Coastal Commission adopts Cal Cities-sponsored sea level rise adaptation guidance

Dec 15, 2021

The California Coastal Commission has approved a suite of documents to help local governments plan for and address sea level rise while maintaining local decision-making. The documents were prepared by a working group comprised of representatives from the League of California Cities Coastal Cities Group Leadership Committee, the California State Association of Counties, and the Coastal Commission. The guidance will help improve collaboration between the three groups and acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sea level rise adaptation.

The working group presented the following living documents for a vote on Wednesday, which the Coastal Commission unanimously approved:

  • A framework for a phased approach to local coastal plan updates
  • A call for regional approaches to resiliency and adaptation
  • A conflict resolution process that supports efficient local coastal plan updates
  • A “quick links” document that includes resources for sea level rise planning and local coastal program updates

The framework supports more frequent, incremental updates to local coastal plans that are backed by the best available science, vulnerability assessments, risk disclosures, and risk policies. The framework also includes a list of recently certified local coastal plans that meet these criteria.

The regional approaches document lays out the advantages and challenges of a regional approach to sea level rise adaptation, which the working group generally endorses. The document demonstrates the working group’s continued commitment to securing regional funding and to the development of pilot programs that support regional and phased approaches to sea level rise planning.

The conflict resolution process establishes agreed-upon goals and strategies for coordination. It details a process to identify and elevate conflicts and provides a clear path to resolution for both parties, particularly when updating local coastal plans. The document will help ensure that local governments and the Coastal Commission are working constructively and collaboratively.

The quick links document includes key sources of information on sea level rise planning, adaptation, and best available science in a concise and approachable format. This document can be used by staff, decision-makers, and other stakeholders as a primer on the many different elements of sea level rise planning, such as residential needs, infrastructure considerations, and predicted changes to the coast.

The working group will continue to develop collaborative strategies and guidance for coastal communities in 2022. The Coastal Commission anticipates holding a local government workshop about local coastal issues in early spring of next year.