Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles, California

From the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program, this vulnerability assessment is a summary of initial research on the potential impacts of sea level rise on Los Angeles’s resources and population, coastal and shoreline assets. The report contains the findings of a coastal vulnerabilities study, as well as the results of physical, social and economic vulnerability assessment studies that were commissioned by the City and USC Sea Grant.  In the final section, a suite of adaptation measures for sea level rise is provided, along with several recommendations for moving forward.

The study concentrates on the City’s three coastal regions: Pacific Palisades from Malibu to Santa Monica; Venice and Playa del Rey; and San Pedro, Wilmington and the Port of Los Angeles.

This assessment was the result of engaging Los Angeles City managers and a team of science and outreach experts to develop a science-based and stakeholder-supported adaptation planning process to assess the City’s vulnerabilities. USC partnered with the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC), and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, to engage local businesses, industry experts, L.A. representatives, public utilities, and environmental organizations, to develop AdaptLA. This city-led science-based and stakeholder-supported adaptation planning process included the development of this vulnerability assessment.

The assessment process began through a coastal impact model developed by the USGS, which incorporated impacts of rising seas with wave and storm surge. Based on the findings from the coastal impact model, the study identified physical vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and communities. These areas were further broken down into identifiable sections including: the stormwater management system, potable water system, roadways, museum and cultural centers, parks, ports, and energy facilities. Based on the assessments, City officials were able to prioritize improvements that would lessen impacts and increase overall resiliency to sea level rise.

Immediate Sea Level Rise Adaptation Actions are suggested including:

• Storm watch and notification;
• Semi-annual beach width monitoring;
• Annual monitoring of cliff retreat;
• Use of historical beach profiles and existing wave data to develop predictions; and
• Coordination with local, regional, state and federal agencies, especially Los Angeles County (Public Works and the Department of Beaches and Harbors) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Appendices include four independent comprehensive reports:
Appendix 1: 'City of Los Angeles Coastal Issues Related to Future Mean Sea Level Rise' by Dr. Reinhard Flick, TerraCosta Consulting Group, Inc.

Appendix 2: 'Physical Vulnerability Assessment Findings for the City of Los Angeles' by Brian Holland and Melissa Higbee, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Appendix 3: 'Sea-Level Rise Impacts and Flooding Risks in the Context of Social Vulnerability: An Assessment for the City of Los Angeles' by Dr. Julia Eckstrom and Dr. Susanne Moser, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting

Appendix 4: 'Economic Impact of Sea level Rise to the City of Los Angeles' by Dr. Dan Wei and Dr. Samrat Chatterjee, USC Price School of Public Policy, Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events

Publication Date: December 2013

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Phyllis Grifman
  • Juliette Hart
  • Jill Ladwig
  • Alyssa Newton Mann
  • Marika Schulhof

Related Organizations:


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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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