Climate Adaptation Assessment (Previously Known as Climate Adaptation Plan)

The Climate Adaptation Assessment, previously referred to as Climate Adaptation Plan, provides analysis, and recommendations; and identifies possible strategies and adaptation-related capital improvement projects for the Town’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure, land uses and natural habitats. 

Background on the Climate Adaptation Assessment (Initially Climate Adaptation Plan)

The Town was awarded a Caltrans Adaptation Planning Grant in the amount of $325,000, as part of the Senate Bill No. 1 (SB1) grant program with $200,000 coming in the form of a cash grant and $125,000 in the form of local match via in-house staff work. The project is being administered by Caltrans Division of Transportation Planning, and is also subject to Caltrans Local Assistance procedures.

On December 18, 2018, Town Council authorized a professional services contract with Adaptation International, LLC based on their well-rounded and experienced team with over ten years of experience developing climate resilience and adaptation tools and plans for communities across the United States. Their team included dedicated community outreach and engagement professionals, climate change scientists, transportation experts, planners, spatial analysis specialists, communication design professionals, and public policy and urban resilience specialists.

On September 17, 2019, Town Council initiated supplemental outside services with The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), one of California’s premier aquatic and ecosystem science institutes. Their mission is to provide scientific support and tools for decision-making and communication through collaborative efforts. They provide independent science to assess and improve the health of the waters, wetlands, wildlife and landscapes of San Francisco Bay, the California Delta and beyond. SFEI’s 50 scientists and experts provide data, technology and tools that empower government, civic and business leaders to create cost-effective solutions for complex environmental issues-from cleaner water and sustainable communities to climate change. Their impressive history working within Corte Madera marsh and their scientific background and connections with the environmental stakeholders within the region made them an ideal addition to the team alongside Adaptation International.

Through the first year of the Climate Adaptation Plan development, the project team “laid the foundation” by forming a community and technical advisory committee with individuals from the Town, businesses, the school district, and county and regional agencies known as the Resilience Advisory Committee (RAC). The team also analyzed data relating to available climate change related studies and the Town’s transportation network; “engaged on adaptation” by hosting two community workshops in May 2019 and several RAC meetings throughout the year to introduce the project to the public and obtain feedback on their input, goals and possible solutions for our resilient, prosperous, and thriving community.

In the second year, the project team established and refined a set of climate adaptation policies, programs, and projects through a series of stakeholder engagement events consisting of; two additional public workshops appropriate for all members of the general public and other stakeholders; partner meetings designed to gather and vet ideas with special interest groups and invested stakeholders such as environmental resource agencies and local agencies; and three additional collaboration meetings with the RAC.

All of these efforts over the past two years, including the supplemental services provided by San Francisco Estuary Institute, culminated into a Draft Climate Adaptation Plan that was first made available for public comment on November 19, 2020.  The initial public comment period was  scheduled to remain open until January 8, 2021. 

On December 1, 2020, Town Council adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency after the Climate Action Committee held a public meeting on November 18th to consider joining many cities and organizations around the world, and locally within our county who have signed petitions and adopted resolutions supporting a declaration of climate emergency.

On December 15, 2020, Town staff presented the Draft Climate Adaptation Plan to Council, describing the plan’s over-arching philosophy of, “One Town. One Region. Resilient Together.” It also identified a desire for the Town, surrounding communities, Marin County, and the entire region to work together to enhance resilience and successfully adapt to climate change. Climate change exposures and risks do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. Similarly, people move between home, work, and leisure, many traversing Highway 101, which connects the Town to the North Bay and San Francisco. Building resilience requires incorporating the interconnectedness of the region in local planning and action.

How the Initial Plan Turned Into an Assessment

Since the Draft Climate Adaptation Plan was made available for formal public comment, the Town received substantial feedback from two specific neighborhoods who expressed concerns with several sections of the draft document in areas that were not previously emphasized as concerns by the community in the prior two-year of the CAP process. 

As a result, of the comments and heightened level of response from the community, Town staff and Adaptation International responded by extending the public comment period until February 10th and also provided two additional public workshops plus an additional public engagement opportunity to discuss the draft plan at the Town’s Flood Control Board meeting. This modification to the schedule required coordination with Caltrans to adjust and extend the grant-funded scope.

Based on the feedback received during these workshops and through direct public comments, Town staff and the project team agreed that it was necessary to make significant changes to the draft Climate Adaptation Plan, and make it publicly available for a second round of comments. This expansion of the project also involved extending the term and amount of the contract with Adaptation International to facilitate the additional workshops and changes to the plan. The second draft of the Climate Adaptation Plan was release for public comment on March 17th and the second formal comment period closed on March 31st, 2021. 

Summary of Public Comments received during the first comment period:
During the first formal public comment periods and public workshops, the Town received a substantial number of comments. In response the project team reviewed all submitted comments, prepared a Summary of Public Comments Memorandum (Attachment  3) along with a Frequently Asked Questions Memorandum (Attachment 4) to provide detailed responses and clarifications to the community. The four most prevalent concerns with the first draft of the climate change adaptation plan were related to:

  • The limited number of engagement opportunities and direct outreach conducted to encourage community participation in the development of the plan;
  • The short discussion of undergrounding electrical utilities in the hillside neighborhoods; and 
  • The discussion of potential adaptation actions the Town could consider for Marina Village and Mariner Cove including construction of a shoreline levee, managed retreat, and real estate disclosure ordinance. 
  • Lack of clarity surrounding the intended purpose of the document and the approach taken by the project team.
In response to these comments, Town staff and the project team hosted those additional public workshops and significantly revised the document to expand the discussion of “undergrounding”, alter the focus of the shoreline section to focus on the science of sea level rise and remove all discussion of particular actions for Marina Village and Mariner Cove, update the introduction, and add an executive summary. The expanded introduction provided further clarification on the intent and purpose of the document. Additional coordination and permissions from Caltrans were obtained to further extend and modify the scope and deliverables defined by the grant-funded scope.

Summary of Change received during the second comment period:
During the second round of public comment, the Town received a more focused set of comments.  The themes discussed in those comments along with some specific excerpts from the comments are summarized in the “Climate Change Adaptation Plan Version 2.0 Public Comment Summary (Attachment 3).

In response to these comments, Town staff and the project team revised the document by: reviewing citations, figure captions, and graphics used in the plan; adding links and references to the background sea level rise projection information; reviewed and updated language around both sea level rise projections and the State guidance on the use of risk tolerance as it may apply to future projects, reviewed language in the discussion of “undergrounding”, and added an additional action related to “undergrounding”. The project team also revised the title of the document to Climate Adaptation "Assessment" to the more appropriately reflect the intent of the document as “the evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality or ability of someone or something.” This change in title more accurately reflects the spirit of the document as being an initial assessment that is intended to be updated over time and subject to change based on a variety of factors, which in contrast, is not a “plan,” which is defined as “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.” In addition, since this document will be updated over time, staff is also recommending that Council “accept” the document, which is defined as “consent to receive (a thing offered)” or “believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct;” instead of “adopting” the document, which is defined as “legally take and bring it up as one’s own” or “choose to take up, follow, or use.”

The Final Climate Adaptation Assessment

Town staff, leadership and the project team have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort thoughtfully reviewing the many formal comments received over the last 7 months since the initial release of the first draft of the climate change adaptation plan as well as the many comments received through the prior two-year CAP process. We believe that the proposed Draft Climate Adaptation Assessment effectively balances the goals and desires of the Town as a whole, while also being responsive and sensitive to the smaller subsets of our community that still have concerns with the information contained in this “planning level” document. 

Corte Madera is on the forefront of identifying actions to enhance resilience, as demonstrated by the development of this proactive adaptation assessment and the actions highlighted above. The Town is dedicated to working with other communities, the county, and local, regional, and state organizations to develop efficient, effective, and feasible solutions that reduce risk and enhance resilience. Leading is not always easy, and it requires weighing trade-offs and making difficult decisions about the best use of funding and investments to support the town’s goals. In some cases, this will mean trying new, innovative solutions, learning from trial and error, and exploring different alternatives.  

In 30-50 years, under the pressures of a changing climate, Corte Madera will look different than it does today. Actions taken now will determine if the Town is able to meet the goals detailed in this assessment. The Town is dedicated to preserving its identity and “small-town feel” by protecting and investing in the resilience of the people, infrastructure, and ecosystems that make the community what it is today and ensuring that Corte Madera has a thriving, vibrant, and resilient future.

To view the home of the Corte Madera Climate Adaptation Assessment please click on the following link: Click here to get more detailed information on the Climate Adaptation Assessment. 

To view the draft of what was initially the Climate Adaptation Plan click here
To view the final Climate Adaptation Assessment click here