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Port Commission to vote on $350 million bond to rebuild SF seawall

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San Francisco officials are considering a $350 million bond for the November 2018 election to fortify The City’s century-old seawall. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Port Commission at its regular meeting Tuesday will consider recommending The City place a $350 million bond on the November ballot to fund repairs and seismic upgrades on the Embarcadero Seawall.

Officials fear the seawall is vulnerable to earthquakes, as the wall of rock, rubble and timber was constructed partially before 1906 and partially between 1906 and 1916, before modern earthquake-resilient construction techniques were available. If San Francisco were to see another quake the size of the great 1906 earthquake and fire the seawall could slide, prompting flooding in downtown San Francisco and other neighborhoods, Port staff wrote in a bond report.

If a recommendation to place the “Seawall Fortification Bond” on the November ballot is approved by the Port Commission Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will need to approve the bond measure by May 15, 2018 to place it on the ballot, according to a Port staff report.

That bond is currently slated for $350 million to partially fund Phase 1 of the planned seawall repair, which has multiple phases ending in 2026, 2050, and 2100. That initial amount is short of the full $550 million needed for Phase 1. But the City Controller is now reviewing whether The City has additional “bonding capacity” that could raise even more money for the seawall.

The Embarcadero Seawall “is already experiencing localized flooding” due to rising tides, Port staff wrote in a bond report. Should a significant flood event occur it would “send the bay over the current height of the Embarcadero Seawall and into the BART and Muni tunnels” in an event that could “strand hundreds of thousands” of Bay Area workers.

San Francisco could “suffer billions of dollars in property damage,” should a disaster disrupt the seawall, the report states.

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