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About the "See Change" Project 

Too often fear has taken a leading role in community discussions regarding sea level rise.  Science driven narratives, heavy with projections, complex maps and challenging adaptation strategies understandably create anxiety.  The impact of the unknown causes the community to put up defenses frequently without a fact-based understanding of why plans are being developed and what they mean for individuals, the community and the environment. 


The arts have the unique ability to affect us in ways that—though hard to quantify -- can support the need for adaptation in a changing world, a shifting environment and an uncertain future.  Engaging artists as agents of change, to create visual art projects that provide the opportunity for community members to be active participants, will raise awareness, understanding and build hope and trust that the impacts of sea level rise can be positively addressed in ways that support the human population, natural (beach) habitats and all beings that enjoy and live in and on the coast.  

Request for Proposals / Project Overview

Sanchez Art Center seeks to commission an artist or artist team to create visual/interdisciplinary art installations and interactive experiences that invites the community to reflect on sea level rise and adaptation strategies, prompt discussion of public sentiment and values, and foster community connection enabling positive forward motion on strategies and plans that meet shared needs and requirements.

Three project sites spanning different risk areas across the City of Pacifica will be planned, at locations including:  1) north with eroding cliffs threatening housing and city infrastructure; 2) central where rock revetments have historically been used to protect infrastructure and private property from wave inundation and overtopping; and, 3) south prone to flooding.  

Project proposals should include the following concepts that will be incorporated into the project scoring criteria:

  • Encourage authentic and civil conversation that will raise awareness, understanding, and build trust and hope that impacts of sea level rise can be positively addressed in ways that support the human population, natural habitat (including creeks, watershed, wetlands, dunes and beaches), and wildlife diversity.

  • Incorporate youth voices to shift focus from the near-term to the future.

  • Engage a broad and diverse spectrum of the community members, including socially vulnerable populations such as, but not limited to, those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, youth, elderly, individuals with limited mobility and disabilities.   

  • Promote waste reduction as an integral component of plans to reduce emissions that result in climate change.   


Proposals should consider the following:

Sea Level Rise Science and Policies

  • The best available science regarding sea level rise should be referenced.  The State of California, Sea Level Rise Guidance, 2018 Update Ocean Protection Council (OPC) provides this data.   

  • In 2018, the City of Pacifica undertook a “Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning” process, as required by the California Coastal Commission, in preparation for an update to the General Plan and Local Coastal Program (legal documents required by the State of California that sets forth the goals, policies and directions the city will take in managing the future.  A General Plan must contain at least seven elements:  Land Use, Transportation, Housing, Conservation, Noise, Open Space and Safety). 

    The year-long study and resulting report sought to identify how sea level rise and erosion will impact social, economic, and physical coastal resources including homes, businesses, and critical city facilities and infrastructure; and defined draft adaptation policies to prepare the City to deal with these impacts.


  • Expand knowledge about sea level rise and how we can talk about it to empower a shared interest in resilience.  How do you perceive things will change going forward?  How are we vulnerable?  How can we be more resilient?   San Mateo County, Office of Sustainability, Sea Level Rise FAQ.


Community and Culture

  • The history of Pacifica as a lively and engaged community situated on the dynamic California coast that has been dealing with coastal erosion and flooding for decades in reaction to emergency situations that have created public safety and access issues.   

  • Change is happening:  Draw linkages between individuals in the community – their interests, concerns, feelings and fears – and the changing world around them.  View the past and current built environments.  How have these changed over a period of time?  How have these changes impacted Pacifica? 

  • Decisions need to be made:  At its most basic level, decision-making is about two things: solving problems and addressing opportunities. To do a good job of either means taking the time to understand what the real problem or opportunity is. 

  • Effects of Fear:  This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately. 


Sensitive and Dynamic Coastline and Geology

  • The varying geographies of the City ranging from (sandstone bluffs elevated 140-180 feet above sea level prone to erosion); areas subject to overtopping and wave runup during storms and times of high tides; and locations at sea level subject to flooding. 


Pacifica has already experienced a turbulent history with the ocean due to location on the dynamic California coast.  A number of studies and reports from 1982 on document a history of coastal erosion, flooding, and severe wave impact.  These incidents include, but are not limited to the following: 

The El Nino of 1983, resulted in the need to relocate a number of mobile homes due to their proximity to eroding bluffs; armoring of those bluffs has continued since.  Another structure was also relocated and a rock revetment was also put in place to protect homes along Esplanade Avenue, north of the mobile home park. 

In 1997-1998, seven homes were declared uninhabitable due to heavy erosion and landslides that caused the bluffs under them to crumble into the sea.  A protective rock revetment built at the base of the bluffs after the 1983 El Nino, was undermined by the strong storm surges and collapsed. 

In 2009-10 winter, a moderate El Niño, forced officials to red-tag two apartment buildings at the edge of a 70-foot cliff.  Emergency permits in 2003 to drop boulders at the base of the cliff to keep the waves from eating it away, didn’t provide ongoing protection. 

Early in 2016, 26 residents of third apartment complex was also red-tagged.  Two remaining homes that hadn’t been removed in 1997 – 1998 could no longer be occupied.  Backyards of additional properties tumbled to the beach. 

Also in 2016, the brute force of waves and regular overtopping of a retaining wall created a large sink hole that closed a street for approximately six months while under repair.  Later that year a popular trail to the beach was also closed due to another major sinkhole on the northern coastal bluffs.

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