California Coastal Commission: 2015 Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance

The California Coastal Commission Adopted Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance was released in 2015, and amended with a Science Update in 2018. The Guidance document offers an overview of the best available science on sea level rise for California, coastal adaptation strategies, and recommended methodology for addressing sea level rise in Coastal Commission planning and regulatory actions.

The potential impacts of sea level rise fall directly within the Coastal Commission’s (and coastal zone local governments’) planning and regulatory responsibilities under the Coastal Act. The Coastal Act mandates the protection of public access and recreation along the coast, coastal habitats, and other sensitive resources, as well as providing priority visitor-serving and coastal-dependent or coastal-related development while simultaneously minimizing risks from coastal hazards. This Guidance document has been created to help planners, project applicants, and other interested parties continue to achieve these goals in the face of sea level rise by addressing its effects in Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) and Coastal Development Permits (CDPs).

This report includes updates to reflect newly developing science, tools, and resources for sea level rise adaptation planning. The most significant of these include:

  • A new section on using scenario-based analysis to approach sea level rise planning
  • A new section on storms, extreme events, abrupt change, and sea level rise
  • A new section on sea level rise adaptation planning and environmental justice
  • A revised chapter on sea level rise adaptation strategies, including additional strategies
  • A new chapter on the legal context of adaptation planning

These revisions were coordinated with other California state efforts related to climate change, including the 2014 Safeguarding California Adaptation Plan produced by the California Natural Resources Agency.  The content of this Guidance is aligned with several key concepts in the plan, including hazard avoidance for new development, encouraging innovative designs and adaptation strategies for structures in areas vulnerable to sea level rise hazards, and addressing climate impacts in Local Coastal Programs and General Plan updates, among many others. Safeguarding California also addresses the need for state agencies to produce guidance documents addressing climate adaptation, and this sea level rise guidance is part of the statewide effort to fulfill that mandate. 

In addition, the Guidance implements many of the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience recommendations.  It does so by providing tools and assistance to support sea level rise decision making; by establishing a framework for state, local, and federal partnership and coordination on sea level rise; and by providing guidance on how to improve the resilience of California’s coastal infrastructure, natural resources, human communities, and coastal industries.


Publication Date: August 12, 2015

Related Organizations:

  • California Coastal Commission


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Agency guidance/policy
  • Assessment

States Affected:


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