Ryan McDonald

Hermosa seeks ‘resilience’ grants

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Hermosa is seeking funds for projects, like improving the link between The Strand in Hermosa and Manhattan, under a state climate change resilience grant. Photo by Ryan McDonald

by Ryan McDonald

Hermosa Beach will seek up to $250,000 in grants from the California Department of Transportation to help the city with infrastructure projects that may better prepare it for impacts associated with climate change and rising sea levels.

If awarded, CalTrans’ Adaptation Planning Grants would provide funds for two projects that have already been approved by elected officials, as well as a third, newer project. Each is located either on The Strand or on streets near the coast, and the funds would be used to gather input from residents and to draft preliminary designs. According to the terms of the grant, the city would have to contribute matching funds of 11.47 percent of the amount awarded, or up to $28,675.

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The funds are available thanks to a pot of money set aside by the state almost three years ago. While California has been at the forefront of combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with legislation mandating a 40 percent drop relative to 1990 levels by 2030, it is also increasingly looking at ways to deal with impacts that have already arrived. At a press conference following the devastation of the fires in Paradise and Malibu last month, Gov. Jerry Brown lamented that the damaging wildfires of the past two years were one of several threats to the state aggravated by climate change.

“This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal,” Brown said.

The program is driven by economics, state officials say: It is far less expensive to modify infrastructure ahead of time than under emergency conditions. CalTrans is currently conducting “Vulnerability Assessments” for infrastructure it controls throughout the state. For Region 7, which includes Los Angeles County, it is still awaiting sea-level rise data from the U.S. Geological Survey. But draft plans for Region 4, covering the San Francisco Bay Area, indicate that up to 95 miles of state roads could be exposed to rising seas by the end of the century.

According to CalTrans’ Adaptation Planning guidelines, the funds are for projects that aim to “anticipate and prepare for climate change impacts to reduce the damage from climate change and extreme weather events.” The grants are focused on infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and ports.

The City Council approved staff’s efforts to submit the grant application at its meeting last week. Environmental Analyst Leeanne Singleton told the council that CalTrans would be looking for projects that build off of existing priorities, including expanding the availability of alternative forms of transportation, and infrastructure that serves multiple purposes, such as stormwater capture.

“They are looking at both the multi-modal benefits as well as infrastructure that is more resilient to climate change,” Singleton said.

The projects in Hermosa’s application are more modest than others CalTrans has funded, some of which contemplate relocating entire stretches of road. Two are already part of its Capital Improvement Program: the Green Street program along Hermosa Avenue, and improvements along the Strand at 35th Street. The City Council approved its Green Street policy in 2015, which is designed to use existing streets to better capture stormwater, and to replenish the area’s groundwater; similar improvements have already been enacted along Pier Avenue.

The 35th Street project, under consideration for several years, would attempt to improve the existing linkage between The Strand and bike path where it terminates at the border with Manhattan Beach. The third project in the application, centering on the “Greenwich Village” intersection of 27th Street and Manhattan Avenue, became apparent to staff during work leading up to the repaving of Hermosa Avenue, and has not yet been added to the Capital Improvements plan.

Hermosa has long been aware of the risks posed by storm surge. Pier Plaza sits below sea level and, when big high tides coincide with very large storms, such as those occurring during El Niño winters, businesses on The Strand have flooded.

Scientists say these risks have accelerated with climate change, which has not only contributed to rising sea levels, but increases the frequency and intensity of storms. For a 2014 Easy Reader story, climate scientists from UCLA indicated that storm surge could potentially cause flooding all the way to Hermosa Avenue.

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