San Francisco City and Port Seek State Legislation for Urgent Seawall Repairs

  • by BPC Staff
  • April 6, 2018

How many Bay Area residents and visitors have been to the historic San Francisco waterfront and know about the Embarcadero Seawall? Stretching more than three miles from Fisherman’s Wharf in the north to Mission Creek in the south, the Seawall serves as a foundation for the waterfront. Built over 100 years ago, it supports key transportation networks, including Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Muni, and the ferry system; serves as a critical emergency response and recovery area; and provides flood protection to downtown San Francisco.

SF seawall map

Unfortunately, the Seawall was designed and built before building for seismic safety was well understood. Many parts of the Seawall have succumbed to the effects of aging and are now in urgent need of repair. An analysis predicts that, in its current state, the Seawall will likely settle and slide into the Bay bayward up to five feet in the event of a major earthquake. Furthermore, a 100-year flood today could cause significant damage to parts of the Muni tunnel.

So, how much does it cost to fix the Seawall? Immediate life-safety upgrades may exceed $500 million and full infrastructure improvements may cost up to $5 billion.

With a project of this size and cost, the City of San Francisco and the Port of San Francisco are looking into local, state, and federal partnerships to help with funding, permitting, and legislation. For example, in November of this year, San Francisco voters will be asked to vote on a $350 million General Obligation bond to help protect and strengthen the Seawall.

Legislation is in the works as well. This week, Bay Planning Coalition (BPC) endorsed AB 2578: Infrastructure financing districts: City and County of San Francisco (Assemblymember Chiu, co-authors Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Ting). If passed, AB 2578 would provide a creative mechanism for the state to contribute funds to the San Francisco Seawall Earthquake Safety and Disaster Prevention Program (Seawall Program), and would provide an estimated $250 million.

Click here to read BPC’s AB 2578 support letter.

SF Seawall

A part of the Embarcadero Seawall in San Francisco, California. Source: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle.

The San Francisco waterfront is an incredibly valuable economic and industrial asset to the state of California. The Embarcadero Promenade welcomes more than 24 million visitors a year and brings in over $100 million in economic activity. The region’s thriving movement of goods industry includes the Port of San Francisco, which has seen dramatic growth in its imports and exports in the last year – calling over three dozen cargo vessels and processing more than 1.4 million metric tons in commodities in calendar year 2017.

AB 2578 will help provide the improvements necessary to keep this historic waterfront a working and vibrant space for the movement of goods and for the future enjoyment of residents and visitors. BPC recognizes the importance of local, state, and federal partnerships in finding solutions for the region’s most pressing land use and development issues and will continue to monitor efforts such as these.

Click here for more information on the Embarcadero Seawall. Get engaged and stay informed by visiting and taking the seawall survey here!

The Bay Planning Coalition is a non-profit organization well known for its advocacy and credibility in the San Francisco Bay Area corporate and environmental community. When we speak about an issue, legislators and regulators listen.” – John A. Coleman CEO

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