Monday, June 14, 2010

Left Holding the (Sand) Bag

Who will Pay for the Damage Caused by Rising Sea Levels?

It Could be Your Homeowners Association!

The San Jose Mercury News (June 13, 2010): “From Antioch to North Richmond to Redwood City, a slowly rising Bay could endanger the properties of as many as 270,000 Bay Area residents and cause some $56.5 billion in damage by the end of the century unless measures are taken to protect them, scientists warn. But surprisingly, few cities are taking action”

“November 5, 2008…In the event of projected flooding sandbags are available at the Benicia Corporation Yard. Some assistance may be available but residents should bring shovels and plan to fill and load the bags themselves.” (City of Benicia website)

The chance of flooding in cities in and around San Francisco Bay is not just speculation. It has happened many times in the past and it will happen again and again if sea levels continue to rise or a “perfect” storm joins with normal high tides. It’s easy to see why. Take a look at one of the several interactive devices used to illustrate the first areas around the bay that will flood when the sea rises. It should come as no surprise that they are the same locations where the bay was originally filled to create housing and commercial developments. These low-lying areas—Redwood Shores, Alameda, Vallejo, Alviso and many others—were bay bottom and tidelands just a few decades ago. Now there are thousands of homes. The flood danger is obvious.

And, thousands of new homes are projected for a dozen or more major developments being proposed for additional tidelands and other low-lying locations around the bay:

“At least 12 major developments with as many as 56,000 new homes are planned at the edge of the Bay over the next 5 to 20 years…many are in low-lying areas experts say are potentially vulnerable to flooding associated with long-term sea level rise. Some cities and counties have strategies to deal with that problem, others do not.” (San Jose Mercury News)

But what is different today from developments built, say, three or more decades ago is that many of these new developments will be built as community associations and many of the expensive engineered facilities necessary to protect these developments from storms, rising tides and sea levels will not be owned by cities or the state, but instead will be the responsibility of homeowners...

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