12 December 2014

Mission Bay Rising

Two-hundred feet sea level rise is a high elevation (and a lot of extra water in our seas - thank you Antarctica Water Bank). However dramatic 200 feet sea level rise is, a 25 foot rise is much more likely. Plus you have to get to 25 feet rise before getting to 200 feet. 

So, last month Burrito Justice and I wrote a new chapter in the San Francisco Archipelago - Sea Level Rise story. Written as an article for the neighborhood newspaper The Potrero View, the Mission Bay Rises Again covers the period from near future times to ~2036, when sea levels rise to 25 feet above current sea level. 

The piece coincided with their most excellent history and map issue from November 2014. 

Enjoy the piece below.

Mission Bay Rises 

by Brian Stokle and Burrito Justice
Images by Brian Stokle

The past 10 years have been both cruel and kind to the Bay Area. A decade ago, 15 million people were jolted awake by the magnitude 7.7 Claremont Earthquake that devastated much of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and San Francisco. No one slept well for months afterwards. 2028 was a dark year, but as our homes and offices swayed, few suspected the quake would trigger an economic boom.

The rebuilding rivaled post-1906 San Francisco and even China after the 2019 Shanghai quake. Much like the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915, the San Francisco Olympics of 2032 proved to the world that we were back.

25 foot sea level rise in San Francisco. Image: Brian Stokle

Sea levels had only risen eight feet by 2028; thankfully the earthquake hit at low tide. While “new” seawalls and engineered bay marshes kept most of the City safe, the breaches in the Mission Bay and Embarcadero seawalls were some of the most frightening moments of the City’s history. But the Herculean effort of San Francisco Department of Public Works crews and ordinary citizens filling sandbags kept the Muni and Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnels from flooding, and saved the University of California, San Francisco-Mission Bay hospital. Who knew the old Breda light rail cars would prove so useful? And few will forget women in labor being shuttled to the UCSF emergency room in canoes.



The completion of the 20-foot Mission Bay Embarcadero in 2031 was bittersweet. An engineering marvel, it was outclassed by the instability and massive calving of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Thankfully Mission Bay was evacuated before the storm surge of Tropic Storm Ed spilled over the wall in 2034, flooding Mission Bay, South-of-Market and parts of the Mission.

Mission Bay is once again a bay; Mission Creek is a marsh. AT&T Park remains a fortified island—many doubted an entire stadium could be raised 40 feet—enshrining the tradition of the San Francisco Giants and their proud legacy of 10 World Series in 20 years.

Image: Brian Stokle
City planners wisely converted the T-Third to a monorail in 2030. The fast ferry line has changed transit in San Francisco, with stops at the New Ferry Building, Rincon Point, Giants Island, Potrero Point and Hunters Point.

Inconveniences remain. The 101/Cesar Chavez exits, 16th Street and The Ramp are a distant memory. Caltrain service is only available at low tide until the boring machines finish the High Speed Rail tunnels to the Peninsula. There aren’t enough mooring spots for boats at Bottom of the Hill and Whole Foods. On the positive side, Anchor Brewing can now send kegs to the SeaDogpatch Saloon by ferry, and the all-seafood menu at Serpentine is fantastic. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how the Hell’s Angels adapted to the flooding of their clubhouse, becoming among the most productive fisherman in Bay Area history.

Looking to the future, we all must accept the instability of the West Antarctic ice sheet. We can try to deny change like our grandparents did, or embrace it and adapt. Some are calling for the leveling of San Bruno Mountain to create great barriers or even dam the Bay. The Potreran Island Enclave Society is fighting against any fortifications, and have a long-term goal of creating a separate Potrero City-State once Potrero Hill becomes an island when sea level reaches 50 feet. Others looking back to the 1850s, are speculating on water lots, assuming that we can fill in submerged San Francisco and raise the streets and blocks. But whatever we do, let’s embrace the rediscovered nautical spirit of the City. And let us please keep the taco boats.
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Let's just hope things don't go as high as 50 feet. We'd have Potrero Island and Rincon Island. Not much Mission or SoMa either.

Note you can buy the 200 foot sea level rise maps either through Zazzle, or for the brick and mortar option, go to Local Take in the Castro. 
Rough cut map of 50 foot sea level rise. Color matching quality diminished with rising temperatures. Image: Brian Stokle


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