Projects like the Bayfront Canal aim to protect local ecosystems and homes from the effects of climate change. (Anuja Kamatkar)
Projects like the Bayfront Canal aim to protect local ecosystems and homes from the effects of climate change.

Anuja Kamatkar

OneShoreline aims to protect San Mateo County from the changing climate

January 23, 2023

OneShoreline builds solutions for the changing climate as sea levels rise.  Their program aims to protect San Mateo county from flooding and other environmental issues by constructing long-term projects.

Established in January 2020, OneShoreline was created in response to a question posed in the counties civil grand jury asking, “What actions can the County of San Mateo, and the 20 cities and two relevant local special agencies within the county, take now to plan for sea level rise?”

The response was to create a single organization that would undertake SLR planning on a countywide basis.  

Flood Infographic by 811893

OneShoreline constructed an underground culvert drainage system designed to divert the excess stormwater flows from the Bayfront Canal, located in Foster City, to the managed ponds of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  The project, concluding in January 2022 protected five mobile homes at the entrance to Bedwell Bayfront Park from frequent flooding.  

“Our mission is to make the communities of San Mateo County resilient to the water-related impacts of climate change,” said Len Materman, CEO of OneShoreline. 

From planning to execution there are many factors that OneShoreline must take into account regarding the community to create the best solutions possible.  

“It’s really about whether there is local support to do something about that vulnerability,” Materman said. “If there’s strong political leadership by a city council that says we really want to tackle this issue, and we want to be forward thinking about what the future conditions are going to be like under climate change, then we’ll do whatever we can to support them and in some cases, that’s political support. In some cases, it’s applying for grants and giving them to the local jurisdiction so that they can do the work, and in some cases, it’s us leading the projects.”

Finding solutions to the changing climate is also important to the local residents.  Joaquin Landoswi, a senior climate adaption planner at the San Fransisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, notes the importance of climate-focused programs in the community.

“I think that its really important for people to understand what the impacts of climate change and sea level rise are, and really what it means for their local communities,” Landoswi said.

The seriousness of climate change only increases as water levels around the bay area continue to rise.  According to The San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, reports show that over time San Mateo county’s flood infrastructure will become increasingly exposed to the rising tide levels and will be unable to provide sufficient flood protection.  

“As the water rises, it starts to impact land that has previously been dry and possibly remediated to these dry conditions.  It’s not clear, you know, how well they’ll hold up to a different set of conditions. I think it’s really important that we connect this to people’s lives, and what it means for them and understand that you know, these issues that we’re talking about.  They’re happening now, and they’re only going to increase,” Landoswi said.  

OneShoreline strives to increase awareness of local environmental problems in the county.   

“We’re working or trying to get started a program with community-based organizations. We really want to include all communities so outreach and education is a big, big emphasis,” Materman said. 

Having public outreach is important for the program to connect these issues to people’s lives.  

And when things seem like a global issue, people don’t take it upon themselves to try and stay involved and stay active,” said Swaraa Joshi, a junior at Carlmont and past volunteer at the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability.

In the future, they hope to continue to build solutions in response to the changing climate and with that, acquire the necessary funds to do so.  

“We don’t have a permanent source of funding. So that is an important consideration for us and our board is keenly interested in figuring out like what the long-term plan is for that,” Materman said.

Currently, OneShoreline is working on a planning guidance document, which will be the first in the Bay Area for any county to establish future conditions planning in its surrounding ordinances in general plans.  

They hope these documents will improve the planning process and organization of the program. 

“There are a lot of proposed developments out there and ones that are unfortunately under construction now. The decisions that we’re making on where we put these buildings and how close to the water we put them are going to hurt us for the next many decades. Because to go in and retrofit these properties can be much more difficult than if we think about it,” Materman said. 

As sea levels constantly rise, OneShoreline continues efforts to maintain a safe environment in which the community can thrive.

 “It’s really important that we create the structures in which people can come together as conditions change as things happen. I think that’s a key to success that we can be part of,” Landoswi said. 

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