Adapting to Sea Level Rise: A Guide for California’s Coastal Communities

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Russell, Nicole and Griggs, Gary
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This guidebook is intended to assist managers and planners in California’s coastal cities and counties in developing sea level rise adaptation plans for their communities. State agency staff who work with these issues may also find it useful. It begins with an introduction that provides background information about climate change and sea level rise and an explanation of why planners in coastal communities should begin to plan for sea level rise and the associated coastal hazards.

The remaining sections walk users through the processes of performing sea level rise vulnerability assessments and risk analyses for the development of adaptation plans that can be tailored specifically to their individual communities. Readers will also notice examples from or references to two specific case studies in the Guide that we hope will provide some useful perspective. Santa Cruz has completed a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment that includes sea level rise and related coastal hazards and has now completed a Climate Change Adaptation Plan. We have also worked with the City of Santa Barbara to prepare a Sea Level Rise and Coastal Hazards Vulnerability Assessment to complement their newly revised General Plan and Environmental Impact Report, which have climate change elements.

Although this Guide is focused on sea level rise and related hazards, it has been informed by several existing but broader climate change adaptation guides and strategies, which are listed in the References at the end of the Guide.


Russell, N.; Griggs, G., 2012. Adapting to Sea Level Rise: A Guide for California’s Coastal Communities. Prepared for the California Energy Commission Public Interest Environmental Research Program. Available online at