PHOENIX - San Francisco voters will be asked to approve a $350 million bond measure to fund repairs to its fragile seawall, which experts believe needs a multi-billion dollar investment.
The significant new investment in the more than century-old structure was laid out in the city's $35 billion draft 10-year capital plan for fiscal years 2018-2027, released by Mayor Ed Lee and City Administrator Naomi Kelly Tuesday. The seawall underpins the Embarcadero Promenade and provides flood protection to downtown, and officials characterize it as critical for emergency response and recovery for the entire city. The proposed $350 million bond allocation will fund the first series of improvements as part of a Seawall Resiliency Project estimated to cost as much as $5 billion and likely include state and federal money as well.
Elaine Forbes, director of the Port of San Francisco, the entity leading the seawall project, said Lee and Kelly have made the decision to prioritize the seawall. The bond would go on the ballot in 2018 as a regular general obligation issuance of the City and County of San Francisco, and would not involve any tax increases. A two-thirds supermajority vote will be required.
Construction of the seawall began in 1878, prior to the development of modern engineering techniques that account for seismic risks. The city has concluded that a major earthquake would likely cause major damage and disruption to the seawall if it is not upgraded and maintained.
"Basically we have discovered that there is a lot of seismic vulnerability in the seawall," Forbes said. "In a major earthquake it will not perform well."
Forbes said that many people living in San Francisco are ignorant of the seawall's existence. The structure makes possible many of the city's most notable attractions along the waterfront, including Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz Landing, its cruise ship terminal, and the home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants.
The draft plan discusses several other initiatives and projects funded by public money, including the recently completed Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and new improvements to the SFGH campus, the Public Safety Building, seismic repairs of the city's regional water system, a new air traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport, and renovations of the War Memorial Veterans Building and Bayview Opera House.
The draft plan will be reviewed by the city's Capital Planning Committee and presented to the Board of Supervisors on or before March 1st. The Mayor and the Board will have until May 1st to approve or modify it.