City of Santa Barbara Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan for Public Review

Source: City of Santa Barbara

The City of Santa Barbara has released a Draft Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan for public review. The draft plan identifies areas of the City that are vulnerable to up to 6.6 feet of sea-level rise and recommends actions to adapt over time. 

While Santa Barbara has experienced only small amounts of sea-level rise to date, the rate of sea-level rise in the region is projected to accelerate significantly in upcoming years.  Over time, this will result in beach loss, increased bluff erosion, and intensified tidal and storm flooding in the low-lying areas of the City. 

Predicting the future rate of sea-level rise in any given area is very complex and based on a number of changing factors including: melting of the Antarctic ice sheet; thermal expansion of seawater caused by warming of the ocean; ocean circulation patterns; vertical land motion; and greenhouse gas emissions globally. The Draft Adaptation Plan follows State of California sea-level rise guidance for the Santa Barbara area, which recommends a cautious approach to modeling impacts using the following projections: 0.7 feet of sea-level rise at 2030; 2.5 feet of sea-level rise at 2060; and 6.6 feet of sea-level rise at 2100. 

Given the difficulty in predicting when specific amounts of sea-level rise will occur, the Draft Adaptation Plan recommends a phased approach to planning for sea-level rise that includes monitoring shoreline conditions and actions to reduce vulnerabilities when specific sea-level rise thresholds are reached.

The plan provides detailed recommendations for necessary actions in the near-term (approximately the next ten years) and a structure for future decision-making in the mid- and long-term (beyond ten years).  Some of the near-term actions recommended include:

  • Developing a Shoreline Monitoring Program with other regional agencies.
  • Increasing beach nourishment and formation of sand berms or dunes at East Beach, Leadbetter Beach, and Arroyo Burro Beach.
  • Relocating or flood-proofing sewer mains and other infrastructure currently located along the Waterfront.
  • Replacing the Laguna Creek Tide Gate and Pump Station that currently function to keep high tidal waters from flooding the low-lying areas of downtown.
  • Raising the Harbor breakwater and groins, which protect the City’s Harbor, West Beach, and Santa Barbara City College; and help retain sand along Waterfront beaches. 
  • Modifying regulations to require additional flood proofing of new development and redevelopment in areas south of Highway 101 that could experience increased levels of flooding with sea-level rise. 


The plan also recommends additional study of adaptation options for the City’s stormwater, wastewater, and water systems.  The El Estero Water Resource Center is located on a site that is elevated above surrounding areas.  The most pressing issue for the wastewater system in the near- and mid-term (approximately 30 years) will be impacts to the collection system that feeds into the El Estero Water Resource Center.

The public is encouraged to review and comment on the Draft Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan from August 11th to September 30th.  During that time, City Commission and informational sessions will be held, beginning with a City Council Informational Hearing on August 11th at 2:00 p.m.  A webinar is planned for September 24th during which the public can ask questions and provide comments on the plan.  To view the Draft Adaptation Plan, provide input, sign up for notifications, or obtain current information on meetings, you can or email

Images of the areas potentially impacted by 6.6’ of sea-level rise if no action is taken are located at the following links:

·         Areas Potentially Impacted by 6.6’ of Sea-Level Rise if No Action Taken: West Side of City

·         Areas Potentially Impacted by 6.6’ of Sea-Level Rise if No Action Taken: East Side of City​


Written by Anonymous

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  1. The NOAA website shows the tide gage data for Santa Barbara, which goes back to 1974. The relatively steady long term trend is a rate of increase of about 1.2mm per year. At this rate, 6.6 feet of sea level rise will take well over 1,500 years. The article also predicts a rise of 0.7 feet, or 8.4 inches, in the next ten years. Based on the tide gage data, the sea should rise by just under 1/2 inch in ten years. I’ll bet my money the sea will be about 1/2 inch higher in 10 years, and about 4 1/2 inches higher after 100 years, consistent with the long term tide gage data.

  2. Science calls this extrapolation of current trends to predict the future. The assumption is that what has happened in the last 30 years will continue. But most scientists agree that we are accelerating into the future with more CO2 and less ice. 130 deg in Death Valley says they are right.

  3. 1:43, I believe the ability to prove a theory false is fundamental to the scientific process. If the ocean rises something close to 8 inches in the next 10 years, I will acknowledge my theory is false and the long term sea level trend changed. Will you acknowledge your scientific theory predicting rapid human caused sea level rise is false if the tide gage data shows only 1/2 inch of sea level rise in ten years time?

  4. Wait, the link you provide literally says in bold on the top of the page that it’s rising 3.3 millimeters per year…which is actually pretty close to what CHIP is saying. Don’t really have a dog in the fight here…but do find it humorous though that the site you are linking to chastise/debunk REX is basically confirming what he’s saying…

  5. Wait what???!! How did I miss it? Chip said, and I quote, “I’ll bet my money the sea will be about 1/2 inch higher in 10 years, and about 4 1/2 inches higher after 100 years, consistent with the long term tide gage data.” So he’s literally claiming it is happening.. and is using the data from the site you are championing!!! Maybe your conversion from metric went a little squirrely… but 1/2” sea rise in 8 years is what your data says!!!

  6. I really don’t care about something that may or may not happen in 1500 years or so … besides the paint will be faded by then anyway . my guestimate is roughly 1 inch every 80 years when I checked into it a couple years ago.

  7. Some famous scientist said, about climate change predictions, that no one ever says- well, that went slower than I thought it would. They hedge their predictions by choosing an average outcome based on their modeling. But it appears things are moving faster than average due to the lack of sea ice now and the oceans absorbing light and heat instead of reflecting it. If you can, start building your bunker now.

  8. Our family has lived in Santa Barbara area for over 50 years. We’ve seen the water rise up the piers at the wharf and harbor, and along the beaches. This is no joke. If anything, the map the City has put out is very conservative. We are also experiencing severe “King” tides that pulls enormous amounts of water up and over the berms along East Beach. Using past experience to plan for today’s sea rise is tricky as the amount of green house gases is accelerating and the poles are melting at faster rates than in the past. Take a stroll at a extreme high tide at the harbor and see for yourself.

  9. Thank you Chip of SB. The sea level may rise, but it’s not going to be tsunami. I don’t think the City of SB should be painting blue lines on the sidewalks, it’s good that they think of what might need to be done in the event of a sea level rise, but let’s not spend too much money preparing for the mean high-tide line to increase by 6.6 feet next week.

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