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Resilient Coast Santa Cruz

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building resilience to sea level rise

About the Resilient Coast Santa Cruz Initiative

It is time to proactively plan our community’s vision for a climate resilient future coastline. 

Slowly, but surely, climate change and sea level rise are affecting our daily lives. Rising tides, intensifying coastal storms, and erosion are posing continuous threats to our beaches, roads and infrastructure located near our beloved coastline. Damages to infrastructure and property alone are estimated to reach over $1 billion by the end of the century. With each storm or sinkhole comes a costly response that may only last until the next disaster, further jeopardizing infrastructure, public safety and recreational access.


Addressing these concerns, RESILIENT COAST SANTA CRUZ is a collaborative initiative led by the City of Santa Cruz to develop a vision for coastal management to address these pressing coastal issues. The initiative consists of two separate, yet similar, projects that are being carried out along parallel timelines throughout 2019 and 2020.

The first is the West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan, funded by CalTrans, which will lead to implementation and development of adaptation projects and policies to address the impacts of climate change on the transportation network, as well as protect coastal recreation and access and preserve habitat.

The second project, funded by the California Coastal Commission, entails the Development of Sea Level Rise Strategies & Policies to Support Beach and Public Access Protection. The goal of this project is to provide the Santa Cruz community and decision makers with more comprehensive information and recommendations for programs, policies and actions that can achieve resilient coastal access, use and beach management and to integrate them into a Local Coastal Program (LCP) Update. The LCP is what gives the City authority to issue Coastal Development Permits that are aligned with the California Coastal Act.

Together, the anticipated outcomes of the Resilient Coast Initiative will be new policies and proposed adaptations to ensure that current and future generations continue to have safe and equitable access to our coastline.

Step by Step Progress Towards Resilience

The RESILIENT COAST SANTA CRUZ initiative began in the Spring 2019 and will introduce the initiative to the community meeting over the summer, sharing the process through which the projects will be conducted, and inviting residents to document their values around coastal recreation, transportation, ecosystems, natural resources, climate change and sense of place.

The projects encompassing the RESILIENT COAST SANTA CRUZ initiative consist of three major milestones, each followed by extensive community outreach and engagement, all of which is integrated into work products for each subsequent Milestone. The project team is using creative and interactive community engagement techniques from charrettes to focus groups, game nights to virtual reality applications, coastal restoration workdays to paddling, bike and walking tours.

The City has committed to providing this outreach and all work products in Spanish and English and to reaching groups in our community who are most vulnerable to sea level rise.

  • Milestone 1 is the completion of a baseline conditional assessment of coastline uses, infrastructure, and policy, identifying deficiencies and conditions that do not align with community preferences or meet regulatory standards.
  • Milestone 2 is the completion of an analysis of infrastructure and policy adaptation options, including a cost / benefit analyses of each option.
  • Milestone 3 is the completion of recommendations for infrastructure and policy adaptations including concept design visualizations and the development of a monitoring, triggers and threshold program. The monitoring, triggers and threshold program is an important outcome of the projects as it sets an adaptive pathway for implementing recommendations as triggered by passing a certain threshold, whether that is depth of sea level rise, or some other metrics.

We Want to Hear from You!

On the heels of adopting a Climate Adaptation Plan Update in 2018 and completing an award-winning outreach campaign in support of the Plan Update, the City is committed to an inclusive, transparent, thorough, and equitable process in conducting the RESILIENT COAST SANTA CRUZ initiative. As such, please email and indicate your interest in joining our RESILIENT COAST SANTA CRUZ mailing list to be informed of upcoming meetings and events or to share a thought with our project team.