New Atkins Bill Protects California Communities from Dangers of Sea Level Rise

February 20, 2020

SACRAMENTO—Senate Leader Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) today announced she has introduced SB 1100, first-of-its-kind legislation that will help California communities protect against the loss of life, economic harm, and environmental damage caused by rising sea levels due to global warming.

“California’s 1100 mile coastline—and the people and businesses located along it—are increasingly threatened as the ocean warms and sea waters rise,” Atkins said. “As someone whose district includes a large number of coastal military installations and tourist destinations, I am particularly aware of how the dangers from sea level rise affect those vital sectors. If we don’t act now, taxpayers, homeowners, and businesses will be on the hook for massive losses and expenses in just a few short years.”  

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) estimates California could experience up to seven feet of sea level rise by 2100, having massive impacts on the state’s lands, economy, and physical environment.  The LAO further states that waiting too long to initiate adaption efforts likely will cost the state and its economy billions of dollars.  A recent study by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that by 2100, roughly 6 feet of sea level rise and recurring annual storms could impact over 480,000 California residents (based on 2010 census data) and $119 billion in property value (in 2010 dollars). When adding the potential impacts of a 100-year storm, these estimates increase to 600,000 people and over $150 billion of property value.

SB 1100 enacts the first comprehensive sea level rise program in state government, directs the California Coastal Commission to take into account sea level rise in its planning, policies, and activities, establishes a new state-level Sea Level Rise Collaborative overseen by the Secretaries of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection agencies, and establishes funding for local governments and communities to plan for and mitigate sea level rise.

Addressing sea level rise is a joint responsibility among local governments, regional and state agencies.  Local governments in the Coastal Zone oversee land use decisions, but are also subject to the California Coastal Act, which requires the development and adoption of local coastal programs that must be reviewed and approved by the California Coastal Commission.  Other public agencies—such as councils of government, regional housing and transportation agencies, and state oceans and resources agencies—all have a piece of jurisdiction over lands and infrastructure affected by sea level rise. SB 1100, the Sea Level Rise Mitigation and Adaptation Act of 2020, creates both a structure and financing for these disparate agencies to combat sea level rise.

“We’ve seen how sea level rise is already affecting communities around the globe, like Manila and Venice, but this is already a critical time for California’s 1100 mile coast as well,” Atkins said. “One study about to be released has found dozens of building projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, both completed or being developed, will be flooded or isolated by water within the next 30 years, leading to billions of dollars in costs. SB 1100 provides both resources to help local communities prepare for sea level rise and a comprehensive statewide approach for taking action before it’s too late.”

What Others are Saying About SB 1100:

 "Sea level rise is a slow-moving disaster poised to wipe out California's beaches and damage our coastal economy. Surfrider applauds SB 1100 for rising to meet this challenge."

--Jennifer Savage, CA Policy Manager, Surfrider Foundation

“Californians are already experiencing record high tides and rising seas. We need policies to deal with these impacts of climate change that equal our ambitious policies to cut emissions. Smart planning, coordination, and investments today will save lives and money tomorrow. SB 1100’s proactive approach to protecting our communities and environment from the dangers of climate change sets an excellent example for the work that needs to be done.”

--Annie Notthoff, Director of California Advocacy, Natural Resources Defense Council

“Coastal Advocates applauds SB 1100 for anticipating and addressing sea level rise. 

SB 1100 is an important step forward to protect California’s magnificent coast.”

--Susan Jordan, Coastal Advocates


Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins:

En Español