embracing nature-based solutions that not only shield our communities but also nurture our precious Bay ecology.

Nature-based solutions, such as robust wetlands and engineered infrastructure harmonizing with the Bay's natural ecosystem, are more resilient and flexible, and can be more cost-effective over time compared to conventional fortified structures like sea walls. The importance of the Bay's living shoreline cannot be overstated. In addition to making the Bay Area a biodiversity hotspot of global significance, our Bay ecosystem provides essential support to our safety, health, and quality of life. From mitigating flooding and storm surge to carbon sequestration and purifying waste- and stormwater, the natural shoreline's vital functions will become increasingly indispensable as climate change intensifies and our communities grow.

A Tale of Two Sea Level Rise Solutions

In tandem with our ecological efforts, we are working to amplify the voices of under-resourced communities facing disproportionate threats from sea level rise. Local and regional agencies are increasingly investing in outreach and engagement with these communities, striving for  more equitable decision-making processes. In addition, the looming threat of legacy contamination mobilized by sea level rise is getting much greater attention. One of our principal goals is region-wide collaboration, commitment, and investment that empowers and supports communities with the least capacity to adapt, enabling them to safeguard their human, built, and ecological assets.

A Pivotal Moment: SB272, the Laird Bill

A new state law, passed in 2023, answered our urgent call for a coordinated regional approach to sea level rise. Effective this year, SB272, also known as the Laird Bill, created the first ever mandate that every shoreline jurisdiction submit a sea level rise adaptation plan for approval by January 2034. For the Bay shoreline, the law designates the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) as the state agency with authority to approve or deny those plans and tasks them with developing a Regional Shoreline Adaptation Plan (RSAP) by the end of 2024. This Guidance will set minimum standards and criteria against which local, or subregional, plans are evaluated.

Over the past two years, in collaboration with environmental and environmental justice groups, Bay Alive advocated for strengthening the original Laird Bill, which did not pass its first year in the legislature, to prioritize natural ecosystems and social justice. With last-minute amendments in 2023, advocates  achieved stronger and specific language in the Bill including emphasizing environmental and social equity and “put nature first whenever possible” as instructions for developing the RSAP. With this stronger law, advocates gained valuable leverage to improve BCDC's first try at a vision for the RSAP. The result is a One Bay Vision Statement that deeply emphasizes both of these issues. As BCDC moves forward to implement that vision, developing specific guidelines for local plans, we need to stay vigilant. 

We All Depend on the Bay. Can the Bay Depend on You?

Urgent Window of Opportunity

Despite a strong foundational vision, challenges remain; there are no guarantees that a strong vision will translate into strong standards. Competing interests may vie for leeway in the RSAP guidelines to pursue shoreline land uses or development goals that could compromise our living Bay or reduce our ability to further adapt as sea level rise worsens. Also, cross-jurisdictional collaboration can be hard to come by. We look to BCDC to lead, incentivize, and facilitate region-wide accountability for equitable outcomes and a thriving Bay ecology. And we need all hands on deck to help them do so.

BCDC's planning process is moving swiftly to meet the December 2024 deadline. This window of opportunity is fleeting but crucial. Success this year could mark a singularly significant achievement for our living shorelines, our frontline communities, and the climate resilience of the entire Bay Area.

By year-end, the RSAP and guidelines will be a done deal. They will shape sea level rise adaptation in every single jurisdiction around the Bay. We, along with our Bay's natural ecosystem, will have to live with the results for decades. So please join us, spread the word, and help make sure that BCDC gets it right!  

Sign up to join our efforts! Together, let's secure the future of our Bay.
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