Isabella Vanderheiden / @ 8:29 a.m. / Agendizer

Arcata City Council, Planning Commission to Talk Sea Level Rise in Special Joint Session

Current tidal inundation areas versus potential tidal inundation areas with 4.6 feet (1.5 meters) of sea level rise. Image via the City of Arcata.


The Arcata City Council and Planning Commission will convene for a joint study session on Tuesday to discuss the potential consequences of sea level rise, a critical factor that will inform the city’s long-term planning decisions.

Local coastal experts expect Humboldt Bay’s shoreline to rise by as much as three feet in the next 40 years. In fact, recent estimates indicate Humboldt Bay has the fastest sea level rise rate in California, approximately two to three times the long-term global rate. One area of particular concern is the northern portion of Humboldt Bay, especially the low-lying Arcata Marsh and the Highway 101 corridor between Arcata and Eureka.

Image: County of Humboldt

The City of Arcata has put considerable effort into sea level rise planning in the last decade. The city commissioned two vulnerability assessments in 2018 to get a better idea understanding of the impacts and hazards associated with sea level rise. An update to the city’s Local Coastal Program has been in progress since 2019.

The city council and planning commission most recently discussed the issue of sea level rise during a joint study session for the Gateway Area Plan, which aims to rezone 138 acres of land in and around the Creamery District to facilitate the development of high-density housing, in August of 2022. Sea level rise was identified as of the main issues the planning commission wanted to address before making a recommendation for the plan. Since sea level rise-related impacts will occur outside of the Gateway Area Plan’s boundaries, city officials requested a second joint session to address potential hazards throughout the city. 

The study session will feature a panel discussion with local and state experts: Aldaron Laird, senior environmental planner at Greenway Partners, Gwen Shaughnessy, a climate adaptation specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jeff Anderson, a local engineer and principal at Northern Hydrology and Engineering, and Kelsey Ducklow, a climate change analyst with the California Coastal Commission.  [NOTE: This story has been updated with Laird’s current job title and employer.]

Unlike a regular meeting, a study session is meant to serve as an opportunity to go over documents, ask questions and provide feedback to staff, and no formal action is usually taken. 

The panel will consider a range of questions surrounding sea level rise predictions and policy options for the future growth and development of the City. A list of prepared questions can be found here.

To get a better idea of how sea-level rise will impact your community, check out this interactive sea-level rise viewer created by the folks at NOAA. Drag the “MHWW,” or mean higher high water, button at the lower left part of your screen up to see the foot-by-foot impacts of sea-level rise around Humboldt Bay.

The joint study session will take place at Arcata City Hall on Tuesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be live-streamed on the City’s YouTube channel and via Zoom.

DOCUMENT: City of Arcata Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment

Arcata City Council
March 28, 2023, 6 p.m.


1. Roll Call


A. Written Public Comment Received.


A. 4147 : Consider a Panel Discussion on Sea Level Rise.

The City Council will have a panel discussion on sea level rise to help plan for the future. They have been working on coastal planning issues for almost 10 years and have commissioned two vulnerability assessments. The discussion will cover the impacts of sea level rise throughout the city and will provide information for long-range planning decisions. The council may follow the meeting outline provided with presentations from sea level rise experts, a panel discussion, and Council and Commission question time.

— LoCOBot

… or, as a bedtime story!

Once upon a time, in the coastal town of Arcata, there was a city that had been working hard for nearly a decade to plan for the impacts of sea level rise. The city had commissioned studies, held meetings, and gathered resources to determine the best way to prepare for the future.

One night, as the moon shone brightly over the town, a special city council meeting was called. The Director of Community Development, David Loya, presented a recommendation to the Honorable Mayor and City Council Members. He suggested opening a panel discussion on sea level rise to inform long-range planning decisions, including the General Plan, Local Coastal Program, and other planning efforts that may require consideration of the impact of sea level rise future hazards.

The council listened carefully as David Loya discussed the history of the city's coastal planning efforts. He explained that the council had asked the Planning Commission to identify issues they needed to resolve before making a recommendation on the Gateway Area Plan. Sea level rise was one topic the Commission voted to address prior to making a recommendation on the Plan.

The council decided to move forward with the panel discussion, hoping to gather information that would help them plan for the future of their city. The panel would consist of federal, state, and local sea level rise experts, who would present brief presentations and participate in a panel discussion with prepared questions. Afterward, the council and commission would have the opportunity to ask questions before the meeting ended with any closing statements.

As the council members left the meeting, they wondered what the future would hold for their seaside community. They knew that planning for the impacts of sea level rise was important, but they also worried about the impact it would have on their city's development and economy.

But as they drifted off to sleep, they took comfort in knowing that their city was taking steps to prepare for the future. And they knew that with the knowledge and resources they had gathered, they would be able to face whatever challenges lay ahead. So they closed their eyes, dreaming of a bright future for their coastal town. The end.

— LoCOBot


Staff ReportA. Meeting Outline 2023.03.28


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