Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 11: Evaluating Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning in Coastal California

(Intro to the series here)

“I hope we don’t fall into reactionary status quo.. but rather, take some bold steps in planning actions to try to adapt to sea-level rise in ways that might be a good bet.” – Charles Lester

Today we are talking with the University of California Santa Barbara project team leading a statewide evaluation of sea-level rise adaptation planning across California’s 76 coastal jurisdictions. One of the products of this work will be a user-friendly online inventory of adaptation planning occurring throughout the state. The Ocean Protection Council and the Office of Planning and Research are closely tracking the progress of this project and exploring opportunities to align and potentially merge the products from this work with the state’s Adaptation Clearinghouse.

Applying lessons learned from current and past action, the project team will develop recommendations for improving California’s coastal adaptation planning process, including the Local Coastal Plan policy update process. They will also assess alignment between local plans and the State’s Sea Level Rise Principles, released October 2020.

“I think of California’s coast as a laboratory of sorts, with all of these locations that are really diverse…if we can understand each of these places a little bit better, we might find little nuggets of wisdom about how to do a better job at making decisions,” says Dr. Charles Lester, the Principle Investigator on the project. This project will help California find ways to “plan for the long-term but take meaningful action today…and how do we take those actions today so as not to prejudice or ruin the future for our kids and our grandkids?” adds Lester.

California needs to move away from the “emergency-response” method that has dominated action around coastal resilience to flooding, erosion, storm surges, and sea-level rise and move towards thoughtful long-term planning with adaptation pathways and triggers that keep the ultimate goals developed by each local community in mind. 

By evaluating the effectiveness of particular adaptation strategies, this project will help inform future action that factors in a given locality’s values and priorities (e.g. protecting property, preserving sandy beach landscapes, maintaining coastal access and public safety). A huge part of this Prop 68 project is to see how local jurisdictions balance the inevitable tradeoffs associated with SLR planning and projects.

“We expect to find that there is no uniform process for SLR adaptation planning, some jurisdictions may be far along in the process of SLR planning while others may be just beginning to explore opportunities for SLR adaptation planning… and different jurisdictions and communities may have different preferred methods for adapting to SLR… some may accommodate for SLR, others might want to nourish their beaches and protect their shorelines more heavily, and some may want to retreat from the imposing threat altogether,” notes graduate student researcher Caitlin Manley.

To learn more about this project, check out this video!



  • Video Production, Editing, and Narration: Kat Beheshti
  • Drone footage: Charles Lester
  • Photos: Charles Lester
  • Video Thumbnail Photo: Charles Lester
  • Video Footage: Kat Beheshti, Charles Lester 

About Dr. Charles Lester: Charles is the Director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center within the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the Principle Investigator on this Prop 68 Project. Prior to working at UC Santa Barbara, Charles served the State of California for 20 years as a manager, Deputy Director and ultimately the Executive Director of the  California Coastal Commission (2011-2016). He received his BA in Geochemistry from Columbia University, and his JD and PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

About Caitlin Manley: Caitlin is a Graduate Student Researcher at the UCSB and a Master’s Student at the Bren SChool of environment science and management. Caitlin received her BS in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Prior to entering graduate school, Caitlin has worked for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Parks Service.  

About the Author: Dr. Kathryn Beheshti is a 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow with the Ocean Protection Council’s Climate Change Program. Kat’s own research focuses on understanding the drivers of loss and recovery of key coastal foundation species (e.g. salt marsh plants and seagrasses). Kat is committed to making science accessible to individuals of all ages and demographics. She hosts her own science communication platform, and participates in an interdisciplinary science communication team at, where she is a Lead Vlogger.

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 10: Developing a San Diego Regional Coastal Resilience Roadmap

(Intro to the series here)

“By working together to develop a shared understanding of the risks we face as well as to prioritize the actions we can take to address them, we can be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.” – Emily Young

Today we are in San Diego County talking with members of the project team leading the development of a coastal resilience roadmap that will facilitate accelerated action for coastal resilience projects and investments that prioritize benefits to underserved communities in the region.

This Prop 68 Project will build capacity for the region as a whole and design an equitable approach that is community-led, allowing individuals living in these impacted or at-risk areas to inform the future direction of how the area is managed. The Nonprofit Institute and the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative are partnering with the Local Government Commission and Resilient Cities Catalyst to complete this work. This large collaboration exemplifies how inclusivity has been at the center of this roadmap process since its inception.   … read more

Announcing Our New Sea Level Rise Campaign to Shore Up California!

(SACRAMENTO, California) – The California Natural Resources Agency today launched the nation’s first statewide campaign to raise awareness about the urgent threat that sea level rise poses to coastal and inland communities.

Dubbed “The Ocean Is Moving In,” the campaign features humorous videos and posters of various sea creatures taking up residence in people’s homes with the goal of inspiring people to visit the state’s new sea level rise website. While the tone is light-hearted, the messaging underscores the very serious impacts sea level rise will have on quality of life unless Californians start actively preparing:

  • 60 percent of California beaches are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.
  • $150 billion in California property is threatened by severe flooding.
  • Salt-water intrusion could compromise groundwater and drinking supplies.
  • Transportation hubs like the Pacific Coast Highway and SFO could be immobilized.

… read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 9: Bayshore Bikeway Resiliency Project

(Intro to the series here)

“I’ve seen Imperial Beach become the city it is today… We have a lot of opportunities to do really cool projects, and one of them is here on the south end of San Diego Bay.” – Chris Helmer

Today we are in the City of Imperial Beach, discussing a Prop 68 Project to determine the best path forward for a retrofit of a 1.2-mile segment of the San Diego Bayshore Bikeway. This project provides multiple benefits to the surrounding underserved community of Imperial Beach, including flood protection, sea level rise resilience, and enhanced coastal access. The bikeway is a heavily used recreational corridor that connects to adjacent communities (National City, Chula Vista, San Diego, Coronado, and Imperial Beach). This area is already experiencing coastal flooding during king tides, so action is needed now to remedy the flooding risks of today and into the future.

 Collaboration is key to the success of this project. Ultimately the project team is interested in leveraging their existing and growing partnerships with local and state agencies and organizations to protect this low-lying community of Imperial Beach from current and future flooding. The project team is hyper aware of the potential climate-driven impacts facing Imperial Beach and they’re working hard to be proactive and adapt before it’s too late.

“We’re looking to re-envision the future opportunities for this community, their recreational opportunities, and options for expanding habitat,” says Chris Helmer the Project Manager. “We’re thinking about our community, we’re thinking about the region, and we’re thinking about the environment and I think it’s essential for us to be pursuing projects like this,” adds Meagan Openshaw, a Senior Planner on the project.

The City of Imperial Beach, in collaboration with Nexus, will be working alongside GHD and City Thinkers to develop a variety of strategies for how to best address existing and future flooding for this community and its surrounding infrastructure as risks grow with sea level rise. The project team has prioritized engagement with the community and other relevant stakeholders throughout this process.  … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 8: BEACON Sediment Management Pilot Program

(Intro to the series here)

“I’m excited to shorten the distance between the science that we all support and the actual way that we apply it to our restoration projects” – Marc Beyeler

Today we are in Ventura, California visiting the Surfer’s Point Dune Restoration Site which is an exemplary case study of sediment management, restoration, and managed retreat. Adjacent to this dune restoration site is an area that has experienced extensive erosion with remnants of bike pathways, parking lots, and sewage plumbing from decades past now eroded, exposed, and part of the beach landscape. This stark contrast provided a nice visual representation of the problem (beach erosion) facing much of California’s coast juxtaposed to one of the many solutions (managed retreat).

The Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the Counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura as well as the coastal cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme, covering 144 miles of coastline. BEACON seeks to keep important sediment within the coastal watershed that would otherwise be hauled to a disposal site. To increase coastal resilience to erosion and sea level rise impacts, BEACON works to plan and implement projects that include sediment management, beach nourishment, and beach and dune restoration. … read more

Announcing the Environmental Justice Advisory Group

An important component of Ocean Protection Council’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan is advancing more equitable and comprehensive ocean and coastal science research, policies, programs and projects that reflect the connection between people, communities, and natural systems.

To that end, OPC staff, in collaboration with funding grantee, Better World Group, began the development of an Equity Plan, beginning with forming an Environmental Justice (EJ) Advisory Group. Comprised of community leaders and advocates representative of California’s diverse regions, members will use their expertise to guide the Plan’s development.

The project team and EJ Advisory Group members will solicit feedback and public comment on the draft Equity Plan when it is released this fall. Staff anticipates bringing the final proposed Plan for adoption consideration at the February 2022 Council meeting. Members of the EJ Advisory Group are listed below.

… read more

Future Leaders, Shiny #SciComm and Silly-But-Serious Sea Level Rise: Tuesday’s OPC Meeting, Recapped

The Ocean Protection Council’s Sept. 14 meeting covered a variety of issues, including marine protected areas and microplastics, but the two agenda items that gathered the most kudos were presentations by OPC’s interns andSea Grant Fellow Dr. Kat Beheshti’s Prop 68 miniseries. Both drew well-deserved admiration from Councilmembers and set the stage for how OPC intends to invest in future leadership and engaging storytelling. 

OPC’s first-ever paid internship program 

In summer 2021, OPC hosted a cohort of six interns who helped advance priorities in OPC’s Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean while gaining meaningful professional experience within state government. Bella Alvarado, Mairin Culwell, Madhu Garimella, Nayre Herrera, and Claudia Sanchez-Rea were part of OPC’s first-ever 10-week paid summer internship program, which was focused on providing undergraduate college students with the opportunity to build a foundational background and robust overview of California’s coastal and ocean science, policy, and management work.  

Additionally, Molly Glickman joined OPC through a merit-based award from the Haas Center for Public Service’s Undergraduate Fellowships Program at Stanford University, the fourth year of an ongoing partnership between OPC and Stanford. During the informational item, each intern provided a brief presentation on their projects, which can be viewed starting at minute 31:00 on OPC’s YouTube channel. As Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot said, “Remarkable work!”  … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 7: Planning Regional Coastal Resiliency for California State Parks

(Intro to the series here)

“This project provides an opportunity for all Californians to have a say in what the California coast of the future will look like.” – Michelle Succow

Today we are talking about a Prop 68 Project to develop a template for how coastal state parks should assess sea-level rise vulnerability and how to plan and adapt to site-specific impacts. The team at State Parks decided to pilot this work in the San Diego District, given the diversity of coastal habitats and land uses in the region.

California State Parks manages nearly 25 percent of the California coastline, with 128 coastal units. This presents an incredible opportunity for State Parks to lead the state in moving forward on sea-level rise planning and adaptation. “Coastal units in the State Park system are already experiencing impacts caused by severe erosion and flooding and we anticipate that those impacts are going to increase as sea levels rise and so having a consistent and statewide approach for how State Parks can assess those vulnerabilities, is really important,” notes Michelle Succow, one of the leading members of the Project Team. This project will establish that statewide approach to vulnerability assessments across State Park units and develop a roadmap for how the identified vulnerabilities can be addressed through planning and adaptive measures. Earlier this year, State Parks released their Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy and this project advances many of the goals identified in the Strategy. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 6: Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Phase III

“Our hope is that this project will demonstrate we can undo past damage and that it’s worth it because you cannot have healthy humans without a healthy environment” – Monique Fountain

Today we are visiting Elkhorn Slough. Designated a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention, the Slough supports a diversity of species, ranging from harbor seals to Dungeness crab. Of course, the Slough is known for the large resident population of southern sea otters that can be seen by the visiting public at close range swimming in the tidal creeks, foraging in the eelgrass meadows, and resting on the salt marsh where they frequently haul out. While these charismatic and fuzzy animals are effective at drawing in the public and fostering stewardship across the broader Monterey Bay community, equally as important are our coastal foundation species (salt marsh, eelgrass, oysters) which are responsible for building the emblematic ecosystems of the California coast. 

This Prop 68 Project will complete the last 30 acres of a 119-acre tidal marsh restoration project and includes the restoration of tidal marsh, eelgrass beds, and Olympia oysters. Reversing the degradation that Elkhorn Slough has experienced over the past 150 years, this project aims to re-build a coastal landscape that is resilient to sea-level rise. The Project Team includes multiple state agencies, academics, and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “This is our chance to bring back some of those wild places in partnership with Native Americans so that these coastal habitats can once again provide the sort of values that they have in the past as a legacy for future generations” notes Dr. Kerstin Wasson, science lead on the project.  … read more

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