California is shrinking

By Sabrina Brennan

It’s time to accept that coastal California is shrinking. A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts chronic Bay Area flooding from rising seas as early as 2060. “Cities around the San Francisco Bay will begin to experience more frequent and disruptive flooding in the coming decades and will have to make tough decisions around whether to defend existing homes and businesses or to retreat,” said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, senior analyst in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS and a report author.

The Pacific Institute calculates that San Mateo County will lose more in property value than any other county in the state. Property damage in the county is estimated to be in the region of $39 billion, with sea level rise projected to affect more than 100,000 residents.

In July, the Mercury News reported that San Mateo and Marin Counties and the City of Imperial Beach filed a lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court. The suit alleges that, “major corporate members of the fossil fuel industry, have known for nearly a half century that unrestricted production and use of their fossil fuel products creates greenhouse gas pollution that warms the planet and changes climate.”

The suit argues that 37 oil, gas and coal companies actively worked to “discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence and persistently create doubt” in “a coordinated, multi-front effort.”

The suit asserts what many of us already accept as fact, that fossil fuel companies “have promoted and profited from a massive increase in the extraction and consumption of oil, coal and natural gas, which has in turn caused an enormous, foreseeable, and avoidable increase in global greenhouse gas pollution.”

Armoring the coast and building levees in the Bay will be an unimaginably expensive public undertaking, and that doesn’t include relocating highways, railways, airports, and other critical infrastructure.

Last month, the Guardian reported that Mayor Serge Dedina said that up to 30% of Imperial Beach could be affected by climate change. “As the lowest-income, highest poverty-rate city in San Diego County, we have no capacity to pay for the extensive adaptation measures.” Within 15 years flooding could affect tens of thousands of Marin County residents and cause upwards of $15.5 billion in property damage. “This lawsuit is intended to shift those costs back where they belong – on the fossil fuel companies,” says Marin County supervisor Kate Sears.

A well-funded army of lawyers is organizing to defend deep-pocketed multinationals that include San Ramon-based Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell, while at the same time the Plaintiffs continue to approve new development within sea level rise inundation areas. These new developments will add to the already huge cost of removal and replacement of hospitals, schools, airports, fire stations, police stations, ports, roads, railroad tracks, pump stations, sewage treatment facilities, power plants, utilities, hazardous material sites, and more.

As communities become dependent on costly levee systems to stay dry, and climate projections continue to worsen, we will soon be spending exponentially larger sums of money to protect development now being built in inundation zones. One good example is the 8-mile long levee do-over in Foster City that is now budgeted for $90 million. That levee must be rebuilt three feet higher or residents will be required to buy costly flood insurance.

In addition to suing oil companies our elected representatives have a responsibility to protect the public from the huge financial burden sea level rise will bring to coastal California. They can do this by using their powers to implement policies that limit development in known inundation areas and to prohibit future shoreline armoring in favor or wetland restoration.

Suing the fossil fuel companies is a great start to holding those responsible for the coming disaster to account, but that must only be a beginning. Without common sense and practical pragmatic legislating any legal action becomes nothing more than a show. If they really want to leave a lasting legacy current local legislative bodies must show through use of their powers that they have an understanding that development in inundation zones is literally pouring money down the drain. Anything less is going to be an expensive and complex disaster.

Published in the Daily Journal on Aug 14, 2017 and on the Everything South City website. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on Aug 23, 2017. 

Hazardous Fuel System at Oyster Point in South San Francisco

August 17, 2017 — Perspective by Sabrina Brennan, coming soon...

August 2, 2017 — Draft Implementation Agreement by and between the City of South San Francisco and the San Mateo County Harbor District related to the 2011 Agreement by and among the City, District, and the City's former redevelopment agency

June 19, 2017 — Letter from SMC Harbor District to Oyster Point Development

May 26, 2017 — Oyster Point Fuel Dock Condition Assessment and Recommended Repairs and Replacement

April 21, 2017 — Oyster Point Marina Fuel Dock Inspection Proposed Scope of Work and Cost Estimate

March 24, 2017 — Letter from SMC Harbor District to Oyster Point Development

January - April 2017 — Morning Dock Inspection Sheets

May 9, 2016 — Secondary Containment Test Report 

March 25, 2011 — SSF Redevelopment Agency Agreement with Harbor District

May 27, 2009 — Lease and Managment Agreement 

  • The 2009 transfer/assignment to Oyster Point Development (or their predecessor company)

December 15, 1989 — Lease and Managment Agreement for Parcels E, E-1, E-2, E-3 & E-4

  • The 1998 lease details the specification for the fuel system installation and how/who is going to install it.

The email below was sent on August 5, 2017

Dear Mayor Gupta, President Mattusch, Mr. Futrell and Mr. McGrath,

I’m concerned about public safety and the safety of Harbor District employees at Oyster Point.

On Wednesday, Oyster Point Marina fuel system safety hazards were not discussed during a Special Meeting held at South San Francisco City Hall at 2:00pm. The meeting was specifically about a Draft Agreement that transfers liability for the hazardous fuel system from a developer (Oyster Point Development) to the public.

The fuel system at Oyster Point is in extreme disrepair and as you are aware it is exposed to significant flooding. I'm concerned that the public and the unidentified people currently operating the fuel system are unaware of the numerous safety concerns raised in the May 26, 2017 Fuel Dock Condition Assessment.

On Wednesday, I learned from SSF City Manager Mike Futrell that the Drake Marine lease has been terminated. However some people are still operating the Fuel System at Oyster Point Marina. I’m not sure who these people are but they don’t appear to work for Oyster Point Development (the current lease holder), the City of South San Francisco, or the SMC Harbor District.

Who is providing oversight for the fuel system operation?

The City of South San Francisco has performed a number of Fuel System inspections at Oyster Point. It’s my understanding that the Harbor District requested the inspection reports some time ago and has some of them but not the most recent inspection report. I would like to read all fuel system inspection reports including the most recent report. Please provide them unredacted.

Steven Miller, attorney for the Harbor District and Steve McGrath, general manager for the Harbor District each sent strongly worded letters regarding concerns about the fuel system at Oyster Point.

I'm concerned that the Agreement as written calls for the liability and responsibility for the maintenance and operation of a hazardous fuel system to be transferred from a developer (Oyster Point Development) to the Harbor District.

Sabrina Brennan

  • To-date no response has been received from Mayor Gupta, President Mattusch, and Mr. Futrell

The email below was sent on July 28, 2017

Dear Mayor Gupta & President Mattusch,

I’m requesting that the Aug. Oyster Point Marina Joint Liaison Committee meeting be noticed as Special Meeting that allows an opportunity for City of South San Francisco Councilmembers and San Mateo County Harbor Commissioners to attend, ask questions, and participate in the discussion. 

Noticing Oyster Point Marina Joint Liaison Committee meetings as a special meetings of the Council and the Commission would meet Brown Act Requirements and encourage commission/council participation on issues that are critically important to both boards and the public. 

Thank you,
Sabrina Brennan

  • To-date no response has been received from Mayor Gupta and President Mattusch

Cartel Bankruptcy Docs for July SMCHD Meeting

Emails provided to the Harbor Commission and public at the July 19, 2017 meeting:

  • February, 27, 2015, Email from Cassandra Clark to Scott Grindy
  • June 24, 2014, Email from Cassandra Clark to Peter Grenell
  • Aug. 2015 - Sept. 2014, Email packet

Letter from Emily Charley, bankruptcy attorney for the Harbor District and Exhibits 1-9. This information was provided to the Harbor Commission and the public at the July 19, 2017 meeting:

July 7, 2017, Rule 2004 Examination of the San Mateo County Harbor District