Resolution on Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Preservation


August 1, 2018

Governor Brown is the co-chair of the 2018 Climate Action Summit. The purpose of the summit is to underscore the urgent need for action on climate change to avoid most devastating impacts and to call on governments to do more. The goal is to spur action in key areas and call on participants to make new commitments to increase climate resilience.

The Coastal Commission's Resolution on Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Preservation aims to fulfill the Governor’s call for commitments to increase climate resilience. The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) passed a similar resolution, setting a clear vision to protect and enhance coastal habitats as sea levels rise.

A 2018 State Coastal Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy assessment on statewide coastal habitat vulnerability found that 55% of current coastal habitat is highly vulnerable to 5 feet of sea level rise, including 60% of California’s beaches, 58% of rocky intertidal habitat, 58% of coastal marshes, and 55% of tidal flats, that sea level rise will further stress populations of 39 rare, threatened, or endangered species, and that 41,000 acres of public conservation lands are projected to be drowned out by rising waters.

As such, the Resolution supports implementation of adaptation strategies that seek to increase resilience of at-risk habitats such as beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and estuaries, including living shorelines, coastal restoration projects, and approaches that allow habitats to migrate inland as sea levels rise. It also commits to a vision of avoiding coastal armoring whenever possible and more.

Several representatives from the City of Pacifica gave comments in objection to the resolution, claiming it is too focused on protecting beaches and not enough on coastal communities. They also objected claiming that with the resolution, the Coastal Commission was locking in managed retreat as its preferred response to sea level rise and prohibit coastal armoring.

Commissioners unanimously approved the Resolution as proposed.

Why You Should Care

A 2017 study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and the U.S. Geological Survey found that 31% to 67% of southern California’s sandy beaches may be lost under 3.3 to 6.5 feet of sea level rise by 2100 respectively if actions aren’t taken to protect them.

Further, as stated in the Resolution, “The use of shoreline armoring to protect threatened development, including public infrastructure, as well as the presence of the armoring structures themselves, prevents the landward migration of the shoreline and coastal habitats, causing further degradation and loss of beaches, shorelines, and related coastal habitats, and these effects, in concert with sea level rise, will further degrade the public’s ability to access and recreate along the coast.”

The OPC and Coastal Commission’s resolutions will collectively feed broader discussions about rising seas and the need to plan for protection of public resources including coastal habitats and public access. Future generations deserve to enjoy our incredible coastline for generations to come.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Mary Luevano motioned to support the motion, noting sea level rise is one of the largest threats facing Californians and that this policy leaves plenty of room for interpretation as more scientific data and information becomes available. Commissioner Linda Escalante, alternate for Commissioner Aaron Peskin, expressed concern about the need for adaptation to sea level rise and protection of vital coastal habitats and that this is not a moment too soon. Commissioner Erik Howell mentioned he was slightly uneasy with the Resolution’s vision for mitigation for coastal armoring and access impacts, including for public infrastructure. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Organizations Opposed

Several residents of City of Pacifica

Decision Type

Resolution Adoption

Staff Recommendation

Adoption of the Resolution

Coastal Act Policy