County of Marin - News Releases - Sea Level Rise

For Immediate Release
October 11, 2021

Stinson Beach Contemplates Rising Ocean Level

October 21 meeting will include results of recent study

San Rafael, CA – The findings of an extensive study on sea level rise adaptation for Stinson Beach will be revealed during an online public meeting October 21. County of Marin’s Community Development Agency (CDA) will present the report during a Zoom session and discuss options that could serve as a model for future oceanfront projects statewide.

There are 773 homes, 630 residents, and six businesses on the west side of State Route 1 (known locally as Shoreline Highway) in Stinson Beach that are at risk of constant flooding from sea level rise or storm activity. There has been an eight-inch rise in ocean water over the past century along the Marin coast, but scientific predictions are that the Bay Area coastal region could expect a 70-inch rise versus today’s level by 2100.

A view from the sand at Stinson Beach with a home on short stilts to the right and the ocean to the left.Many homes in Stinson Beach and other oceanfront communities in Marin County are engaged in a fierce battle with sea level rise and eroding beaches.

At the going rate, California’s coastline probably won’t have much sand left to build a castle, plant an umbrella, or playfully bury a friend’s toes. So, Marin and other coastal jurisdictions have been working for years to create awareness of sea level rise before it drastically changes resident life and visitor recreational experiences near beaches. Rising ocean and bay water is already threatening billions of dollars’ worth of homes, businesses, roads and infrastructure statewide.

One option in Stinson Beach is to create a dune system that protects beachfront and other low-lying homes from seawater inundation. That choice, called a nature-based or “green” alternative, would be the first of its kind in Marin County. Moreover, it would appear to cost less than more traditional hard-structure seawalls to build and maintain.

County Planner Leslie Lacko said recent meetings with Stinson Beach residents have been well-received and engagement in the process has been strong.

“Your home is the place where you have family memories, a place where you feel the most comfortable,” she said, “and when that’s at risk, you feel a great sense of need to protect it. We are looking for a climate change adaptation that will allow people to stay in their places longer, protect natural resources, and sustain public beach access. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.” 

Local governments are caught in an awkward position; they need to be forthright about the realities of sea level rise without resorting to a doomsday approach and an urgent warning to head for higher ground. Communities will be better prepared to meet the challenges by assessing what is vulnerable to rising tides, creating opportunities for residents to learn from the experts, and by involving everyone in collaborative planning for the expected environmental changes.

Jack Liebster, a CDA Planning Manager who has worked much of his  career on climate change adaptation and preservation of coastal assets, said planners and scientists can only estimate how soon dramatic impacts of sea level rise will force changes in coastal residents’ daily routines. His team created Collaboration: Sea-level Marin Adaptation Response Team (C-SMART) to get more people educated and involved in the process of planning for a coordinated response.

”It will be challenging to develop effective approaches to respond to the rise of sea level over time, but by starting now we can maximize our options and reduce our losses,” Liebster said.

Follow the County’s sea-level rise programs at, on Facebook and on Twitter.

For disability accommodations, please phone (415) 473-6358 (voice), CA Relay 711, or e-mail the Digital Access staff at least five business days in advance of the event. The County will do its best to fulfill requests received with less than five business days’ notice. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.


Leslie Lacko
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-4333
Email: Leslie Lacko
Community Development website