Like many coastal cities, San Francisco is developing a citywide initiative to prepare for sea-level rise as a result of climate change. The Port of San Francisco, located on the water, is inherently more vulnerable than any other piece of infrastructure.  The Port of San Francisco is working with Farallon Geographics to develop an efficient, cost-effective way to evaluate risks and prioritize mitigation efforts.

Port of San Francisco Climate Change Sea Level Rise GIS

Enterprise GIS as the Hub For All Lines of Port Business

Farallon began by setting up an Enterprise GIS that can serve as the Port’s primary data repository and interface to all lines of Port business including lease management and asset maintenance. Port leases refer to the tenants who lease out individual piers and buildings from the Port. Port assets include piers, the building (shed) on a pier, the utility lines (over water or land) that run throughout the ports managed areas and the roadways between piers.

Using the Enterprise GIS, Farallon is working with the Port to:

  • Identify assets
  • Map parcels to tenant leases and parcel revenue to the Ports
  • Map areas impacted by sea level rise – best and worse case scenarios
  • Assign value to at-risk assets
  • Understand what it would take to mitigate damage or move assets

Geospatially Identify Port Assets

Port parcel and asset data has historically existed as image-based maps (e.g. aerial photographs or bitmaps).  These are now being converted to geospatially-enabled geometry in a database. Converting to spatial data enables parcel and asset information to be identified by points or regions and then compared and spatially analyzed.

Map Parcels to Leases and Revenue

By linking the parcel data to the lease agreements, the Port can understand whether the tenant or Port is responsible for maintenance of an asset (e.g. a pier). Tying revenue to parcels lets the Port know how much revenue comes in from each lease or geographic lease regions relative to how much spending is required to maintain or adapt the parcels or regions.

Use the GIS to Identify At-Risk Assets

The geographic location of storm surges and regions with the highest potential flooding are relatively easy to identify.  Identifying which parcels and assets will be impacted in best and worse case scenarios is more problematic.

If you began with point data, then every property and asset has to be referenced by a unique Parcel ID. For example, if you want to identify all docks that will be vulnerable to storm surges from the north, you can’t just point to the north facing docks.  You have to call up each ID and query if the dock on that parcel is north facing.  However, if you begin with spatial data in the GIS, you can refer to whole blocks or tracts or any individual point on a map and immediately visualize and quantitatively evaluate which parcels and assets are at risk based on sea level rise scenarios.

Assign Value to At-Risk Assets

The GIS can quickly identify at-risk assets and link this to leases, revenue and asset maintenance expenses. The Ports will then be able to incorporate financial assessment and planning into their adaptation investment decision making processes.

Triage Assets

Using the GIS to understand and evaluate the impact of sea level rise on physical assets, the Port will decide which short- and long-term solutions are economically / socially viable to mitigate impacts, prevent catastrophic failure (i.e. move assets) or decide what is simply not worth the cost to save because it will be under water.

Enterprise GIS Enables Common Understanding For Complex Decisions

The Enterprise GIS-based approach being developed by Farallon, will help the Ports to identify at-risk assets and explain this information visually and spatially so that all stakeholders – tenants, municipal authorities, port operators, and members of the public –  share a common framework to prioritize planning and prepare climate change adaptation and resiliency plans.