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Rumor Alert: Climate Adaptation Plan

⚠️ Rumor Alert ⚠️

Corte Madera Climate Adaptation Plan

I want to clarify some misinformation that’s been going around regarding our draft Climate Adaptation Plan (CAP).

First, let’s clarify what the CAP is, and then we can address one particularly misleading email thread, point by point.

The CAP is a non-binding document subject to future revision that contains essentially a menu of potential projects that future Town Councils might need to undertake to address the threats that climate change poses to our Town, especially flooding and wildfire.

Each “project” in the plan is basically an idea that has been analyzed by scientists and engineers to evaluate how it would protect the town, how long that protection would last, and how much it would likely cost—but when future Town Councils decide to actually initiate ANY of these projects, each project will go through the entire public process from the very beginning, including public notices, public hearings before the community, and public review by various boards and commissions. That is to say, adopting the Climate Adaptation Plan does not necessarily mean that all the projects included therein will ultimately be implemented, nor that they will necessarily be implemented as conceptualized in this first draft of the plan.

Unfortunately, there are misconceptions and bad information circulating about the CAP, causing undue anxiety for residents.

The following screenshots were shared with me by a resident (thank you!) who received them from a neighbor and wanted to know what was going on. They reached out to me for clarification and allowed me to share them here.

Let’s go through this email, point by point:

1. “Corte Madera plans to partner with the State and FEMA to implement a degradation of our neighborhood.” False. I’m not quite sure what this means, but Corte Madera launched the CAP effort specifically to preserve and protect the neighborhoods most threatened by climate change. Protecting Corte Madera could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars, so we are looking to the State and FEMA for funding. (For what it’s worth, I live in the neighborhood this person is referring to.)

2. “Construction of 15 foot wall barring access by waterfront residents to the bay.” False. This claim takes a hypothetical example given to illustrate the concept of how a flood barrier might work in Corte Madera and presents it as a project that’s been designed, funded, and approved. Furthermore, it conflates the elevation at the top of such a barrier (the example given was 15’) with the actual height of the barrier (about 8’, to account for both sea level rise and storm surge). A 8’ high barrier sitting on land at an elevation of 7’ (as much of the neighborhood is) makes a 15’ elevation at the top of the barrier, even though the barrier is 8’ tall.

When it comes to access to the bay, I’ve been advocating to make sure any project not only preserves, but enhances the public’s access to and enjoyment of the waterfront, creating new shoreline amenities for residents.

3. “Corte Madera shall designate the entire Mariner Cove neighborhood as scheduled for obsolescence.” False. Think about it: if that were true, why would we be going through this process of developing a plan to protect the families and homes in these very neighborhoods? This claim seems to be based on flood zone designations. Corte Madera does not designate flood zones; FEMA does, and they do it based on the physical facts of sea level rise and land subsidence (sinking).

4. “The Town sees the maintenance and upgrades of water and sewer pipes in Mariner Cove as” a waste of money. False. The Town continues to maintain and upgrade all public infrastructure in Mariner Cove & Marina Village, from sewer and water mains to road repaving to installing check valves on storm drains that reduce flooding. (You can also take a look at the future maintenance projects scheduled for these neighborhoods in the Town’s budget.)

5. “Our homes are too old and, in essence, an impediment to long-term plans of the Town.” False. Again, not quite sure what this is supposed to mean, but when it comes to the families and properties of east Corte Madera, the Town’s only long-term plan is to protect them as best and for as long as we possibly can (hence, undertaking a Climate Adaptation Plan rather than simply letting them flood).

6. “FEMA to buy out all homes in Mariner Cove at a fraction of current market value.” False. This claim seems loosely based on the concept of “retreat” from areas that face extraordinary hazards due to climate change. On retreat, the CAP proposes to form a regional advisory board “to investigate the potential and feasibility of managed retreat within Marin County.” Nothing about who might buy out whom or for what price; that’s all conjecture.

7. “Town of Corte Madera would immediately prohibit any work requiring permits.” False. The outside experts who drafted our CAP do proposing considering restrictions on “significant redevelopment or improvement” of the most vulnerable properties, but they also acknowledge that doing so could “result in the slow deterioration of properties and cause significant financial burden to homeowners,” which is why I can’t see any Town Council actually pursuing this idea. It’s also worth noting that the CAP specifically proposes providing “property protection assistance” to homeowners, to help east side residents make improvements that protect their homes against flooding the same way we work with hillside residents to harden their homes against fire.

8. “Homeowners wishing to sell their home would be required to disclose planned obsolescence.” False. This seems to be a distorted version of a proposal in the CAP to consider requiring that climate threats be disclosed in real estate transactions. That’s a big idea that, while used elsewhere across the country, would have to undergo careful examination and public debate before ever being pursued in Corte Madera.

9. “The Town Council is scheduled and committed to this plan.” False. The only thing the Town Council is scheduled to do is vote in March on whether to adopt the draft CAP. The Council is not committed to implementing any of the ideas discussed in the plan, nor would it be committed to them by adopting the plan. Furthermore, if adopted, the plan can still be amended at any time.

10. “The Town has made no efforts to inform its citizens in Mariner Cove and is planning to move ahead without seeing and receiving input.” False. The draft CAP was developed through an extensive, 18-month public process led by some of the best climate scientists and engineers. Community members participated to shape the plan and its priorities through four public workshops, two public hearings, and a survey. In addition to all this, there are two more public workshops scheduled (flooding workshop on 2/3 at 4:30 and wildfire workshop on 2/4 at 7) and another public hearing scheduled at the Town Council in March (either 3/2 or 3/16; date TBD). This entire process and each of the many opportunities for participation were publicized through all the Town’s communication channels, including the Town website, the Town newsletter, NextDoor, Facebook, published agendas, a town-wide mailer, and even the marquee outside the community center. In addition, I further publicized many of these opportunities through my own Facebook page and email newsletter as well.

— — —

Phew, that was a lot to unpack!

I hope this helps put any concerns to rest. Remember, the entire draft of the CAP is available for anyone to view and comment on here:

A good rule of thumb: if what you’re hearing sounds crazy, it probably is. Take a look at the plan for yourself, or feel free to reach out to any of your elected officials or Town staff! My email is and my cell is (415) 737-5020.

MOST IMPORTANT: there are 3 more opportunities for public engagement on this draft: a flooding workshop on 2/3 at 4:30, a wildfire workshop on 2/4 at 7, and a public hearing at the Town Council in March where it is up for possible adoption (either 3/2 or 3/16; date TBD). If you have any questions or comments, please participate!

Zoom link for public workshops:

Videos of the public workshops will be available on YouTube for anyone who can’t attend.


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