San Francisco's Great Seawall Resiliency Project Selected for Establishing Financing Strategy

Estimated $5 Billion Needed for Overall Seawall Upgrades

San Francisco’s Great Seawall Resiliency Project Selected by City Accelerator Infrastructure Finance Cohort to Establish Financing Strategy

An Estimated $5 Billion Needed for Overall Seawall Upgrades

San Francisco, CA – March 18, 2016 – San Francisco is one of four cities selected to join an expanded effort to help speed the adoption of leading local government innovations.

San Francisco will join Pittsburgh, PA; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C. as part of this effort. Urban leaders in these cities will work together over the next 18 months to explore and adopt new practices and policies to help close funding gaps to fully implement their five-year city infrastructure plans, with particular attention to projects that will have an impact on low-income residents.

This effort builds on successful City Accelerator efforts across eight cities since the City Accelerator launched in 2014. San Francisco will explore potential financing mechanisms to fortify the city’s seawall protecting its densely developed downtown area and several major transit and utility assets.

Pittsburgh will explore innovative financing options to systematically repair hundreds of municipally-owned facilities and stairways throughout the city. Saint Paul will collaborate across city departments to develop a stormwater funding mechanism that addresses construction and maintenance costs associated with brownfields, vacant industrial sites, and increases neighborhood vitality. Washington, D.C. will utilize a newly launched executive Office of Public-Private Partnership to convene agency leaders to collaboratively source innovative financing ideas for a plethora of infrastructure projects, including improving school facilities and installing smart street lights. With support of $1,155,000 from the City Accelerator program, each city has a unique focus based on its needs.

“Our City continues to make great progress in improving our infrastructure and fighting climate change, but we must do even more to ensure all our neighborhoods are resilient,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. “I am grateful to the Citi Foundation and Living Cities for this opportunity to work with the public and private sectors to find solutions to challenges that face our entire planet.”

The city of San Francisco is focused on assembling a long term municipal financing plan for its coastal seawall protecting a densely developed downtown core. Understanding that this will be a multi-generational project, city officials are most interested in conceptualizing a budgeting and public engagement strategy that can endure a near term change in administrations as well as sustain public support 10, 20, and 30 years from today and beyond. As cities around the world begin to reconcile the very real and unpredictable consequences of sea level rise and increased seismic vulnerability, San Francisco is looking to draw upon the City Accelerator to explore innovative financing options to fund seawall upgrades now and ongoing maintenance costs over several decades.

“San Francisco faces an intergenerational, multi-billion dollar investment need to fortify the Seawall, a critical yet largely unseen piece of the city’s infrastructure,” said Elaine Forbes, Interim Port Director.  “An estimated up to $5 billion is needed for the overall long-term Seawall Resiliency Project to provide a stable and adaptable foundation to address sea level rise and an estimated $500 million to address immediate life safety improvements to the infrastructure.”

At the turn of the 20th century, the construction of the Great Seawall along San Francisco’s northern edge transformed the shallow Bay tidelands into an urban maritime waterfront that has supported the Bay Area’s growth for over 100 years.

San Francisco’s waterfront is home to some of the Bay Area’s top destinations including Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Landing, the new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, the Exploratorium, and AT&T Park.  These sites help draw more than 24 million people annually to the Embarcadero, which provides space for pedestrians, bicyclist, cars, buses, and historic street cars along the shoreline.

All of the activity along the northern waterfront today is made possible by the Seawall at its base. The Seawall has a long history of enabling development in San Francisco; the construction of stable piers and viable landings for the shipping industry laid the infrastructural foundation for the city’s thriving maritime economy through the first half of the twentieth century.

Construction of the Seawall began in 1878, prior to the development of modern engineering techniques that account for seismic risks and liquefaction.  A major earthquake would likely cause major damage and disruption to the Seawall if it is not upgraded and maintained.

In the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors, supported by Citi, local leaders noted that they are receiving little funding and support from the federal government, and are increasingly taking on the challenge to build and maintain vital capital assets to meet the needs of residents, commuters and visitors.

“Cities are being challenged to meet greater expectations of their residents with increasingly limited resources,” said Ed Skyler, Citi’s Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs and Chairman of the Citi Foundation. “With demand for infrastructure improvements in the U.S. estimated to be over $200 billion a year, we want to help build a network of cities so they can pool their expertise in order to help meet these critical needs."

By working with cities to close the gap on financing vital infrastructure, Living Cities connects safer and better infrastructure to opportunities for economic equity. “Simply put, our failure to provide citizens adequate physical structures and public assets is a failure of democracy,” said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. “In order to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people, faster, cities need to improve how cities manage funds to build, repair, and maintain their infrastructure assets so that their cities can become competitive in the global economy, improve the quality of life of residents and provide opportunities for the low- income people who live there.”

Citi and the Citi Foundation are committed to helping cities become more efficient and empower citizens by providing access to services that enhance livability and prosperity. For more information about how Citi is enabling progress in cities, please visit

The Governing Institute provides ongoing coverage of work and learnings from the cohort cities and related efforts around the country at

 About Citi

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

 Port of San Francisco

The Port of San Francisco is a public enterprise committed to promoting a balance of maritime, recreational, industrial, transportation, public access and commercial activities on a safe, secure, and self- supporting basis through appropriate management and development of the waterfront for the benefit of the people of the State of California.


Media Contact:
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