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  • Writer's pictureLeorah Gavidor

San Diego Seeks Input on Climate Resilience Plan

Residents Are Already Suffering the Effects of Climate Change

The City of San Diego is seeking input on its climate resilience plan. The plan identifies four primary climate change hazards that pose a risk to the city: sea level rise, flooding and drought, extreme heat, and wildfires. Authors of the plan posit that a “resilient San Diego can adapt to, recover from and thrive under changing climate conditions.” Different from the City’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, Climate Resilient SD aims to find ways to reduce the impacts from climate change related hazards. This subtle distinction acknowledges that the city and its residents are already suffering the effects of climate change—especially the most vulnerable communities. The plan draws on the Climate Equity Index to identify Communities of Concern where the City will direct funding and prioritize resilience projects.

Since the plan is over 500 pages, the Climate Action Campaign, a local organization, put together a guide on how to read and think critically about the plan so you can provide effective feedback. Explore and comment on the interactive plan documents at You can also share your comments by emailing

A few highlights

The plan calls for protection and expansion of the City’s urban forest, along with conversion of vacant lots, rooftops and other available space to public community gardens. It also includes integrating “natural infrastructure” into the City’s built or engineered solutions. Though the term sounds like an oxymoron, natural infrastructure includes a few great ideas. A fun one: the Moss Stop, a bus stop shelter with moss on top. “Green streets” incorporate stormwater management, such as rain gardens, vegetated curbs, and permeable sidewalks. Policy TNE-4 prioritizes installation of green infrastructure wherever feasible.

The City is exploring the use of sustainability microgrids that allow a building or small set of connected buildings to operate independently during power outages. Microgrids increase resiliency while also reducing transmission distances and thus greenhouse gas emissions.

The City plans to create a web map showing primary climate change hazards, and keep it updated as projections and state guidance change. This will be in addition to expanded efforts to educate San Diegans about the impacts of climate change in their neighborhoods.

The plan identifies tribal and archaeological assets as being at high risk in case of coastal flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion, extreme heat, and wildfire. The City has tribal resources on its radar and is working to preserve them, in collaboration with tribal partners.

A few weak points

Climate Resilient SD reports that San Diego could see an additional 3.6 to 10.2 feet of sea level rise by 2100. But by the way the draft is written, it seems the plan’s authors think “beach access” and “economic impact” from lost tourism dollars are the most dire consequences San Diego faces with sea level rise. What about marine life that lives along the coast? What about wetlands that provide habitat for endangered species? Though the plan does mention these components, it seems to prioritize human use in its coastal management strategy: “The City of San Diego recognizes the great value of the coast, as an economic, environmental and recreational asset for the region. Planning efforts will continue to manage the coastline to ensure that these benefits are available to all San Diegans, now and into the future.” Does the phrase “all San Diegans” include wildlife? How will the resilience plan balance recreational coastal access with the stated goal to “protect [the] integrity of wetlands?”

Policy TNE-2, protecting and improving the integrity of open space, habitat, and parks sounds good in theory. But how exactly will the City reconcile that with projected population growth, increased need for housing and transit, and urban infill development?

The reasoning behind the plan is to take action now to reduce risk and enhance our climate change readiness. But it’s not exactly clear what the timeline is on these actions, and, while the plan puts forward a lot of great-sounding ideas, it does not include specifics of implementation. It’s full of language such as “outreach campaigns could include topics such as water conservation…,” and “the program should facilitate greening of City buildings,” and “the City’s funding strategy should include alignment of planning efforts, integration of resilience into capital planning, close coordination between departments and consideration of the staff capacity and resources needed for implementation.” Yes, could, yes should—but the time is past for that type of talk. We need definitive action now. Why are we as a city not doing this already?

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