San Francisco voters will be asked in November to support a $425 million general obligation bond that will shore up a 20-foot-deep seawall that has protected the city from flooding for over a century.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with the measure, citing flooding and earthquake risk to a vital part of the city and region’s economy.

Exposed seawall near Pier 14 in San Francisco's waterfront
An exposed seawall near Pier 14 on San Francisco's waterfront. The city's voters will decide on a $425 million bond measure to shore it up. Port of San Francisco


Mostly unseen by visitors, the seawall traverses three miles along the city’s waterfront from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Creek near the San Francisco Giants’ bayfront stadium, AT&T Park.

A 2016 survey found that the structure – built in the 1910s – sits on unstable soil that could cause the structure to slip during a major earthquake. Rising sea levels due to climate change have also increased flood risk, according to a city report.

“Right now our waterfront and downtown San Francisco would face major damage including increased flooding if the Embarcadero Seawall fails during a major earthquake, which we know is coming," said Supervisor and Mayor-elect London Breed in a statement. “We all saw the devastation that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – devastation that we can and should prevent from occurring here in San Francisco.”

The seawall protects $102.1 billion in property value in an area representing $24.6 billion in economic activity, according to the city report. If its walls were breached, flooding could reach tunnels used by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District and Muni train lines – crippling the region’s transportation network, the report stated.

Under a plan by the Port of San Francisco, which oversees the seawall, the city would spend $500 million to repair and strengthen the seawall with measures that include strengthening the ground underneath the wall, and replacing or retrofitting wharves, piers and bulkheads.

The bond measure will require a two-thirds supermajority to pass. A February poll commissioned by the port found that 73% would support such a bond.

In addition to the $425 million of bond proceeds, the state is expected to provide $55 million, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $10 million, the port $8 million and the city Planning and Municipal Transportation Agency $2 million.

The city also announced Wednesday that the Army Corps approved $500,000 to study flood risk on the waterfront, which could lead to recommendations for additional funding.

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