By Kiet Do

BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) — The city of Burlingame kicked off a series of community meetings to educate the public about its efforts to combat sea level rise.

The first of such meetings took place Wednesday evening at the Burlingame Library, where city leaders shared findings from its consultant, Environmental Science Associates (ESA), and showed a range of scenarios of floodwaters inundating Burlingame in varying degrees.

In a worst-case scenario where climate change raises sea levels by three feet, combined with a “100 year storm surge event,” projections show water pushing nearly a mile inland to El Camino Real, submerging Highway 101 and the Caltrain tracks.

“Getting ahead of this is [the] way, we are not going to leave a legacy for our kids,” said Donna Carlson, Mayor of Burlingame.

The report from ESA also identifies “adaptation strategies” including fortifying or building taller floodwalls, raised levees topped with hiking trails, or “nature based solutions” such as beaches with coarse sand or crushed oyster shells.

Kevin Gardiner, Director of Community Development, says the city’s guiding principle is to favor designs that embrace form and function.

“Ideally, it would be something that looks nice and gives some people some enjoyment as well as protection from the floods,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner says phase one of the effort explores the range of solutions, while phase two will determine cost and sources of funding.

In 2018, voters in neighboring Foster City approved a $90 million bond measure, which will raise the annual tax rate by $40 per $100,000 of assessed value to pay for levee improvements.

The levee improvements allows Foster City to avoid being designated as a “FEMA special flood hazard area,” which would require residents and businesses to obtain flood insurance.

Mayor Colson estimates improvements to roughly three miles of Burlingame’s bay shoreline will cost at least $100 million and will require voter approval for any tax increase.

“Anytime you have to go to the taxpayers with a big laundry list of all the new taxes we want, it is always an uphill battle. But that’s why we need to get ahead of it and get the community educated and make sure they’re on board,” said Colson.

A tax increase will be a tough sell for many residents who don’t share or understand the city’s urgency in dealing with sea level rise.

“No, no, no more taxes, not too many. Not too much, not anymore,” said Susanna Conrad, who make daily visits to the Burlingame shoreline.

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