Urban Planning

The Chronicle has a great article in today’s edition talking about how rising sea levels will alter the way we think about urban development. As Jane Kay, the reporter, points out, the Bay Area has done a great job of thinking about earthquakes and planning for unstable ground. But not many planners are thinking about rising sea levels: something which is already starting to occur, and will probably only get worse in the coming decades. Given that most of the Bay Area is built on fill…a large part of San Francisco, including the Financial District, may be entirely fucked.

For once, I’m stoked about rising sea levels, because it may put the brakes on developing Treasure Island. According to the article, “parts” of the Island may be underwater…I call bullshit on that, because I suspect that the whole Island will be underwater if the sea level rises that much. Yerba Buena will probably still be visible, but I can’t see any way that the Island will not be completely flooded.

We’ve already got a couple of things going against us, development wise, including the issue of “liquification,” or “what will happen if there is a major earthquake on the Island.” Even if buildings are anchored in bedrock here, they will suffer during a major quake…that seems pretty obvious. The contamination issue is unlikely to go away any time soon, either: at the last meeting I was at, I was told that it would be at least five years before serious talks about development begin. The Navy is totally unprepared to hand the City over, which is really just fine with us, because we enjoy our gently decaying toxic dump just the way it is.

By then, there may be a moratorium on building this low, thanks to rising sea levels. This means that our dream of being left alone may actually be realized.

Personally, I don’t really object, I mean, our house is two stories. We can just turn into Venice, add another story on top, and call it good. I’ve always wanted to visit the neighbors via gondola.

Truly, I do realize that rising sea levels and other issues associated with global warming are causes for concern. Although I rejoice at the thought of being allowed to live in peace here, at least until it floods, I still think steps should be taken to reduce the impacts of global warming, if not reverse it, assuming that is even possible. This response, of rethinking urban planning, intrigues me, though. I suppose that there is nothing we can do as an individual city to stop the water level from rising, so we should plan on dealing with it, rather than marching around with signs.

I also wonder when someone is going to propose a system of dikes, like they have in the Netherlands…if that is even a viable option. I assume someone with an engineering degree who understands these things a little better than I do is already considering this.

There certainly seem to be growing hints that civilization may not be long for this Earth, if we’re already planning for catastrophe, eh?