The bond funding will be allocated for Phase 1 of the Seawall Program.

SF to put seawall bond money to work

Five months after voters approved a bond measure to protect the waterfront from earthquakes and flooding from sea-level rise, San Francisco plans to start using the first batch of funds.

Next week, The City is expected to introduce to the Board of Supervisors for approval a proposal to use $50 million of the $425 million Embarcadero Seawall Earthquake Safety general obligation bond approved by more than 80 percent of the voters in November. The bond is funded through property taxes.

The Capital Planning Committee voted to approve the funding Monday and the Port Commission on Tuesday.

If all goes according to plan, the Port would have the funding in hand come June.

The bond funding is intended for what is known as Phase 1 of the Seawall Program, which totals $500 million and is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Port officials are working to find funding to close a Phase 1 funding gap of $54 million, such as through a state resilience bond, state cap and trade revenue, additional state funding and a Mello Roos District along the waterfront, port officials said this week.

“We must identify other state funding sources to close our phase 1 funding gap,” Katharine Petrucione, the Port of San Francisco’s deputy director of finance and administration, told the Capital Planning Committee Monday.

Meanwhile, the total Seawall Program costs are estimated at up to $5 billion over the next 20 to 30 years.

The initial $50 million, which will last through June 2021, will go toward planning and design, port officials said this week.

“These funds, combined with other Port, City and state funding, will provide $57.1 million to support the planning and preliminary design phases of the Seawall Program through Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21,” said a memo to the Port Commission from Port of San Francisco’s executive director Elaine Forbes.

“The Embarcadero Seawall Program is a critical effort to improve the infrastructure that supports the City’s northern waterfront,” said the memo. “Staff anticipates returning to the Port Commission in FY 2020-21 for the second bond sale to complete preliminary design and initiate final design and construction of Phase I projects.”

No specific projects have yet been identified but could include replacing portions of the seawall, fixed barriers, flood proofing facilities and relocation of “sensitive infrastructure,” according to the Port’s June 2018 bond report.

The three-mile seawall acts as a retaining wall for the filled land behind it and protects these lands from flooding. But studies have shown the wall is vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding will increase with sea level rise.

The $50 million would go towards such things as geotechnical investigations, the identification and preliminary design of pilot and longer term projects, NEPA and CEQA permits and advancing the United States Army Corps Flood Study.

“We are well along in our collaboration with the US Army Corp of Engineers on a portwide flood study,” Petrucione said Monday. “This past August the Port and the Army Corp kicked off a four-and-a-half year flood study of risk from Fisherman’s Wharf to Islais Creek. The study will develop and evaluate a wide range of flood control solutions that will ultimately be vetted by the public and the Port stakeholders.”

Petrucione said the Port is working with consultant Jacobs Engineering to develop what is known as a multi-hazard risk assessment. She said the assessment will examine the earthquake and flood risk of assets like piers, buildings, transit and public spaces and use certain criteria, such as safety and environmental impacts, to select projects for construction.

The report is due out by December, she said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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