City of Santa Cruz, California Climate Adaptation Plan

The City of Santa Cruz, California is uniquely situated along the Pacific Ocean cliffs and Monterey Bay beaches, surrounded by a greenbelt of open space areas, with a river running through its downtown and tourist-serving areas. Although all of this is a part of its appeal, these features also increase its vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) was approved in December of 2011, identifying the City's most significant potential climate change risks and vulnerabilities, defining the actions to guide current and future adaptation planning, and overall creating a framework for decision makers to build a more resilient and sustainable community, informed by the most current climate science. 

The City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Team collaborated with University of California at Santa Cruz scientists to develop the City's Vulnerability Study, released in January 2011. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded their 18 months of research with a $50,000 grant. The vulnerability study identified the most pressing climate change impacts, and was the basis for development of the potential goals, objectives and actions that will build adaptive capacity into policies, programs and infrastructure - as outlined in this Plan.

Potential local impacts of climate change as identified in the vulnerability assessment are detailed in the report, which include: sea level rise, flood, severe storm/weather events, drought, coastal erosion, increased wildfires, ocean acidification, salt water intrusion, increasing temperatures, food and fuel availability, and impacts to ecosystems. The Plan looks at the resilience of the City's infrastructure such as the Wastewater Treatment Facility, roads and bridges, and municipal buildings particularly in relation to sea level rise. Tables of estimated dollar losses that might occur as a result of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change are included in Appendix E, including the 100-year flood loss. 

Chapter 4 presents the overall Adaptation Strategy. The adaptation goals are outlined and followed by the objectives selected by the Climate Adaptation Team to meet multiple goals. In support of the  goals and objectives, the City identified a number of potential climate adaptation actions, which were developed through an inclusive departmental and community process. Action items that address climate impacts with the highest risk to the community (as identified in the Vulnerability Study) were given priority rankings. According to the study, sea level rise and extreme storm events have the potential to cause the greatest economic and human losses. Action items along with initial suggestions for implementation, identification of lead departments in the City, preliminary estimates of resources required and general timeline, are ranked by priority and detailed.

Publication Date: December 13, 2011

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