Our community is only as strong as its weakest link. Belvedere’s housing stock is constantly being upgraded to protect against seismic, flood and fire risk, oftentimes during remodels, precipitated by City code. Yet we barely pay attention to our public assets, notably our two levees on Beach Road and San Rafael Avenue, which serve as our access roads, our shoreline protection and the conduit for our utilities. These levees are our community’s Achilles Heel.
Beach Road and San Rafael Avenue were built in the 1940s, atop Bay mud and sand. They have settled over time and are unstable. Storm protection in the form of riprap was added to San Rafael Avenue in the 1980s, following a catastrophic coastal storm. We have been lucky to avoid any natural disasters since then.
Our luck will eventually run out. At any moment, a major coastal storm or forceful earthquake could overwhelm our levees, severing access to the island and the lagoon – including by first responders – and compromising our utilities. Sea level rise in coming decades will only amplify our risk.
The good news is that the City has viable solutions to protect Belvedere from seismic activity, storm events and sea-level rise through to 2050 and beyond. It’s important to get ahead of our risk. The cost, both in terms of budget and inconvenience during construction, may be high. But the livability of our island – and our property values – depend on smart, proactive planning.