Sea Level Rise Policy

Some coastal areas are already experiencing more frequent flooding because of rising sea levels. Local governments, businesses, and individuals are responding to flooding in a variety of ways. Some kinds of response can create additional impacts to coastal resources. For example, installing seawalls to protect structures can result in loss of the beach due to increased erosion and the inability of the beach to migrate inland.

In California, coastal development is regulated by local governments in collaboration with the California Coastal Commission. In simple terms, and ignoring various complicating factors, the California Coastal Act requires each local jurisdiction to have a Local Coastal Program, or LCP. The LCP consists of a Lnd Use Plan (LUP) and an Implementation Plan (IP). The LCP must be certified by the Coastal Commission. Once it is certified, the local government can issue Coastal Development Permits.

Most cities and counties in California do have certified LCPs, although a few do not. However, many LCPs are old and do not deal with the impacts of sea level rise. The Coastal Commission has taken several actions to help improve the situation. There is a wealth of information on sea level rise on their web site. They have produced a guidance document, and are in the process of producing an additional guidance document focused on residential development. They have also given grants to many cities and counties to help them update their LCPs to deal more effectively with the impacts of sea level rise.

One example is the City of Del Mar. They were among the early recipients of grants, and are well on the way to an LCP update. Their Sea Level Rise Technical Advisory Committee has been working for the last several years on a vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. The committee web page has extensive documentation on their plans and planning process. They have encountered some opposition from beachfront property owners, as reported in this and other articles.

The Ocean Protection Council has also published an update to their sea level rise guidance document which includes the latest estimates of sea level rise.

The California Natural Resource Agency’s document “Safeguarding California Plan: 2018 Update– California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy” includes information on sea level rise along with other impacts of climate change.

The Surfrider Foundation has comprehensive policies on sea level rise and related issues.  See and this white paper. It lists four policies, with links:
I) Policy on Global Warming
II) Beach Preservation Policy
III) Position Statement on Marine Protected Areas
IV) Beach Manifesto