Embarcadero Seawall Program Overview

The Evolution of San Francisco’s Waterfront

Before the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a sleepy harbor with a northeastern shoreline near today’s Salesforce Tower. How times have changed! Over 100 years ago, the Port of San Francisco oversaw the construction of the Embarcadero Seawall, a rock and concrete wall stretching three miles. The Seawall transformed the city, laying the foundation for the thriving waterfront we know and love today.

With over $100 billion in assets and annual economic activity along the waterfront supported by the Seawall, it truly is the City’s economic backbone. The Seawall is part of the Embarcadero Historic District and underpins the Embarcadero Promenade. It supports many of the city’s iconic destinations, parks, and local businesses, which attract more than 24 million people each year. The Seawall also supports key utility and transportation infrastructure including BART, Muni, and ferry networks, and serves as a critical emergency response and recovery area. Over 50 key emergency assets depend on the Seawall.





Threats to the Embarcadero Seawall: Earthquakes and Sea Level Rise

While a remarkable engineering feat at the time, the Seawall is now in desperate need of repair, vulnerable to urgent seismic risks and increasing flood risks. The Seawall was built in earthquake country without today’s seismic standards and atop “young bay mud,” a soft, weak mud that can amplify earthquake shaking. Since 1906, the Bay Area has enjoyed a historically quiet period of seismic activity, but the U.S. Geological Survey estimates a 72% chance of a major earthquake happening between now and 2043.

Today, the Embarcadero Promenade floods intermittently. As sea levels continue to rise, there will be additional flooding risks to the BART Transbay Tube, Muni light rail, key utility infrastructure, and waterfront businesses and neighborhoods.

Introducing the Embarcadero Seawall Program

The Port of San Francisco is leading the Embarcadero Seawall Program, a citywide effort to create a more sustainable and resilient waterfront. The Program is dedicated to robust community and stakeholder engagement, along with fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Part of the Port’s Waterfront Resilience Program, the Seawall Program will provide the tools to address current and future risks over time. There are three elements to the Program—Strengthen, Adapt and Envision—which allow the Port to respond to risks and conditions. Planning for all three elements is occurring now, implementation for each element will depend upon findings, public input, regulatory input, cost/benefit analysis, and availability of funding and financing.

Program Schedule & Budget

Thanks to San Francisco voters, a $425 million General Obligation Bond for the Program passed with 82% of the vote in the November 2018 election. The Port is currently pursuing local, state, federal, and private funding sources to fully fund infrastructure improvements anticipated to cost up to $5 billion.

Immediate seismic and flood protection upgrades are targeted for completion by 2026. The Program is currently in the early stages of planning, following an extensive Vulnerability Study.


Select Embarcadero Seawall Program Materials

The Evolution of San Francisco’s Waterfront

Before the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a sleepy harbor with a northeastern shoreline near today’s Salesforce Tower. How times have changed! Over 100 years ago, the Port of San Francisco oversaw the construction of the Embarcadero Seawall, a rock and concrete wall stretching three miles. The Seawall transformed the city, laying the foundation for the thriving waterfront we know and love today.

With over $100 billion in assets and annual economic activity along the waterfront supported by the Seawall, it truly is the City’s economic backbone. The Seawall is part of the Embarcadero Historic District and underpins the Embarcadero Promenade. It supports many of the city’s iconic destinations, parks, and local businesses, which attract more than 24 million people each year. The Seawall also supports key utility and transportation infrastructure including BART, Muni, and ferry networks, and serves as a critical emergency response and recovery area. Over 50 key emergency assets depend on the Seawall.





Threats to the Embarcadero Seawall: Earthquakes and Sea Level Rise

While a remarkable engineering feat at the time, the Seawall is now in desperate need of repair, vulnerable to urgent seismic risks and increasing flood risks. The Seawall was built in earthquake country without today’s seismic standards and atop “young bay mud,” a soft, weak mud that can amplify earthquake shaking. Since 1906, the Bay Area has enjoyed a historically quiet period of seismic activity, but the U.S. Geological Survey estimates a 72% chance of a major earthquake happening between now and 2043.

Today, the Embarcadero Promenade floods intermittently. As sea levels continue to rise, there will be additional flooding risks to the BART Transbay Tube, Muni light rail, key utility infrastructure, and waterfront businesses and neighborhoods.

Introducing the Embarcadero Seawall Program

The Port of San Francisco is leading the Embarcadero Seawall Program, a citywide effort to create a more sustainable and resilient waterfront. The Program is dedicated to robust community and stakeholder engagement, along with fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Part of the Port’s Waterfront Resilience Program, the Seawall Program will provide the tools to address current and future risks over time. There are three elements to the Program—Strengthen, Adapt and Envision—which allow the Port to respond to risks and conditions. Planning for all three elements is occurring now, implementation for each element will depend upon findings, public input, regulatory input, cost/benefit analysis, and availability of funding and financing.

Program Schedule & Budget

Thanks to San Francisco voters, a $425 million General Obligation Bond for the Program passed with 82% of the vote in the November 2018 election. The Port is currently pursuing local, state, federal, and private funding sources to fully fund infrastructure improvements anticipated to cost up to $5 billion.

Immediate seismic and flood protection upgrades are targeted for completion by 2026. The Program is currently in the early stages of planning, following an extensive Vulnerability Study.


Select Embarcadero Seawall Program Materials