SAN DIEGO —
San Diego officials have come up with 86 proposals and strategies to make the city more prepared for the worst effects of climate change: severe wildfires, droughts, flooding, sea level rise and extreme heat waves.
The proposals, which include adding dunes to fight sea level rise and planting trees to cool down low-income neighborhoods, would cost millions of dollars and would be implemented over several years.
While many of the proposals would be expensive, city officials estimate that the cost of doing nothing would be four to six times as much. It would include the loss of crucial city infrastructure to fire or floods, they said.
The 536-page plan, called Climate Resilient SD, marks the city’s first effort to address climate change adaptation instead of mitigation. The city’s existing Climate Action Plan focuses only on mitigation: fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gases.
“The climate crisis is already impacting San Diegans, especially those in frontline communities,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “We are doing the work needed to prepare our city to overcome these threats while addressing environmental justice. Our efforts to enhance San Diego’s resilience will result in many economic, health and quality-of-life benefits for all of us.”
A new state law, SB 379, requires all California cities to adopt climate resiliency plans by Jan. 1. City officials said they expect to present the plan, which the Planning Commission approved unanimously last week, to the City Council for final approval in December.
The unveiling of the city’s plan comes just as Congress has approved a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that includes $47 billion specifically reserved for climate resiliency projects nationwide.
City officials said it is too early to tell how much of the $47 billion San Diego will receive, but they stressed that the new plan is likely to help.
“The city is best positioning itself to compete for funding where needed,” said city spokesperson Tara Lewis. “As we mention in the Climate Resilient SD draft plan, we need the support of the state and federal government to fully achieve our vision. This funding is just one example of that.”
The plan has five main goals: preventing disruption of city services; preparing neighborhoods for climate change; building a resistant city with social equity in mind; safeguarding historic resources; and supporting adaptable natural environments.
While safety and preserving quality of life are the highest priorities, the plan also considers the effects of climate change on the economy. If sea level rise wipes out beaches, for instance, San Diego’s tourism economy would suffer.
“Climate change hazards present a risk to San Diego’s natural environment, public health and safety, and economic prosperity,” said Mike Hansen, the city’s planning director. “By taking action now, we ensure our city is not only prepared to respond to the impacts of climate change but is actually able to thrive.”
Because low-income neighborhoods typically have fewer trees and parks while residents there are less likely to have air conditioning, some of the proposal prioritizes those areas over other neighborhoods.
“We are committed to planning for a more equitable, sustainable and healthy future for all San Diegans, especially the most vulnerable who face the greatest risks and have the fewest resources available to respond,” Hansen said.
San Diego already has begun addressing climate change by boosting its flood prevention efforts, increasing the city’s tree canopy to fight extreme heat, and preparing for droughts with the new Pure Water sewage recycling system.
The 86 potential adaptation and resilience strategies include policies, programs, projects and actions. Some are as simple as boosting public outreach about the threats posed by climate change, while others are complex and expensive changes to the shoreline.
The strategies fall mainly into two categories: those that lessen risk and those that build better communities.
Risk mitigation strategies are meant reduce exposure to climate hazards, reduce the sensitivity to the exposure or increase the capacity to adapt.
Strategies focused on building better communities are intended to increase the ability of a community to respond to the effects of climate change.
For each strategy, the plan specifies the climate hazard it would address, what actions would be needed, a timeframe and a rough estimate of the costs.
For details, visit sandiego.gov/sustainability/resilience/climateresiliencesd.