Safety & Resilience Element



The purpose of the Safety & Resilience Element is to facilitate safety from hazards, achieve racial and social equity, and strengthen community resilience. It provides a comprehensive set of policies for minimizing San Francisco’s contribution to climate change (or “the climate crisis”) and ensuring local resilience to multiple hazards. The policies here seek to protect the people and assets in San Francisco from loss of life, injury, property loss, environmental damage, and social and economic disruption from natural or technological disasters. The City has a profound obligation to protect communities and areas that face higher vulnerability to disasters.

The Safety & Resilience Element focuses on all hazards: natural and human-made. There is a strong foundation addressing seismic hazards, as earthquakes are the greatest risk to life and property in San Francisco due to the San Andreas and Hayward Faults. There are numerous other hazards prone to occur in San Francisco, such as flooding and poor air quality. Additionally, there are human-made hazards that pose threats to the City’s health and welfare and must be considered alongside natural hazards for mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery, such as pandemic and release of hazardous materials. Due to the climate crisis, hazards are occurring more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously. The Safety & Resilience Element aims to address the complexity and severity of all hazards.

The Safety & Resilience Element names Environmental Justice Communities as areas in San Francisco disproportionately experiencing environmental burdens. Environmental Justice Communities, and others, tend to experience hazards more frequently and more intensely as compared to the City as a whole, and they take longer to recover. The Environmental Justice Communities Map identifies communities based on exposure to environmental pollution and other social vulnerabilities, which are often low-income communities and communities of color. Similarly, the Safety & Resilience Element names the American Indian community, the Black community, and other communities of color who are disproportionately experiencing racial and social inequities. The policies also name vulnerable communities with heightened risk and increased sensitivity to potential harms than the City average. The Safety & Resilience Element seeks to eliminate disparities and burdens related to all hazards and the climate crisis for all San Franciscans, starting with Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people. When named, the Safety & Resilience Element is indicating the geographic areas (Environmental Justice Communities) and/or dispersed communities (American Indian community, the Black community, and other communities of color, and other vulnerable communities) in the City where policies should begin and target their work. In doing so, the Safety & Resilience Element offers policies to achieve racial and social equity, through actions and other systemic changes that amend past injustices and enable proactive, community-led solutions for the future.

In brief, the Safety & Resilience Element is organized into six goals to achieve racial and social equity, environmental justice, and climate resilience.

  1. All People Live in Safe & Healthy Communities: To ensure equitable safety, San Francisco must remedy past injustices and eliminate environmental burdens for all San Franciscans, starting with those experienced by Environmental Justice Communities.

  2. Multi-Benefit Climate and Hazard Resilience: Pursue multi-hazard risk reduction strategies and maximize community benefits along the way to becoming a net-zero emissions City by 2040.

  3. Hazard Mitigation: The City must reduce the likelihood, scale, and severity of impacts from all disasters to the economy; the built and natural environment; and all communities, starting with reducing such impacts in Environmental Justice Communities.

  4. Emergency Preparedness: Ensure San Francisco residents, workers, and visitors have the knowledge, capacity, and government support needed to be safe in the face of disasters.

  5. Response: Provide San Francisco residents, workers, and visitors with the essential support and services needed immediately following a disaster for life safety and functional recovery.

  6. Recovery and Reconstruction: Rebuild San Francisco’s built, natural, and social assets and communities towards a more equitable and resilient future.


The Safety & Resilience Element establishes policies to guide the City’s actions in preparation for, response to, and recovery from a major disaster. As a policy document, the Safety & Resilience Element guides city decision making and actions, such as funding programs and regulating development. Implementation of the Safety & Resilience Element is carried out through numerous City plans and programs, as well as actions by the private sector and development.

Notably, there are multi-agency efforts to coordinate climate mitigation and adaptation and ensure San Francisco becomes more resilient to the threats of the climate crisis. Mayor London N. Breed officially launched ClimateSF in 2021, led by the Mayor’s Office and the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning, Planning Department, Department of the Environment, Port of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. ClimateSF establishes goals for collective action on climate resilience planning, policy, and guidance across the City. This coordination supports a central focus on racial and social equity, healthy communities, just transition, connection to nature, and innovation. Through ClimateSF, major components of the Safety & Resilience Element are implemented.


Relationship to City-Led Action Plans and Programs

The Safety & Resilience Element contains broader policies to reduce impacts that will need to be carried out by the City. The City maintains three principal implementation plans that provide more immediate directions, specific strategies, and measurable objectives for monitoring and evaluation: the Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Emergency Response Plan. These plans work in partnership with the Safety & Resilience Element and are incorporated by reference here. A fourth plan, a Recovery Plan, is planned to be produced by the City to facilitate healthy and equitable recovery after disaster.

There are many other plans and programs throughout the City that support the Safety & Resilience Element, such as the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety, the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, and the Lifelines Council. In addition to City-led actions, the Safety & Resilience Element relies upon the private sector, community-based organizations, and a range of additional stakeholders to support full and robust implementation of these policies.


Goal 1. All People Live In Safe & Healthy Communities

All stages of hazard management—mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and reconstruction—are too important and too big a task for City agencies to take on their own. It would also be ineffective and may cause further harm to do so in a vacuum, without the involvement of the people most affected by hazards. Residentsand community members themselves must play a central role in decision-making.

The planning process must develop an education-based involvement opportunities that supports community leadership development. Planning efforts should not only identify, but actively engage, the varied interests of the community. These processes should include holistic information around hazards and impacts; contribute to the vision for the City’s future per the General Plan and community outreach and engagement; and support the achievement of racial and social equity. As possible, identify responsible agencies, institutions, and other partners responsible for implementing strategies for safety and resilience.

The City should also help to develop community skillsets pre-disaster, on both an individual and neighborhood level, to empower community members to meaningfully participate in a post-disaster reconstruction planning process, work effectively together to identify and prioritize community needs, and work collaboratively with the City to communicate these needs and ensure that they are met. Programs such as the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) help to build community capacity and develop these essential skills before disaster strikes, so that everyone can participate effectively in the reconstruction process after the disaster.

JUST EMPOWERMENT. Support the growth of community networks to empower all people.

POLICY 1.1.1.
Engage the community in the planning process.

Knowledge about geologic risks in the Bay Area is substantial, but always evolving. The City needs to keep informed, through the professional contacts of its staff, and through State and federal agencies like CalEMA and the United States Geological Survey, about advances in the field. New information will be shared with the public and decision-makers.

Similarly, new techniques are continually developing in the seismic design of structures, and new data is emerging about the actual seismic performance of previously retrofitted buildings. The risks of damage to life and property can be reduced by these improved engineering practices. The City should continue to support the institutions, professional organizations and individuals who carry out research in structural safety. Special attention should also be paid to support and seek out research that identifies innovative and low-cost retrofit concepts. Once the City sets new acceptable safety levels, this research should support the engineering requirements to meet safety levels.

POLICY 1.1.2.
During climate mitigation activities, prioritize investment and resources in Environmental Justice Communities, especially through existing community-based efforts.

During climate mitigation activities, the goal is to support the City become a net-zero emissions City by 2040 by reducing the amount and rate of greenhouse gas emissions. For many mitigation approaches, such as utilizing low-carbon transportation modes and electrifying buildings, it takes investment and resources to make these shifts in behavior at the individual and community level. Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people should benefit from targeted investment and resources to make these changes. By prioritizing investment and resources into these communities, financial responsibility for climate action is shifted away from the people most adversely impacted by the climate crises. During project design and planning, specify how the scope, outreach, implementation, and budget serves the needs of these communities to mitigate their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to reducing the amount and rate of greenhouse gas emissions, there can be additional community benefits in public health, local businesses, and quality of life. There can be opportunities to partner with existing community-based organizations and neighborhood-level efforts to effectively reach Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

POLICY 1.1.3.
During emergency preparedness activities, inform all individuals about the risks, vulnerabilities, and consequences of their neighborhood and communities from all hazards through culturally competent and equitable communications.

Everyone should be equipped with the public awareness of how all hazards may affect the City, the potential impact on their lives, and what to do to exercise their resilience. The City must support widespread, current, and actionable public awareness activities for robust emergency preparedness. With greater awareness, the less likelihood of loss of life and harm and the more likelihood that people are safe and able to bounce back after disaster. As hazards are felt disproportionately across the City, it is vital that this information be made in culturally competent methods and equitably distributed to communities that are hard to reach, such as linguistically isolated communities and communities across the digital divide. As part of racial and social equity assessments and vulnerability and consequences assessments, the City can support a centralized repository of hazards information, directories to resources and training, and accessible, neighborhood-level information. The City can support conducting research and training materials, distribution across culturally competent and mass communications streams, and identify resources that can activate readily in the event of a disaster.

POLICY 1.1.4.
Establish a network of staff supporting the Equity Officer to advocate and advise on equitable response, recovery, and reconstruction activities during and after a disaster.

In the Incident Command System (ICS) of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), there is an Equity Officer responsible for incorporating equity, inclusion, and community needs into emergency response. The Equity Officer is built into the emergency response structure that will help reach all parts of the City in the event of a disaster. Based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 After Action Report for Phase I and Phase II, there is a strong need and opportunity to establish a network of staff during emergency response that have built trust with communities and neighborhoods.

This network of staff can serve as experts of neighborhood-specific and potentially block-level conditions, liaisons to community-based organizations and other stakeholders, and trusted messengers to vulnerable people. The staff should represent and work strongly with the American Indian, Black, and other communities of color and other vulnerable people. During all EOC activations, this network would coordinate to equitably implement response, recovery, and reconstruction activities. This network may have memorandums of understanding with key agencies and community stakeholders to support their integration into emergency management best practices.

POLICY 1.1.5.
During response activities, the City should partner with non-governmental entities to respond to hazard impacts in Environmental Justice Communities.

Partnerships with non-governmental entities can be critical to respond to the widespread impacts of a disaster. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, these partnerships will facilitate the “all hands on deck” response to prevent further loss of life and ensure the City recovers more equitably and resiliently.

By laying the groundwork necessary for strong public-private partnerships in advance—by establishing relationships with universities, corporations, and foundations—the City can put itself in a strong position to receive support outside of regional, state, and federal aid, which could be critical if disaster is widespread and government resources must be extended. The City can activate public-private partnerships and partnerships with community-based organizations as a strong tool in revitalization after a community disaster.

Relationships with corporate entities, particularly those with local ties, can lead to financial and other support in reconstruction and restoration efforts. Relationships with community-based organizations and other neighborhood-level efforts can lead to increased outreach to people who are in need of support. Their local knowledge can support distribution of resources and programs, identify neighborhood-level or block-level challenges, and serve as trusted messengers of key information.

POLICY 1.1.6.
During recovery and reconstruction activities, rebuild in ways that remedy safety and resilience injustices in Environmental Justice Communities.

The City’s response efforts can be made stronger with robust partnership with its neighborhoods. Neighborhoods can be a driving force in recovery efforts. Residents, leaders, and community members understand the lived experiences and priorities of their neighbors, and they have more personal motivation to ensure projects and programs are carried out successfully. Often a lynchpin for rebuilding, preexisting community efforts and community-based organizations can readily provide a strong local force to extend the reach of government-provided recovery and reconstruction.

In recognition of neighborhoods’ critical role in recovery, the City should work to increase the capacity of neighborhoods and neighborhood groups. The City currently maintains a number of programs, such as Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN), that empower community members and community-based efforts to participate in climate mitigation and disaster recovery efforts.

These programs should be viewed as part of developing a framework of efforts to prepare communities in advance of a disaster. This framework should encompass community outreach and the provision of information; emergency preparedness exercises such as mapping and planning; and other problem-solving activities to tackle the range of potential hazards. By building the capacity of neighborhoods pre-disaster, neighborhoods are more capable to support post-disaster decision-making around issues such as land use, transportation, and economic development.

The City should expand opportunities for community members to organize at a neighborhood- or block-level to facilitate strong social ties that serve in resilient recovery and reconstruction activities. Identify incentives to convene, share resources and tools, and identify community-level leadership development.

CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT AND EVOLUTION. Act based upon best practices and continuously improve the knowledge base to remedy past injustices and eliminate disparities.

POLICY 1.2.1.
In all stages of safety and resilience, prioritize the needs of people most impacted by the adverse impacts of hazards.

People are the most precious part of cities. As hazards occur, the adverse impacts are felt unevenly throughout the City. There are people who have higher vulnerability to hazard consequences and take longer to recover. Due to systemic inequities, there are people who are more likely to experience a hazard first and worst, and take longer to recover, than the City overall.

In order to support Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people, the City must identify and prioritize the needs of people most impacted by hazards in all safety and resilience efforts. The City must increase baseline understanding of disproportionate inequities (causes), impacts (effects), and opportunities to increase safety and resilience (solutions). The City must continuously update this understanding by identifying critical needs and infrastructure, conducting racial and social equity assessments, conducting outreach and engagement activities, and incorporating racial and social equity indicators into the evaluation and monitoring of programs.

POLICY 1.2.2.
Use the latest assessment tools provided by the Office of Racial Equity and Department Racial & Social Equity Action Plans to center racial and social equity into the planning, evaluation, and monitoring of programs.

In City efforts for safety and resilience, racial and social equity must be incorporated into the planning, evaluation, and monitoring of all programs. For applicable programs, perform racial and social equity assessments and the latest tools provided by the respective agency’s Racial & Social Equity Action Plan and the Office of Racial Equity. These tools provide high-level guidance to understanding and centering racial and social equity into projects and programs. The tools require consideration at each step of the decision-making process, as to who would benefit or be harmed by a certain action, and by iteratively considering these questions to generate better results.

POLICY 1.2.3.
Prioritize documentation of historic, archaeological, and intangible cultural resources in the most vulnerable areas to the climate crisis, starting in Environmental Justice Communities.

San Francisco’s historic and cultural resources are critical to the City’s identity. They contribute to the City’s unique character, support heritage tourism and economic development, and hold stories of the diverse communities who have called San Francisco their home. The City must continuously understand and preserve these resources and offer reasonable protection from current and future hazards. The City should prioritize documentation of historic, archaeological, and intangible cultural resources in areas most vulnerable to the climate crisis, such as areas within the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone, as these resources may be experience irreparable damage or be completely lost.

Efforts are underway to document, preserve, and protect these assets, including resources that may become inundated by sea level rise or may collapse from an earthquake. However, the timing, severity, and impact of hazards such as earthquakes, floods, and fires are not fully understood. Hazards could severely damage or completely destroy buildings, building features, or artifacts within buildings.

Having a comprehensive cultural resource survey is critical for both hazard risk assessment and post-disaster recovery. The San Francisco Citywide Cultural Resources Survey identifies important individual historic or cultural resources and potential districts throughout the City. Additionally, the City can employ tools such as photographs, architectural drawings, oral histories with community knowledge and culture bearers, 3D laser surveys, and/or digital technology to archive and research these resources. The City can also explore the latest approaches to documenting these resources, as more is learned about preservation and adaptation from hazards such as poor and hazardous air quality and extreme storms.

POLICY 1.2.4.
Prioritize funding for infrastructure maintenance and improvements in Environmental Justice Communities.

Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people often rely more heavily on critical pieces of City infrastructure than communities with more resources, higher quality options, and privilege. Infrastructure provides public services such as transportation, water, energy, and internet. These infrastructure assets and systems are essential for people living, working, and playing in the City. It is important to fund the operation, maintenance, and improvements of such infrastructure and prioritize the needs of the communities who are more reliant on their services.


Goal 2. Multi-Benefit Climate and Hazard Resilience

Pursue multi-hazard risk reduction strategies and maximize community benefits along the way to becoming a net-zero emissions City by 2040.

CLIMATE RESILIENCE. Pursue synergistic efforts that both eliminate greenhouse gases (climate mitigation) and protect people, the built environment, and nature from the unavoidable impacts of the climate crisis (climate adaptation).

POLICY 2.1.1.
Coordinate the regular update of implementing documents of this General Plan including: the Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan (HCR) and the Climate Action Plan (CAP), both incorporated by reference here, as well as the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and the Recovery Plan (pending).

The Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan (HCR), incorporated by reference here, serves as the City’s local hazard mitigation plan to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It addresses all hazards the City is at risk to and strategies to mitigate from harm. It serves as a tracking and monitoring tool, with annual reporting to FEMA. The Climate Action Plan (CAP), incorporated by reference here, guides how the City can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040, building on the City’s climate and sustainability framework, “0-80-100-Roots.” This framework aims for zero waste, 80% of trips taken by low-carbon transportation modes, 100% renewable energy, and carbon sequestration. The Emergency Response Plan (ERP) provides an immediate action plan to coordinate response to disaster. It includes an overview of the emergency management system, detailed and restricted information for the Emergency Command Center, and a set of functional and hazard-specific details.

The Recovery Plan is planned to be produced by the City. The Recovery Plan can serve as the advance planning document to guide long-term recovery and reconstruction post-disaster for all hazards that the City faces.

These documents should be coordinated and be regularly updated to ensure the City is best positioned to equitably protect people from all hazards and the climate crisis.

POLICY 2.1.2.
Direct City actions to reduce local contributions towards the climate crisis by mitigating greenhouse gasses and by increasing carbon sequestration.

Globally, scientific consensus on the threats of climate change and the current climate crisis has been widely agreed upon for many years. The climate crisis increases the frequency of natural disasters and threatens life and wellbeing, the economy, and more. In 2019, the City declared a climate emergency and strengthened plans for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, human-induced global heating is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding the overall risks cascading across sectors and regions. For example, increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods are already exceeding the tolerance thresholds of plants and animals, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands, and in the Arctic.

To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure, ambitious and accelerated climate adaptation is required, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, adaptation progress is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported a dire warning about the consequences of inaction on the climate crisis, that due to human-induced global heating, the world “faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards” over the next two decades with global warming of 2.7°F (1.5°C). San Francisco has committed to local action to limit further warming through a goal of net-zero sector-based emissions by 2040, a 90% reduction from 1990 levels, and an interim target of cutting sector-based emissions 61% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The Climate Action Plan describes the strategies necessary to reach emissions reductions goals by sector:

POLICY 2.1.3.
The City shall create and implement a Recovery Plan to facilitate robust social, economic, and environmental recovery post-disaster.

The experiences of New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 illustrate the need for local jurisdictions to perform advance planning. Before a disaster strikes, there may be more resources within the community and within local government available. While the specifics of recovery would vary depending on hazards and impacts, certain aspects of recovery can be facilitated by advance planning.

The Association for Bay Area Governments produced a model recovery plan for the City of Oakland. A local recovery plan for the City should be centered in racial and social equity and should include, but not be limited to, the following topics discussed in Oakland’s plan: financing recovery issues; recovery of government facilities and services; land use change; and the long-term recovery of housing, business, health care, schools, utilities, and transportation.

POLICY 2.1.4.
Ensure that City projects and private developments provide multi-benefit solutions that mitigate hazard risk and contribute to a zero-emission future.

With limited resources and capacity, it becomes more important that large development projects provide as much comprehensive benefit to the community as possible. The climate crisis is worsening conditions on the ground, and hazards are occurring more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously. A development project must consider a broad set of hazards and prepare holistically for the project’s climate resilience, while actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions to contribute to Climate Action Plan targets and goals. Options for projects to reduce emissions include carbon sequestration through urban greening and native planting, building electrification, and connection to renewable energy.

MULTI-HAZARD RESILIENCE AND CO-BENEFITS. In adaptation and mitigation investments to multiple and simultaneous hazards, maximize risk reduction strategies and the related community benefits.

POLICY 2.2.1.
Include multi-hazard risk assessments in private development, capital projects, and the City’s climate resilience programs.

With limited resources, and the worsening effects of the climate crisis, the City must extend the reach of every dollar spent on climate adaptation. The City must evolve the approach to climate adaptation and address how hazards are occurring more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously. In the project design and planning, incorporate how projects can deliver on a broad set of values and goals of the City.

With multi-hazard risk assessments, programs and projects need to consider the near- and long-term risks of all hazards. ClimateSF, the City’s coordinated climate resilience interagency group, can support connecting climate resilience to intersecting issues across housing, health, transportation, and other public benefits. The General Plan can also determine opportunities for projects to support public benefits.

In private development and capital projects, development plans should ensure new development is designed and constructed to ensure functional recovery—beyond life safety expectations—in the event of all hazards. For known hazard risks, such as liquefaction on landfill areas, development should seek a performance equivalent to that of similar structures built on firm ground. For development within the Air Pollution Exposure Zone (APEZ), the plan should provide as healthy indoor air as projects that are outside the APEZ.

The project teams should conduct outreach and engagement to assess and understand the complete set of hazards and associated vulnerabilities in a project geography, especially as they relate to environmental justice. The assessments should support expanding the impact of resources directed at a singular hazard to develop multi-benefit strategies and solutions for projects and communities. Work with stakeholders, community members, and the private sector to assess and understand the complete set of hazards and associated vulnerabilities in a major development’s surrounding area.

POLICY 2.2.2.
Examine the risk of flooding and evaluate adaptation actions that will protect people and the built and natural environments to help inform land use, capital investment, and other policies.

Despite best efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate against the climate crisis, current CO2 levels are already causing changes in weather patterns, more extreme weather events, and an increase in sea levels. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were halted today, the long half-life of many greenhouse gasses and the change in global ocean temperatures mean that we will be experiencing consequences of increased CO2 in the atmosphere for centuries.

There is potential for permanently inundated land to greatly increase from the climate risk and associated flooding from storm surges, increased participation, sea level rise, and groundwater rise. With worsening conditions and without adaptation action, flood hazards will expand and alter the current 100-year floodplain and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone, making many more people and structures vulnerable than currently. The City should continue to review scientific emissions and sea level rise projections to become fully aware of risks to health, safety, and reliable functioning of City infrastructure systems due to flooding, as well as support the institutions, professional organizations and individuals who carry out climate research. In certain areas of the City, such as Environmental Justice Communities, neighborhoods may be affected by the intersection of increased flooding and increased exposure to toxic substances. There is ongoing research to explore how flooding, especially groundwater rise, affects the mobilization of toxic substances from contaminated soils, and the related public and environmental health impacts.

The risk of flooding needs to be taken into account when making land use decisions, bearing in mind that perceptions of acceptable risk may change in the future. These risks should also be incorporated into appropriate City plans and policies, such as the Planning and Zoning Codes, and capital planning. The Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and other City decision-making bodies should be fully apprised of these risks as they conduct reviews.

The City should review best practices, case studies, and current technology to mitigate these potentially harmful effects and adapt to future conditions that will reduce loss of life, build structures, and infrastructure. Adaptation actions should be considered for feasibility, and they should be incorporated into seismic upgrades and routine maintenance if possible. The adaptation strategies can include, but are not limited to: building elevation, floodproofing, green infrastructure and ecological/habitat features, hard engineering, zoning/code changes, and relocation of sensitive assets.

POLICY 2.2.3.
Seek sufficient funding to address climate hazards through all phases of mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and reconstruction.

Each phase of disaster planning (mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and reconstruction) requires their own planning, design and engineering, construction, maintenance and operations, and ongoing monitoring. Providing sufficient staff and budget resources for interagency coordination is no small feat. Further, equitable distribution of funding—considering historic disinvestment in certain communities—requires heightened consciousness to resource allocation and providing opportunities for community input and decision making.

The 10-Year Capital Plan provides an approach for long-term efforts to be balanced with immediate needs. The Capital Plan should prioritize funding for 1) Environmental Justice Communities for the specific threats they face being compounded by systemic inequities; 2) specific hazard threats poised in vulnerable areas; 3) areas and functions that serve the most people 4) projects with matching state and federal funding; and 5) investments that support achieving a state of good repair of existing infrastructure and assets. The traditional cost-benefit models to determine funding needs have been built around tax and economic revenue, which continues cycles of disinvestment in historically disadvantaged and disinvested areas. Instead, holistic cost-benefit models should consider social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits.

POLICY 2.2.4.
Adapt the City’s bay and ocean shorelines to current and future climate flood hazards, including coastal flooding, sea level rise, groundwater rise, and extreme storms.

The City faces threats from the slow-moving disasters of sea level rise and flood hazards. Surrounded on three sides by water, the City must adapt the bay and ocean shorelines to these hazards to prevent inundation; spread of environmental pollutants; disrupted services of key assets such as utilities and underground rail; assets and property damage; and loss of open space, neighborhoods, and communities.

The City should develop adaptation strategies to address current and future hazards for the bay and ocean shorelines. Building off of the Sea Level Rise Action Plan, the City should develop a citywide adaptation plan that addresses the interaction between sea level rise, coastal and inland flood hazards, and extreme storms. The adaptation plan should include a model of these joint hazards and have neighborhood-specific analysis, especially in low-lying areas in the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone, like Mission Creek, Islais Creek, and Yosemite Slough.

The adaptation strategies may use a combination of measures, including flood defenses, accommodation strategies such as floodproofing, elevating sensitive equipment, operational policies, and removal or relocation of sensitive assets. Flood defense measures should incorporate natural or ecological features as much as possible. Adaptation strategies should be reviewed and amended over time as conditions and flood projections evolve. They should build in redundancy to provide extra protection should flood defense structures fail.

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS. Enhance nature, biodiversity, and public open space through climate resilience strategies that mimic or restore ecological systems and function.

POLICY 2.3.1.
Maximize the preservation and maintenance of carbon sinks and landscape approaches that advance the rate of carbon sequestration.

An essential element of becoming a net-zero emissions City is pursuing carbon sequestration, the capture and storage of greenhouse gas emissions. Trees, other flora, especially native plants, should be preserved, maintained, and increased as carbon sinks in the City. Native plants should be prioritized in pursuit of the City’s carbon sequestration, water management, and biodiversity goals.

There are many City agencies involved in this work, such as Public Works, Recreation and Parks, Department of the Environment, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Port. Public Works has ongoing efforts to plant trees throughout the City that are sequestering carbon through tree photosynthesis. Recreation and Parks offers plant palettes to maximize climate resilience in park landscapes and engages in climate resilient land management by repurposing green waste as mulch and chip cover.

POLICY 2.3.2.
Prioritize nature-based solutions that restore ecosystem function and maximize ecological benefits to plants, animals, and people.

For climate resilience, nature-based solutions offer approaches to restore ecosystem function and maximize ecological benefits. In capital, development, and other projects, incorporate greening and plantings that are climate appropriate, non-invasive, and native species into the building and surrounding infrastructure. Where possible, design solutions that make ecosystem function visible so that relationships between people and nature can be understood, cultivated, and appreciated. For open space projects, it is important to coordinate with the American Indian and Alaska Native community to preserve existing culturally significant areas and ensure access to culturally significant practices, such as harvesting food from the area.

POLICY 2.3.3.
Prioritize nature-based solutions as flood adaptation strategies, to enhance shoreline biodiversity and ecological function, manage stormwater, and protect against sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Against the present and increasing threats of sea level rise and flood hazards, prioritize the use of nature-based solutions and green infrastructure to increase climate resilience. The unique characteristics of these water-related hazards present the opportunities for both site-specific and district-scale solutions to manage stormwater and protect against sea level rise and coastal flooding. For greater climate resilience, prioritize nature-based solutions that enhance ecological function, preserve the natural aspects of the shoreline, and reconnect people to these systems.

The nature-based solutions, such as wetlands, should be adapted to the condition of the shoreline. Where possible, consider soft landscape transitions to the bay, ocean, and creeks that maintain public access, especially visual access, to these water features. In areas with limited space for soft landscape transitions, consider vertical strategies such as living or ecological seawalls.

POLICY 2.3.4.
Reduce the threat of wildfire to San Francisco residents and infrastructure.

Though the probability of wildfires within San Francisco is low, it remains high for areas outside the county where City-owned infrastructure is located. Significant portions of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System in San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne Counties are located in very high fire hazard lands. Coordinate with Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest, CAL FIRE, and adjacent communities on risk reduction, and properly care for City-owned land and facilities to reduce wildfire risk.

A small portion of the Crocker Amazon neighborhood has been designated as a high fire hazard area by the State. There are potable water mains and hydrants along the perimeter of John McLaren Park, as well as a 2015 era 75,000 gallon Emergency Firefighting System cistern at the corner of Moscow and Geneva.

POLICY 2.3.5.
Educate and empower stakeholders and communities to know, grow, and steward local native plants and wildlife on private and public property.

Property owners and other stakeholders can take the lead in nature-based solutions and urban greening with more support from the City. The City should develop a centralized repository of information and training to increase public awareness of climate appropriate, non-invasive, and native plants and wildlife on private and public property. For public property and open space, it is important to ensure the American Indian and Alaska Native community have access to conduct cultural practices, such as harvesting.


Goal 3. Hazard Mitigation

The City must reduce the likelihood, scale, and severity of impacts from all disasters to the economy; the built and natural environment; and all communities, starting with reducing such impacts in Environmental Justice Communities.

The climate crisis already adversely impacts San Francisco and influences how people live, work, and play. The climate crisis will accelerate impacts for decades to come. In San Francisco, there are 13 main hazards that have the most potential impact to the City. Of these hazards, seismic hazards pose the greatest direct risk to human life and safety via the failure of buildings and other structures during shaking or ground failure. In addition to tragedy, there will be substantial economic losses and severe social, cultural, and economic dislocations. These same consequences are threats across all other hazards, including slow-moving hazards such as sea level rise and emerging hazards such as poor and hazardous air quality. As the climate crisis worsens, hazards are occurring more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously—with compounding impacts. It is critical to ensure robust levels of safety and resilience relative to all hazards, by learning more about the risks posed to vulnerable communities and developing plans to reduce those risks; and by considering hazards in all land use, infrastructure, and capital planning.

EXISTING BUILDINGS. Ensure retrofits and renovations to existing structures increase building longevity and meet current best practices to protect occupants and structures.

Risk Reduction

POLICY 3.1.1.
Reduce the risks presented by City-owned structures and privately-owned buildings and provide assistance to vulnerable communities with limited adaptive capacity to reduce those risks.

Hazards such as earthquakes can cause damage to buildings that render them unsafe to occupy or cause them to collapse. Sea level rise and flood hazards can cause permanent inundation. Poor and hazardous air quality can exacerbate indoor and outdoor air pollution. The City needs a comprehensive approach to address the resilience of all at-risk structures and buildings where people live, gather, and work.

While the City has numerous programs in place to bring public buildings into seismic compliance, addressing privately-owned buildings is a political, legislative, and financial challenge. The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) and Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP) is a 30-year implementation plan to support the City’s resilience in the face of probable earthquakes along the San Andreas and Hayward Faults. These programs address seismic risk reduction for many building uses, such as residential and commercial.

The City should create additional action plans and implementation plans to address the range of hazards that are occurring more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously. These actions should address non-ductile concrete frame buildings, old construction in need of retrofits, pre-cast concrete tilt-up buildings, and housing units that serve low- and very low-income residents.

POLICY 3.1.2.
Reduce the risk of all hazards, especially geological, weather-related, and fire-related hazards, posed by concrete buildings and older, small, wood-frame residential buildings.

The City’s current programs for unreinforced masonry buildings and soft-story wood-frame buildings apply to larger scale and commercial structures. Individual homes or buildings under 5 units are not required to be seismically strengthened. Some individual homeowners make upgrades to their buildings voluntarily, but that number could be substantially increased with more programs designed for safety improvements by homeowners. "Soft-story" buildings, in which the ground story has much less rigidity and strength than the rest of the structure, pose significant hazards. Often, the soft story is the result of multiple garage door openings or ground floor parking. Soft-story failure was responsible for nearly half of all homes that became uninhabitable in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Photographs of the Marina District became iconic symbols of the compounded seismic risks from earthquake and liquefaction for housing built on top of landfill, loose, or saturated soils. The City estimates 43% to 85% of un-retrofitted soft-story buildings will be uninhabitable following a major earthquake.

The City should adopt incentives and regulations to encourage relatively simple retrofit approaches that increase the structural stability and safety of smaller wood-frame residential buildings, as well as consider a phased mandate for retrofits over a 30-year timeframe as directed by the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety and the Earthquake Safety Implementation Plan. The City’s Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance established an inventory of buildings with five or more units and required their owners to evaluate and retrofit at-risk buildings. This program has been successful, with an 85% compliance rate for buildings that fall within the program’s purview. Next, the City should enact a concrete building retrofit program, in accordance with the Earthquake Safety Implementation Plan. Older non-ductile concrete frame buildings and rigid wall flexible diaphragm buildings, aka “tilt-ups” with high-level risk should be addressed.

POLICY 3.1.3.
Abate structural and non-structural hazards in City-owned properties.

Both technical and financial resources are needed to repair and retrofit City-owned properties. The City shall use its capabilities to assess hazards and to create and implement bond and other funding opportunities to carry out retrofit projects. Through bond financing, numerous City buildings have already been structurally upgraded.

There still remain important City-owned buildings that present seismic risks, as identified in the 10-Year Capital Plan, Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan, and other studies and plans.

The City’s Capital Improvement Advisory Committee (CIAC) acts as the policy body advising the City’s capital-planning process. Recognizing that certain kinds of public buildings are critical to the community’s functioning, the CIAC should work to establish a clear prioritization for these projects, develop an implementation program for their upgrade including funding sources (such as bond measures), and establish a timeline for the improvements.

POLICY 3.1.4.
Encourage property owners to evaluate their risks to all hazards.

Many property owners hold a misguided perception that federal and state sources will provide financial assistance after a disaster. But, federal aid provided in a declared disaster does not protect individual homeowners. When a major disaster hits an entire area, local governments are often strapped with simply providing funds necessary to repair major public infrastructure and buildings.

The City can encourage residents and businesses to evaluate their own risk and the repercussions they might face from reasonably foreseeable hazards. Whether through a formal risk assessment through a qualified consultant or simply through a personal assessment that evaluates the potential for damage, property owners should consider the full range of opportunities for decreasing their risk. This risk should be clearly communicated to tenants, upon sale of buildings, and be made part of public City records.

POLICY 3.1.5.
Support the ability to shelter in place and provide help for vulnerable communities with limited adaptive capacity.

The term “shelter in place” refers to people’s ability to remain in their home or another place of shelter and stay there until instructed otherwise, due to ongoing hazards outside of the home that threaten health and life safety.

Seismically, for a building to have shelter-in-place capacity, it must be strong enough to withstand a major earthquake without substantial structural or non-structural damage. This is a different standard than that employed by the Building Code, which requires buildings to meet life-safety standards. In some cases, a building may not collapse, but might be deemed unusable because of the level of damage. Shelter-in-place housing standards would mean that a building is safe enough to live in during the months after an earthquake, but it may not be fully functional as a hospital or other public facilities would need to be.

Supporting shelter-in-place capacity can help minimize the need for emergency housing and services post-disaster, keep current residents in their homes, and minimize disruption of society and the economy. This could greatly minimize recovery costs and allow communities to remain intact.

Historic Preservation

POLICY 3.1.6.
Maintain a data clearinghouse of existing housing and building stock that inventories their features’ architectural and cultural character, vulnerability and resilience to all hazards, and other resilience features.

In order to make holistically-informed approaches and strategies to improve the safety and resilience of the City’s housing and building stock, the City needs a complex set of readily available, current, and high-quality data. The data on housing and building stock, including its location, specifications, conditions, and use, is managed by a number of City agencies and private sector actors, making it difficult to conduct research, assess the vulnerability and consequences to hazards, and identify opportunities to increase safety and resilience.

The City should develop and maintain a data clearinghouse that supports existing and projected housing and their interaction with all hazards. This clearinghouse can demarcate types of structures and buildings with known vulnerability to hazards, such as concrete buildings and wood-frame buildings, and denote opportunities for improving resilience, such as removing gas lines. The clearinghouse can utilize property information from past and current building surveying efforts, including the San Francisco Citywide Cultural Resources Survey (SF Survey), as well as existing information found on the Planning Department’s Property Information Map.

POLICY 3.1.7.
Starting with properties associated with Environmental Justice Communities, expand life safety and functional recovery considerations to increase the likelihood that historically valuable architecture and structures will survive all hazards, and encourage the adaptive reuse of historic structures.

Older buildings are among those most vulnerable to destruction or heavy damage from a large earthquake. They are less likely to have more recent engineering features or be built to current codes. This makes these buildings less resilient to ground shaking, and many of them are located in areas near the bay and the historic bay inlets with the City’s softest soil conditions. These buildings may also have ornate façade structures that, in the event of an earthquake, can detach and threaten people on the street.

A major earthquake could result in an irreplaceable loss of the historic built fabric and social communities of San Francisco. Part of the City most vulnerable to fire also contains many historic structures. North Waterfront, South Beach, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Hunters Point, Civic Center, Downtown, Tenderloin, and Hayes Valley neighborhoods have moderate risk for large urban fires. Additionally, San Francisco’s waterfront is lined with historic structures, including historic pier structures, vulnerable to risks posed by current flooding and accelerating sea level rise. Furthermore, stormwater flooding may pose risks to properties more inland in neighborhoods including the Mission, South of Market, and Bayview. The City should mitigate these hazards in a way that preserves the historic structures and fabric of the different neighborhoods.

When new programs are being considered to abate hazards posed by existing buildings and structures, the likely impacts of those programs on historic buildings must also be thoroughly investigated. The resulting programs should encourage the retrofit of older buildings in ways that preserve their architectural and historical character while increasing life safety and functional recovery. When development concessions, transfers of development rights, or City funds are granted to promote preservation of historic buildings, there should be reasonable measures taken to increase the building's resiliency to environmental hazards.

POLICY 3.1.8.
Safeguard diverse elements of the City’s living heritage through supporting the protection and/or adaptation of intangible elements and their ties to the City’s natural and built environments, which collectively contribute to San Francisco’s cultural identity.

In the event of a hazard, there may be damage to the people, resources, and opportunities that contribute to San Francisco’s living heritage. These diverse and intangible elements of living heritage, such as performing arts, traditional crafts, foodways, rituals, and festivals, must be protected and adapted against the threats of all hazards.

After a hazard, the unique materials and supplies necessary for living heritage may be destroyed or heavily damaged beyond function. The opportunities and space to come together and practice rituals and festivals may be lost or deemed unsafe. The people and communities who own, practice, and appreciate acts of living heritage may be lost or displaced.

The City should identify the elements that contribute to San Francisco’s cultural identity, as that identity has been and may be evolving over time, and work to safeguard these elements from the threats of all hazards.

Resilient Retrofits

POLICY 3.1.9.
Reduce hazards from gas-fired appliances and gas lines, removing gas lines when possible, focusing on communities with concentrations of older housing stock.

In support of the City’s goals of becoming a net-zero emissions City by 2040, the City is minimizing reliance on gas and instead electrifying the future. For the remaining gas lines, the City must protect people and assets from seismic, combustion, and related hazards.

A large earthquake is likely to result in fires at a time when the water systems may be disrupted and fire-fighting personnel may be overtaxed. One of the common sources of ignition will be gas leaks from appliances. As part of removing gas lines, support the infrastructure for building electrification. In existing buildings, the San Francisco Lifelines Council recommends the Department of Building Inspection to require electrification with gas shut-off valves as an interim measure to full building electrification.

POLICY 3.1.10.
During building retrofits, follow a comprehensive retrofit strategy to provide support to vulnerable communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the risk of property loss and damage during wildfires, flooding, and seismic hazards.

During building retrofits, there is opportunity to address a broad range of hazards at once. In addition to improving building resilience, there are improved protections for human safety and prevention of damage and loss of life. The retrofit strategy should address the main hazards the area is susceptible to, including seismic hazards, sea level rise and flooding, urban fire, and poor and hazardous air quality. Building retrofits, which include weatherization and electrification, are needed to meet San Francisco’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

POLICY 3.1.11.
For existing housing and building stock, provide training, guidance, and assistance to build resilience against extreme heat, poor and hazardous air quality, and flooding, especially in Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

There is a set of emerging hazards occurring more frequently and severely in the City, exacerbated by the climate crisis. These hazards, such as extreme heat, poor and hazardous air quality, and sea level rise and flooding, are challenging existing approaches to make existing housing and building stock resilient to hazards. As compared to new and projected housing units, the existing housing and building stock—especially older stock—often serve as the City’s valuable resource of affordable housing.

For housing security and housing that is safe, healthy, and affordable to people, the City should provide training, guidance, and assistance to weatherize and retrofit. For example, the City can address temperature control, indoor air quality, and elevating property. These resources should be targeted to Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

POLICY 3.1.12.
Provide guidance and assistance to residents about the risks associated with their home and their options to improve safety as renters.

San Francisco residents should be informed about the hazard risk profile of their homes and neighborhoods. For existing buildings and new construction, property owners and residents should be notified and informed. The City should pursue policies around mandatory reporting around seismic risk, such as during the time of sale or as permanent notice in building entryways. The City should pair notification with opportunities to learn more, such as pointing to an online directory of hazard and neighborhood profile information and opportunities to increase resilience of housing units.

NEW BUILDINGS. Maximize the safety, environmental performance, and climate adaptability of all new development.

Hazard Information in Decision Making

POLICY 3.2.1.
Continue to support and monitor research about the nature of all hazards in the Bay Area, including prediction and warning systems, community vulnerability and consequences assessments, and improvements to building performance and resilience.

Knowledge about hazard risks in the Bay Area is substantial, but always evolving. The City needs to stay informed, through City staff, state and federal agencies like CalOES and the United States Geological Survey, and other professional contacts about advances in the field. New information will be shared with the public and decision makers.

Similarly, new techniques are continually developing in the structural design of structures, and new data is emerging about the actual functional performance of previously retrofitted buildings. For example, the risks of damage to life and property from seismic hazards can be reduced by improved engineering practices. The City should continue to support the institutions, professional organizations, and individuals who carry out research in structural safety. Special attention should be paid to support and seek out research that identifies innovative and low-cost retrofit concepts. Once the City sets new acceptable safety levels, this research should support the engineering requirements to meet safety levels. Similarly, new techniques are continually developing to protect building occupants from poor and hazardous air quality, extreme storms and flooding, and pandemic.

POLICY 3.2.2.
Research and maintain information about all hazards, including adverse impacts on vulnerable communities.

The field of disaster research is growing in both scope and recognition. In recent decades, the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2019 are major examples. While research into disasters focused primarily on natural disasters through environmental management, newer research strains extend into terrorism and cyber failures, biological and chemical emergencies, and other community-wide crises. They encompass research components such as organizational response to disasters and the social ramifications of hazards, disasters, and large-scale terrorist attacks.

In addition to the science and management of all hazards, the field is increasingly aware of the disproportionate impact of disaster among different groups of people and the need to prioritize attention to the people most vulnerable to risks and consequences. As hazards occur more frequently, intensely, and simultaneously, it is often Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people who experience the impacts of disaster first and more severely, and who take longer to recover compared to the rest of the City. For some people, they have the resources and adaptive capacity to bear a disaster and recover to pre-disaster levels with relative ease. For vulnerable communities, there are higher risks, limited resources, and constrained adaptive capacity, meaning that research on all hazards should account for these dynamics of adverse impact and work to address these community needs.

The Department of Emergency Management should keep abreast of evolutions in this field of research, particularly as new threats emerge and as new methods of mitigating those are developed. The City should also continue grow its partnership with community response teams, such as the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network’s Empowered Communities Program (ECP). NERT is a community-based training program dedicated to a neighbor-helping-neighbor approach to disaster response. The NERT program trains volunteers to work as members of an emergency response team, preparing them to respond to a personal emergency or assistance to Fire Department response. ECP is a community development approach to neighborhood-level disaster resilience, empowering neighborhoods to develop and implement strategies that strengthen communities during hazard events.

POLICY 3.2.3.
Coordinate interagency Citywide efforts to assess the City’s vulnerabilities to multiple hazards, such as poor air quality, flooding, and extreme heat.

As the City continues to experience more extreme, more frequent, and more simultaneous hazards, the interagency climate resilience program should be empowered to assess the City’s vulnerabilities to a complex set of hazards. The City should develop a citywide assessment, at the neighborhood level, to generate baseline information around the vulnerabilities and consequences to all hazards. This assessment should include impacts on Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people, businesses and the economy, historical and cultural resources, and critical infrastructure. This assessment should support increasing public awareness for emergency preparedness. Currently, there is ClimateSF as an interagency collaboration to advance the City’s climate resilience activities, including the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning, Planning Department, Department of the Environment, the Port, and Public Utilities Commission.

POLICY 3.2.4.
Ensure foundations and structural systems are designed with consideration of site soils conditions when reviewing projects in areas subject to liquefaction, slope instability, sea level rise, groundwater rise, and other flood hazards.

The Building Code considers soil conditions at a very general scale. But, soil conditions vary enormously throughout the City. Different soil conditions can result in very different earthquake impacts and can result in damage at other times, such as with landslides. Because of the importance of soil conditions, the California Seismic Hazards Mapping Act requires that a geotechnical investigation and geotechnical report be prepared for new or renovated buildings that are constructed in Seismic Hazard Zones.

Pursuant to this act, the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) requires geotechnical reports prepared by a licensed geologist and geotechnical engineer for projects in areas with susceptibility to ground failure, including liquefaction and landslides. DBI has procedures in codes and bulletins identifying when projects are subjected to additional geotechnical review and requirements based on site conditions and/or proposed scope of work to support these efforts.

Additionally, there is ongoing research of the interaction of sea level rise and flood hazards with the potential mobilization of soil contamination.

POLICY 3.2.5.
Provide training, guidance, and assistance for the geotechnical and foundation issues unique to tall buildings.

In San Francisco, there is a unique concentration of tall buildings that are 240 feet or taller. These tall buildings have advanced and complex characteristics and demands for seismic safety. Their structural systems preclude generic performance assumptions and prescriptive engineering solutions, and they are increasingly being used to house residents.

Based on the Tall Buildings Study and Earthquake Safety Improvement Program, the City should implement mandatory training and guidance to property managers and tenants around the seismic safety of tall buildings, as well as offer assistance to improve the geotechnical and foundational issues in the event of an earthquake. The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) developed guidelines for preparing geotechnical and earthquake ground motion reports for the foundation design and construction of tall buildings. DBI also requires performance-based structural design reviews for buildings above 240 feet tall (and some building types above 160 feet tall), and they convene an engineering design review team of external consultants to review and advise on proposals of new tall buildings.

As tall buildings are increasingly being used for housing purposes, in addition to business purposes, the City should set up data monitoring to track building use and resident demographics in order to address additional vulnerabilities.

POLICY 3.2.6.
Consider hazard information during City decision-making processes about land use, building density, building configurations, and infrastructure.

Land use decisions should be made with hazards in mind. The Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and other City decision makers shall be aware of and consider hazards when making decisions that will affect the types and structures that will exist in the future, including existing and potential structures, land uses and their associated densities, transportation, and other infrastructure.

Changes to the General Plan, Area Plans, and Planning Code should take into consideration the prevalent disasters affecting the City and the effects they may have on the safety of future development. These considerations should balance with other environmental justice and community welfare concerns, ranging from safety to community health to economic security to quality of life.

In order to protect City property, building codes and technical knowledge must be as up to date as possible as new engineering expertise is gained. Keeping abreast of such information and technologies should be a priority for the City.

POLICY 3.2.7.
Monitor emerging industries like bioscience and other lab-based sectors, and ensure that state and local codes manage risks effectively.

The City has made it a goal to encourage the bioscience industry, as well as other lab-based industries, in the City because of its economic development potential. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is a generator of life science and bioscience companies, it and has made the Bay Area a center for the industry. The number of companies located or seeking space in the City is expected to grow.

Many medical research laboratories handle biological materials, which may generate radioactive or otherwise hazardous materials and waste. Because of this, bioscience and biotechnology lab facilities in the City are subject to hazardous materials safety regulation by the federal government, state government, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Firms are required to generate Hazardous Materials Business Plans including storage and secondary containment policies; Emergency Response Plans; and training plans to educate staff about handling and disposal. Currently, state and federal regulations are adequate and sufficient to govern bioscience activities. In addition, San Francisco has adopted more stringent threshold reporting requirements for labs resulting in greater local oversight.

Lab-based sectors such as bioscience are likely to evolve, and the functions of the firms located in the City may shift. The City should monitor these industries to ensure safety regulations continue to be applicable. The City should encourage performance-based design and engineering technologies to protect the safety of critical research projects, particularly if facilities are vulnerable to hazards.

Promote Green Building

POLICY 3.2.8.
During retrofits and new construction, prioritize building practices that emit lower greenhouse gasses and build resilience to multiple hazards at once, especially in Environmental Justice Communities.

When retrofitting existing construction and developing new construction, use the latest building practices to emit lower greenhouse gasses and increase resilience to multiple hazards at once. In Environmental Justice Communities, where there are disparities in the prevalence of safe, healthy, and affordable homes, it is especially important to prioritize low-carbon building practices without jeopardizing housing affordability. In addition to the latest building standards, pursue building electrification, urban greening, low-carbon building materials, weatherization, interactions with the public realm, and other green building practices.

POLICY 3.2.9.
Continue to promote green stormwater management techniques.

The City has an abundance of impervious surfaces. Buildings, streets, parking lots, and other paved surfaces prevent the absorption of rainfall, so low-lying areas of the City are particularly susceptible to flooding in heavy rains. In addition, urban stormwater runoff can be highly polluted, and pollutants that go down storm drains can have negative impacts on the sewer and storm system, contributing to system overflows. Natural systems can often be an effective supplement, helping to absorb the overflow and filter out pollutants from that runoff.

Building and site development should include natural systems wherever possible. Natural vegetation, landscaped swales, and gardens included in site designs can reduce, filter, or slow the spread of stormwater runoff. “Green streets” that include pervious concrete, planters, and landscaped strips adjacent to sidewalks can assist the City’s sewer discharge capabilities. Green roofs incorporated into buildings provide another method of absorption. Similarly, sustainable construction techniques can be used to mitigate against the effects of future disasters. Green building technologies now allow for buildings that can provide their own power and filter their own water from runoff. This helps reduce two problems associated with disasters, the need for power and the need for potable water.

The City needs bolstered flood control structures and flood proofing to respond to the anticipated impacts of extreme storms. To prepare, the Public Utilities Commission can continue upgrading the City sewer system, and also critical are more imaginative solutions, like capturing stormwater for irrigation, increasing urban forestry activities, and other green uses.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC REALM. Ensure the City’s lifeline systems, transportation and emergency response facilities, utilities, streets, public spaces, and coasts can withstand and adapt to all hazards.

Public Assets and Awareness

POLICY 3.3.1.
Reduce the risk of all hazards to community facilities and lifeline infrastructure, starting with Environmental Justice Communities.

For safety and resilience, community facilities and lifeline infrastructure serve as key assets in emergency management. Many types of community facilities can be areas for refuge and evacuation, storing and distributing disaster supplies, and providing critical services like medical care. Community facilities provide public services, such as public schools, childcare facilities, fire stations, police stations, recreation centers and parks, public and non-profit health facilities, libraries, arts and culture facilities, social welfare facilities, and facilities serving the homeless. In addition to facilities supported by the Community Facilities Element, the City can coordinate with other institutions such as private schools and places of worship. Identify the network of these facilities, assess their vulnerability and consequences to hazards, and create a set of strategies to mitigate harm so that these are available and functional to the community during disaster.

POLICY 3.3.2.
Identify and replace vulnerable infrastructure and critical service lifelines in high-risk areas.

In the event of a disaster, two of the most critical networks will be the City’s water system and its sewer and sanitation lines. Upgrades are already underway: the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and Public Works have ongoing programs to replace vulnerable water mains and sewers and to improve performance of the systems during earthquakes—by including system segmentation, safety shut-off systems, and redundant back-up systems or other methods of reducing damage—and providing alternative sources of service. SFPUC is undertaking a Water System Improvement Program to strengthen the Hetch Hetchy water transmission system against earthquake damage. A connecting pipeline is currently under construction to connect the region’s major water supply systems of the Hetch Hetchy, managed by the SFPUC, and the reservoirs in Calaveras, Amador, and Alpine counties managed by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which will enable water to be distributed from one Bay Area system to another in the case of failure. However, aging infrastructure in the City’s sewer and sanitation system is a concern—beyond ailing pipes, the City’s tunnels, pump stations, and treatment plants need upgrades and repairs. The San Francisco Sewer System Master Plan project currently underway at the SFPUC will eventually provide a detailed roadmap for these major improvements and provide a plan for funding these improvements.

Other upgrades underway include Pacific Gas and Electric’s seismic program replacing vulnerable gas lines, and Caltrans’ bridge and highway retrofit programs. BART is in the midst of a system wide seismic upgrade project; the City should lobby for continued seismic retrofit and disaster-resistance measures on our regional transportation systems such as Caltrans and AC Transit. More upgrades are needed to PG&E’s electric system to reduce the risk of service disruption to customers, including transmission improvements, replacement of vulnerable transformers, circuit breakers, and other at-risk components of the electric system. The City should require a specific plan detailing these improvements, and a timeline for their implementation.

POLICY 3.3.3.
Conduct capital planning to advance resilient infrastructure prioritizing life safety and functional recovery, as well as the needs of Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

In capital planning, incorporate environmental justice analysis of community facilities and other critical infrastructure that serve, impact, and are more used by Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people. Community facilities provide public services, such as public schools, child-care facilities, fire stations, police stations, recreation centers and parks, public and non-profit health facilities, libraries, arts and culture facilities, social welfare facilities, and facilities serving the homeless. With community outreach and engagement, listen to resident needs and priorities of their built environment and public realm. Explore how public infrastructure projects can limit environmental justice burdens and improve outcomes for active transportation, open space access, and climate resilience.

POLICY 3.3.4.
Where there are ongoing and known plans for future public infrastructure projects, consider prioritizing maintenance of public access and protecting the public rights-of-way above the needs of private property and development.

Public infrastructure projects often depend upon the system of public rights-of-way for accommodation. For this reason, the City should prioritize maintaining and protecting the public rights-of-way, above and below street level, for future public use. The City should refrain from issuing encroachment permits to private development without considering these priorities.

For certain public infrastructure projects to deliver lifeline and other public services, they can be so large and complex that they cross multiple jurisdictional boundaries and rights-of-way between public and private spaces. The City must protect the public-rights-of-way, especially above the needs of private development projects, to have a space to deliver public services. Ensure that private encroachment permits do not interfere with future public infrastructure projects.

POLICY 3.3.5.
Provide training, guidance, and assistance for nearby communities most impacted to potential threats and consequences to public assets and infrastructure within the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone.

In the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone, over six percent of the City’s land (about four square miles) could be inundated by temporary or permanent flooding by 2100. This will affect people, jobs, and vital infrastructure in the City. There are public assets and infrastructure like the Muni yard and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water stations that are at risk. The City should develop training, guidance, and assistance to communities in and adjacent to the vulnerability zone on how these assets may be affected and how their lives may be impacted. These resources should increase the City’s understanding of how sea level rise and inundation is a potential threat and consequence to the vulnerable communities; increase communities’ understanding of adaptation efforts underway; how to stay involved; increase adaptation capacity; and decrease disruptions in service.

Resilience to Future Hazards

POLICY 3.3.6.
Maintain research, monitoring, and guidance related to earthquakes, sea level rise, and flood hazards to inform a framework for future investments and development.

In San Francisco, earthquakes are the greatest hazard risk to life and property due to the San Andreas and Hayward Faults. Within the next 30 years, the probability of the San Francisco Bay region experiencing an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 is 72%. Unlike other hazards, earthquakes strike without warning. Even if the next earthquake was accurately predicted with a week’s warning, without advance planning and action, there are tens of thousands of seismically vulnerable buildings throughout the region that would be severely damaged or collapsed. On the other hand, sea level rise is a slow-moving threat that also demands immediate action. By 2030—without taking any adaptation actions—the City is at risk of sea level rise negatively impacting 5,000+ residents, 10,000+ jobs, 200+ acres of open space, and other communities, buildings, and assets.

The City needs to learn more about the evolving science of earthquakes, sea level rise, and flood hazards, monitor the impacts and potential threats to the people and assets of the City, and guide adaptation and response activities to these hazards. It is especially important to understand the interactions of these hazards, and with other hazards like biological hazards (e.g., hazardous materials), to inform effective investment and development of strategies for resilience.

POLICY 3.3.7.
Support the development and updates to building, planning, and other municipal code requirements that meet City climate and seismic resilience performance goals.

The design and construction methods used in buildings are critical to community safety and resilience. At regular intervals, use best practices to review and amend all relevant public codes to incorporate the most current knowledge of structural engineering regarding seismic risks; design and site new buildings considering flood and sea level rise elevations; and green building practices relative to best biologic and ecosystem processes.

Among U.S. cities in areas of very high seismic hazard, the City is unique because of its geography, urbanization, and reliance on public transportation. Current seismic codes ensure that new buildings are earthquake- and fire-resilient, and protect people inside buildings by preventing collapse and allowing for safe evacuation. However, current code requirements do not necessarily limit damage to a structure, or ensure its function post-earthquake. Damage to new buildings and developments can have magnified impacts that affect adjacent structures and the City’s lifelines.

A number of factors support the idea that new and retrofitted buildings in the City should be built for better seismic performance than the default level provided by the current Building Code. Consider creating tiered, “enhanced” levels of seismic performance that are performance-based by offering incentives such as priority processing (similar to a LEED certification for sustainable design).

There are additional nature-based solutions that support the built environment’s contribution to enhanced natural ecosystem function. Consider higher floor elevations, softscape and natural buffers, and other flood proofing approaches within the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Zone. Use the latest climate resilient expectations in the Building Code.

POLICY 3.3.8.
For new construction and public assets, consider resilience measures against future climate projections and other hazards, beyond current life safety expectations in building codes.

Many hazards, such as sea level rise and extreme heat, are occurring more frequently and intensely. The research shows nonlinear projections of how these hazards occur and impact the City. While building codes prioritize life safety and seek the latest best practices, the Safety & Resilience Element encourages resilience measures in new construction and public assets to act aggressively against all hazards and their future climate projections. As the climate crisis worsens, it is beneficial to act out of an abundance of caution to protect the safety and increase resilience of people and assets. The City encourages utilizing resilience measures that may not be reflected in building codes yet or may not yet have been applied.

POLICY 3.3.9.
Design and utilize open spaces considering their use as emergency gathering areas, floodable spaces, and ecosystem services, per the Recreation and Open Space Element.

For certain hazards, such as earthquakes, flooding, pandemic, and extreme heat, open spaces in the public realm can serve as critical spaces for emergency gathering (evacuation, shelter) and buffers (retreat). Per the Recreation and Open Space Element, design and utilize open spaces to act as emergency gathering areas that are low-risk, flexible use, and resilient. Additionally, these open spaces along and near the ocean and bay shorelines can serve as floodable spaces as part of nature-based solutions to sea level rise and flood hazards.

POLICY 3.3.10.
Identify and maintain emergency access areas and potential evacuation routes to support capacity for future emergencies and evacuations.

During certain disasters, the City must maintain an essential transportation network to facilitate disaster response and safety. Public Works maintains an Emergency Priority Route Map which is integrated into the Department of Emergency Management’s Emergency Response Plan. The map identifies a priority route network for City agencies to conduct damage assessment and maintain critical facilities and services post-disaster, such as a major earthquake.

For evacuation needs, the City must also maintain the safety and function of streets and roads to activate as evacuation routes and emergency access areas at any time. These transportation corridors will need to support an influx of users and maintain structural integrity and function during a large earthquake or other disaster. As part of identifying potential evacuation routes, the City must identify accessibility needs of people with limited mobility options and other vulnerable people, such as people with disability, access, and other functional needs.

Where known, consult with relevant authorities governing major transportation corridors and access areas to ensure all levels of government are aware of the current and future capacity expectations for safe evacuation. These activities should include sub-surface, ground, air, and water transportation routes.

SPECIFIC HAZARDS. Identify and pursue programs and projects that mitigate and safeguard against multiple hazards across multiple assets, especially for Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

POLICY 3.4.1.
Assess, mitigate, and provide holistic information about all hazards affecting the City, as identified in the Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan.

The City should advance research and understanding of all hazards and their impact to the people and assets of San Francisco. The Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan (HCR) serves as the City’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP). The City should work with the academic community, appropriate government agencies, and other stakeholders to assess the threat and impact of the 13 main hazards to the City. Coordinate this basic research with the appropriate data clearinghouses in the City that relate to achieving racial and social equity, public awareness, and informing decisions around capital planning and development.

These hazards include geologic hazards (earthquake, tsunami, landslide, and dam or reservoir failure), weather-related hazards (flooding, high wind, extreme heat, and drought), fire-related hazards (large urban fire, wildfire, and poor air quality), and biologic and toxic hazards (pandemic and hazardous materials).These hazards can include the latest emerging hazards that may not be reflected in the Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan, such as sea level rise and noise pollution.

POLICY 3.4.2.
Protect against the risks of using, storing, and transporting hazardous materials and increase public awareness, particularly in areas prone to seismic and flooding risks.

The City should coordinate with the appropriate regulatory and monitoring agencies for the use, storage, and transportation of hazardous materials. The location of hazardous materials, existing and potential, should be in areas resilient to seismic and flooding hazards to minimize the spread as an environmental pollutant and threat to public health. Where hazardous materials are close to people, and critical assets like the water table, the public should be notified and empowered to seek more information and resources to protect health and safety.

POLICY 3.4.3.
Educate the public about hazardous materials procedures, including transport, storage, and disposal.

Hazardous materials include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive substances (CBRNE). Accidents such as toxic releases from facilities and vehicles, fires and explosions caused by chemical releases, and oil spills in the bay are not uncommon. There is also increasing awareness and research about the mobility of hazardous materials during inundation and flood hazards, particularly towards the groundwater table. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated that an average of 60,000 accidents and over 200 deaths involving chemicals occur in this country every year. The City should support research about the interaction of toxic substances with groundwater threats.

Several of the City’s agencies provide businesses and residents with information about safe disposal of hazardous materials, primarily the Fire Department and Department of Public Health. The City’s Fire Department is responsible for administering local safety regulations for business operating with hazardous materials, and it is the first responder to chemical and hazardous spill accidents. The Fire Department is also the point of contact for risk/hazard assessments, capability assessments, and detailed response planning. The Department of Public Health enforces state and City environmental health laws, including hazardous materials storage; issues hazardous materials use permits; and investigates illicit discharge and disposal of hazardous materials.

For common CBRNE hazards at the household-level, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) educates the community about their indicators and safe disposal methods. The Public Utilities Commission also provides residents and businesses with information (through ads and website resources) on how to properly dispose of hazardous materials including waste oils, such as motor oil.

POLICY 3.4.4.
Develop a plan for supporting Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people during Sheltering-in-Place activities, to protect from poor and hazardous air quality, pandemic, and other hazards.

During a disaster, sheltering in place may be necessary to social distance, prevent the spread of disease, protect from threats to health and safety, and support public health. Sheltering In Place requires safe, healthy, and affordable housing be available to all. It limits the ability for people to conduct their routine behaviors for living and working, such as grocery shopping, going to work, and going outdoors for physical and mental health. The City should develop a plan for supporting Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people during shelter in place, including assessing information and resource needs, culturally competent communication, outreach of public services, and disaster supplies.

POLICY 3.4.5.
Prepare for efficient and equitable responses to medical emergencies and pandemics.

On January 21, 2020, the City activated its Emergency Operations Center to support the response to COVID-19 and coordinate with active Department Operations Centers. Mayor Breed’s early decision to proclaim a local emergency was instrumental to San Francisco’s ultimate success responding to the pandemic, allowing City agencies to enact emergency procedures that helped save lives. As of December 2021, the City continued to have the lowest cumulative per capita COVID-19 mortality rate among other large jurisdictions.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Response After Action Report outlined the strengths of the City’s response and suggested further updates to enhance the City’s emergency response plan. In addition to early and rapid action, the City’s successful response can be attributed to the unified priorities, pooled resources, and clear communications that came from the coordinated COVID Command Center, as well as the flexibility and capacity provided by the Disaster Service Workers. Specifically, improvements should focus on increasing racial and social equity in the community, improving the City’s Disaster Service Worker program, and providing further clarity and streamlining to both the organization of response services and procurement of disaster supplies.

For all future pandemics and other medical emergencies, the City should create an advance plan to prepare for a similarly successful early and rapid response. This plan should include the disease testing and response capacity of hospitals; disaster supply needs at the household, neighborhood, and citywide level; community health capacity of community facilities; and accessibility capacity of public information. The City should ensure the public is kept well informed about evolving information regarding the public health emergency. The City should ensure systems are in place to ensure continuity of public services, such as public transportation and utilities service with staff absences. The City should solidify plans to ensure access to a stockpile of emergency services to use and distribute, such as medicine and protective equipment.

POLICY 3.4.6.
Assess and mitigate the risk of flooding by incorporating the Flood Insurance Rate Map for San Francisco and related programs.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides low-cost flood insurance for communities that adopt floodplain management programs to help mitigate flood losses and damages. FEMA uses the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to identify areas with 1% annual chance of flooding, and it uses this as the basis for insurance rating.

FEMA approved the City’s application for participation in the NFIP in April 2010, and subsequently, the City has amended the 2008 Floodplain Management Ordinance in order to meet NFIP requirements. The established flood damage reduction program provides homeowners and other property owners the opportunity to purchase federally-subsidized flood insurance at affordable rates. FEMA issued a preliminary FIRM for San Francisco in 2007. The final map and ordinance was adopted in 2020.

The Floodplain Management Ordinance requires the first floor of structures in flood zones to be constructed above the floodplain or to be flood-proofed with variances for exceptional circumstances. The map, as proposed, would designate portions of waterfront piers, Mission Bay, Bayview Hunters Point, Hunters Point Shipyard, Candlestick Point, and Treasure Island in coastal flood hazard zones, which may have implications for development plans and insurance requirements in those areas.

To mitigate against potential risks, the City should maintain NFIP participation and use the information provided by FEMA to engage in additional floodplain improvements to at-risk areas. The City should continue to implement ordinance requirements for new construction, address flood hazards in wastewater projects, and pursue ordinance requirements for substantial improvements projects located in Special Flood Hazard Areas.

POLICY 3.4.7.
Support retrofitting measures for historic buildings vulnerable to current or future flooding, while respecting architectural and historic character, consistent with pertinent local or federal design guidelines.

Consistent with design guidelines at the local and federal levels, address the unique retrofitting measures required for historic buildings that are vulnerable to sea level rise and flood hazards. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior issued flood mitigation design guidelines for historic properties, and the City can explore additional design guidelines that respect the architectural and historic character that is vulnerable to damage.


Goal 4. Emergency Preparedness

Ensure San Francisco’s residents, workers, and visitors have the knowledge, capacity, and government support needed to be safe in the face of disasters. The City must be prepared to respond quickly and effectively in the case of a disaster. In order to meet the needs of its people and assets after a disaster, response, recovery, and reconstruction plans must be prepared in advance to the extent possible. The City must have the coordination necessary to execute them rapidly. In addition to readying its own agencies and departments, the City must ensure all people are aware and prepared for the possibility of disaster. State and local emergency responders advise people to be prepared for a minimum of 72 hours of self-sufficiency after a large earthquake. Achieving preparedness is even more critical for vulnerable populations and those in geographic areas and building types that are more vulnerable to earthquake damage.

AWARENESS AND CAPACITY BUILDING. Increase the understanding and training of equitable emergency preparedness to all hazards among all government, private, and public sectors.

POLICY 4.1.1.
Provide ongoing emergency preparedness and response training to all City employees and other responding agencies.

Under state law, all public employees are designated Disaster Service Workers. At any time during an emergency that results in conditions of disaster or in extreme peril to life, property, and resources, City employees could be assigned to any disaster service activity that promotes the protection of public health and safety. The Department of Human Resources (DHR) manages the City’s Disaster Service Worker Program, which includes mandatory training for all City employees. The Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is responsible for ensuring that City employees are trained to perform as needed under the City’s emergency plans.

The City should also continue to hold multi-agency drills on a regular basis to test and refine emergency plans. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Disaster Service Worker Program was a vital source of staffing for the Emergency Operations Center and for responding to community needs. DHR, in consultation with DEM and other City agencies, should continue to refine the Disaster Service Worker program so that is deployed equitably continues to be used effectively to bring response activities to the community.

POLICY 4.1.2.
Promote greater public awareness of disaster risks, personal and business risk reduction, and personal and neighborhood emergency response.

People and organizations that are well informed about possible disasters can take effective private measures to reduce their vulnerability to risks. They can also increase their effectiveness in responding to a disaster and helping others when public agencies are overwhelmed. Several of the City’s agencies, including the Department of Emergency Management, the Fire Department, the Police Department, Public Works, and the Department of Building Inspection, provide information to the public on what to do in a disaster. As an example, the Fire Department administers the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) to deliver on these goals. The Department of Building Inspection maintains a list of earthquake information and emergency power shut down information at its public reception and on its website.

However, information access can be increased beyond these sources, especially to reach populations who may be less familiar with the City system and are less frequent visitors to City buildings. Materials should be placed in everyday materials such as newspapers; alternative venues such as social clubs, community facilities, or service agencies; and distributed via mobile sources at gatherings such as fairs and festivals. Information should be available in large print and on audio cassette for the visually impaired, as well as in a variety of non-English languages.

POLICY 4.1.3.
Create a consolidated website linking all the City’s disaster-related information for the public and ensure distribution of the information through offline outreach that is accessible and equitable to all people.

Just as the responsibilities for disaster planning programs is distributed among many agencies and departments within the City, the related information about those programs and operations is dispersed. Much information is housed within the agencies responsible, and it can be difficult for the layperson to access all the information that exists.

The City should utilize technology to redress this issue—a simple solution would be to bring together all the varied information that exists into one website. This site should contain links to hazard maps of geologic hazards and soil conditions; to the City’s adopted emergency response plans and other related plans and documents; to programs such as Building Occupancy Resumption Program (BORP) and Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT); to programs for property owners, incentives, and other action items; and to information about emergency services and locations. It should map relevant public information such as drinking areas, evacuation routes, emergency transport pick-up locations and locations of Public Information Centers to be set up in an emergency.

This consolidated website should be accessible to equitably reach all people, through availability on both web and mobile platforms, translation into many non-English languages, and accessible to screen readers.

POLICY 4.1.4.
For pandemic preparedness, develop a framework of healthcare management that combines the City’s physical assets with social and management tools to better respond to public health emergencies.

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed society overnight. It rapidly altered how people interacted with one other and the built environment, as society wrestled with how to apply public health principles to stop the spread of the virus and prevent further loss of life. Building on these lessons from COVID-19, as well as other infectious diseases, the City should develop a comprehensive framework of healthcare management that includes physical and intangible resources to maximize public health outcomes. For physical assets, there are medical institutions, public infrastructure, and land use patterns. For intangible resources, there is social cohesion (strength of relationships and sense of solidarity among community members), trust in government, and socio-cultural factors. These two groups of assets can be managed holistically to manage the transmission and control of infectious disease and maximize public health outcomes.

CITY AGENCY CAPABILITIES. Plan for the operational, data, and logistical capacities needed to facilitate community safety during the response, recovery, and reconstruction phases of all hazards.

Water and Energy

POLICY 4.2.1.
Ensure potable water is available in an emergency.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has various strategies for supplying and/or distributing alternative water supplies during an emergency. Emergency disinfection may be necessary. The California Department of Public Health has issued guidelines for the use of alternate water sources and the issuance of Unsafe Water Alerts and Boil Water Orders. Usage of alternative water supplies will require coordination with appropriate agencies, such as San Francisco Department of Public Health, California Department of Public Health, San Francisco Fire Department, and others.

At the supply and source level, SFPUC has redundancy of sources under the operational responsibilities of Water Enterprise and Operating Divisions. These include Upcountry reservoirs, East Bay reservoirs, Peninsula reservoirs, and local groundwater. At the treatment level, SFPUC has plans and procedures for responding to treatment issues and disruptions. At the distribution level, SFPUC maintains a range of equipment and procedures for alternate delivery. Equipment includes water trailers, portable disinfection units, and 40 hydrant distribution manifolds. Manifolds, water trailers, and other equipment is stored at either CDD Corporation Yard or storage facility at University Mound. Bottled water is identified as a needed alternate water strategy, and supplies and distribution points would be coordinated and acquired at the City Emergency Operations Center level, through citywide logistics.

The SFPUC has installed 6 groundwater wells on the westside of San Francisco. The groundwater wells currently pump less than 1 million gallons per day (mgd) and is expected to increase to 4 mgd by 2030. Additionally, SFPUC is studying the opportunity to produce and serve purified water in San Francisco.

POLICY 4.2.2.
Ensure renewable energy sources are available for redundant energy in the event of an emergency.

More frequently, the threat of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) is affecting San Francisco. The increased frequency of wildfires occurring at the regional and state levels pressure PG&E to turn off power lines during high winds or dry conditions. Fortunately, San Francisco is less likely to experience a PSPS compared to other jurisdictions due to the lower likelihood of wind-induced fire events with the City and its location on the transmission grid. However, the disruption in energy service is an inconvenience and threat to wellbeing that should be addressed through resilience of the energy grid.

There are many people who rely on continuous, affordable energy for their health and safety, such as storing life-saving medication and motorized wheelchairs. There are also public assets and infrastructure that relies on energy for safety and function, such as broadband internet and traffic lights. PSPS events occur due to a number of potential hazards, such as high winds, drought, and wildfire. The City should pursue strategies for redundant energy sources and use in the event of an emergency, and seek renewable sources of energy that do not contribute to the climate crisis. The City should continue to work with relevant government agencies, the private sector, and other stakeholders to assess capacity to generate, store, and distribute renewable energy for essential lifeline and recovery activities.

POLICY 4.2.3.
Continue to expand the City’s fire department prevention and firefighting capability with sufficient personnel and training.

The City faces risk from fires associated with earthquakes. A great number of structures were lost in the 1906 earthquake, not due to the ground shaking itself, but because of the spread of fires that were difficult to battle in the aftermath of the quake. Fires continue to be a great threat, particularly in densely developed areas.

The supplemental water supply systems have been extended and strengthened since the Loma Prieta earthquake, including the Auxiliary Water Supply System, the Portable Water Supply System, cisterns, Bay water suction devices, and fire boats. Staffing and equipment needs of the Fire Department must be foreseen in advance and met. The City needs to improve water supply systems to cover those neighborhoods not served by the Auxiliary Water Supply.

The Fire Department should consider expanding the scope and training of Neighborhood Emergency Response Training (NERT) to include fire suppression, fire reporting, and other neighborhood recovery assistance, and consider coordination with neighborhood-level disaster planning.

Disaster Response

POLICY 4.2.4.
Ensure the City’s designated system of emergency access routes is coordinated with regional activities for both emergency operations and evacuation.

After a large earthquake or other disaster, it is likely that many streets will be impassable. This will make firefighting and other emergency response actions more difficult, hinder the movement of people, and interfere with debris removal and other short-term recovery activities. In order to support post-disaster transportation movement, Public Works has developed priority routes for opening during an emergency or disaster. These routes include routes which connect fire and police stations, hospitals, and other critical facilities; routes to emergency drinking water distribution sites and City shelters; and routes to staging areas for disaster service work around the City. These routes enable the necessary clearance width for emergency vehicles and support trucks, and they have been prioritized for debris clearance immediately following a disaster.

The City should ensure that the regional sequence of clearance activities is coordinated to connect with these priority routes, and that the route openings are well-timed to sync with the opening of bridges and regional highways. This coordination can be directed using information from the Transportation Management Center (TMC) staffed by Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, and MTC, specifically its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which was created for procedural disaster management. In addition, the Regional Emergency Operations Center (REOC) Transportation Branch will distribute a transportation service plan which shall include information related to regional evacuation and route openings. For Caltrans District 4, the EOC is activated to serve as the central location to manage and coordinate responses to major incidents/disasters affecting State transportation facilities.

POLICY 4.2.5.
Utilize the City’s and region's transit network to facilitate response and recovery during and after a disaster.

The transit network—bus, rail, freight rail, transit, ferry, and air—will be a critical component of response during a disaster. As dependence on cars will not work well in a state of emergency, the transit network will be a critical component of response during a disaster. The City’s vehicular network is limited by bridges and freeways with little redundancy; damage caused by the event to roadway networks, security considerations, and traffic control may require the restriction of private automobile use for months after the event. As of 2022, one in five residents in San Francisco does not have access to a personal vehicle and will require public transportation to access essential services. The transit network provides safe and efficient use of resources and is capable of moving significant numbers of people and equipment with relatively few resources. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has emergency reserves of fuel and is able to continue operations even when the region faces significant disruption.

Transit may be used in emergency situations to move emergency workers and deliver equipment to sites. Evacuation plans should incorporate public transportation to efficiently evacuate people quickly and efficiently without snarling roadways and impeding emergency operations.

Immediately following a disaster, the City should utilize its transit network to restore mobility—to help bring evacuees back to their neighborhoods, to move daily workers to jobs, and to resume day-to-day life. Coordinated transit services can be used to provide long-range links across counties. Additional temporary transportation improvements such as limited stop buses, bus-only lanes, and the addition of high-occupancy vehicle lanes may help relieve overtaxed freeway segments. The clear conveyance of route information and service maps, such as real-time road safety conditions and available public transit options, can help connect riders to services.

The Bay Area region, under the leadership of a task force that includes the CalOES, Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Bay Area transportation agencies, has developed a Trans Response Plan (TRP). The TRP sets out a framework for a coordinated, multi-modal, and timely response by Bay Area transportation providers to a major earthquake or other significant emergency in the region. The resulting procedures are tested on an annual basis through tabletop or functional exercises. The procedures have also been integrated into individual operator emergency plans so that the regional response can be automatically invoked, if needed.

The City, in cooperation with MTC, also has plans that address immediate emergency transportation needs, and the day-to-day transportation routes that will need to be reinstated in order for the region’s activities to resume. The Transportation Coordination and Recovery Plan (TCRP) focuses on emergency transportation, evacuations, and the movement of emergency workers. The Regional Transportation Emergency Management Plan (RTEMP) addresses how agencies will coordinate with each other to assist with the movement needs of the public following a major disaster. Together, the two plans are expected to result in a single, unified program to direct the region’s transportation resources.

CITYWIDE COOPERATION. Create proactive plans and programs to prepare readiness and coordination for all disasters.

Emergency Management

POLICY 4.3.1.
Bolster the Department of Emergency Management’s role as the City’s provider of emergency planning and communication, and prioritize its actions to meet the needs of San Francisco.

The Department of Emergency Management (DEM) has responsibility for developing the City’s Emergency Response Plan, annexes, and other emergency plan elements; supporting the coordination of the response and recovery agencies; providing emergency training opportunities; conducting and advising on functional and discussion-based exercises, coordinating activities with regional, State and federal agencies; and maintaining the Emergency Operations Center. This agency must be maintained at an appropriate level, with sufficient personnel and resources to carry out these tasks.

The agency also manages Homeland Security Grants disbursed by the federal government. In recent years, the City has been the recipient of a significant amount of homeland security funds, most of which were targeted for urban centers. In the future, DEM should work with the state to improve its homeland security spending, to ensure that grant money can be effectively utilized and will not revert back to the federal government.

POLICY 4.3.2.
Support the Emergency Operations Center and continue maintenance of alternative operations centers in the case of an emergency.

The City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is designed to serve as a secure well-equipped location for centralized communications and direction. This center houses the Department of Emergency Management, including its Division of Emergency Communication, and consolidates 911 calls and Fire, Police, and Medical Dispatch. It is managed by the Department of Emergency Management.

However, emergency centers may be destroyed or rendered inaccessible in a major catastrophe. The City should prepare for this possibility in advance, by ensuring duplication of information and systems in multiple locations, by identifying alternative sites for temporary EOCs, and by establishing a mobile command center with the necessary technology and information infrastructure for flexible operations.

POLICY 4.3.3.
Ensure all response plans are coordinated with the Disaster Council.

The San Francisco Disaster Council is the City’s central body for emergency planning, and it has been accredited by the California Emergency Council. The Disaster Council is codified by the San Francisco Administrative Code, Chapter 7. The Disaster Council is chaired by the Mayor and composed of the Director of Emergency Services, key department heads and City officials, three members of the Board of Supervisors, and representatives of private organizations having official emergency responsibilities. The Council reviews the efforts of the Emergency Response Planning Task Force and recommends emergency actions such as mutual aid plans and for adoption by the Board of Supervisors.

In order to coordinate the actions of the various agencies throughout the City, the Disaster Council should serve as a central repository for all hazard mitigation, preparedness, and response and recovery activities. The Disaster Council, through its contact with the State Emergency Council and the several local disaster councils within this metropolitan area, can ensure that the work of the City is coordinated with those of the surrounding region. All actions recommended by the Safety & Resilience Element, and developed in other efforts or documents, should be brought forth to the Disaster Council for their review and approval.

POLICY 4.3.4.
Maintain and implement a comprehensive, current Emergency Response Plan with neighborhood-level detail on equitable implementation to guide the response to disasters.

The Emergency Response Plan (ERP) ensures that the roles of City agencies and others are well defined, in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations. The ERP utilizes an all-hazards approach to emergency planning and encompasses all natural and human-made hazards applicable to the City. Specifically, the ERP identifies and describes City interactions with regional, state, and federal entities; the role of the San Francisco Emergency Operations Center (EOC); and the coordination that occurs between the EOC and City agencies. The ERP should include the responsibilities of Equity Officers and neighborhood-level planning to ensure equitable outreach. There should be periodic functional and discussion-based exercises of the ERP to test plans and identify gaps in emergency management practices.

POLICY 4.3.5.
Maintain and implement the San Francisco Disaster Debris Management Plan.

The City’s Emergency Response Plan includes a response strategy, identifying post-disaster debris management as a key function. The Post Disaster Debris Management Plan establishes a strategy for removal and disposal of disaster debris. Designating appropriate temporary and permanent disposal sites as part of this plan is critical for long-term land use planning.

Post-disaster, the Plan aims to incorporate existing waste ordinances, diverting as much waste as possible from landfills though reuse and recycling. All vegetative debris should be composted; metals should be recycled; other wastes should be separated and reused or recycled wherever possible. Disaster recycling programs seeks to follow the City’s recycling program already in place, so as not to require new permits or other legal permission to be developed. The City should develop clear guidelines to direct businesses and residents as they deal with their own debris and trash removal after the disaster.


POLICY 4.3.6.
Utilize advance technology to enhance communication capabilities in preparation for all phases of a disaster, particularly in the high-contact period immediately following a disaster.

Reducing the impacts of natural and technological hazards requires extraordinary cooperation and coordination among City agencies, and between departments and other governments and non-government agencies. During the immediate response period, the City will need to determine the extent and location of damage, marshal resources for response, provide information to the public, and provide critically needed services to the affected populations. The Division of Emergency Communications of the Department of Emergency Management maintains responsibility for coordinating communication among emergency responders, private partners, and people in San Francisco to ensure an effective and successful emergency operations system.

The City currently uses technologies such as geographic information systems and global positioning to allow wide access to everyday information, and is extending these networks to enhance disaster communication. The City has developed an emergency text-message alerting system, AlertSF, which delivers disaster notifications to registered users, and allows users to access neighborhood specific information. It has reestablished the World War II-era sirens to provide alerts, and it is further upgrading the system to broadcast voice instructions for responding to an emergency. There is the 311 City phone service, where callers will get assistance from an agent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will provide real-time instructions during an actual emergency.

Continuing advances in technology and information systems will enable information to be more widely, quickly, and reliably. Under the direction of CalOES, the City should keep abreast of these advances and utilize them to bolster the existing local information network. The Department of Technology and Office of Economic and Workforce Development should explore opportunities to use technology to keep all people informed during an emergency, using the full potential of rapid, online, and offline communications mediums. The City should ensure redundant networks exist to communicate at all levels, to internal staff and emergency response personnel, to convey public information, to ensure communication with special needs populations such as the hearing impaired or non-English speakers.

The City should explore work to improve inter-departmental communications during a disaster. The City’s police, fire and most other agencies are on the same radio system, but other agencies such as the City’s Municipal Railway and the California Highway Patrol use separate systems. The City should work internally to coordinate the radio frequencies used for its various agencies to aid smoother communications during a disaster. The public safety agencies throughout the Bay Area use a varied network of radio frequencies and equipment, making direct intercommunication difficult. The City should also coordinate with other municipalities to coordinate frequencies across the Bay Area, perhaps using a model similar to that used by the San Diego area, where a regional radio communications network links all of the areas public safety agencies.

POLICY 4.3.7.
Enhance communications with other jurisdictions.

Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) are regional entities set up to enhance coordination among adjacent municipalities. LEPCs are comprised of representatives from local government, the fire service, law enforcement, the local community, and industry; and they are intended to facilitate the coordination and flow of mutual aid. CalOES Coastal Regional Branch-Mutual Aid Region 2 is the LEPC for the San Francisco Bay Area and nearby counties.

The City is acting as the lead agency to develop a Regional Emergency Coordination Plan (RECP) to help the Coastal Region CalOES address gaps in regional emergency plans. The plan will detail how the communities which make up the LEPC will work together on evacuation, housing and transportation of displaced people. It also will outline how medical professionals will interact and how to cope with threats to the water supply, among other issues. Once complete, the City should utilize this plan as a basis for emergency operations issues that transcend City boundaries, such as emergency transportation, evacuation, and the movement of emergency workers.

Public Safety

POLICY 4.3.8.
Plan to address safety and violence issues that may arise post-disaster, and balance these issues with the other demands that will be placed on public safety personnel as emergency response providers.

Violence in the community, including looting and rioting, can occur in the aftermath of disaster. Desperate situations, such as being without food or being stranded with no expectation of rescue, can lead to despair and risky personal actions. Experts state that perceptions of widespread community violence are often based on misinformation, citing human tendency to misread crowds as more malevolent than they really are.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that efforts to prevent violence after a natural disaster should focus on supporting the physical and emotional needs of individuals and families as well as restoring community-based services. De-escalation training should be provided to all City employees and volunteer emergency responders. San Francisco recently started a program called, Street Crisis Team, that sends Fire and Health teams to respond to behavioral issues, instead of police. Similar programs should be pursued to prioritize the deployment of police officers for interventions where they are most needed.

During a disaster, police will be needed for public safety including activities such as search-and-rescue activities, directing traffic, or dealing with other emergency duties. Police response must be coordinated so that it can respond to both social and physical needs in the face of disaster. Law enforcement agencies, including the San Francisco Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, agency forces such as San Francisco Municipal Railway Police Department, and institutional agencies such as the San Francisco Community College District Police Department, should work to ensure better organization among agencies, so that their magnitude can be leveraged towards the many services that will be required. The City should also maintain relationships with state and federal level peacekeepers that may be needed in an emergency, such as the Coast Guard and National Guard. Finally, security forces should establish communication with Disaster Service Workers to mobilize civilians if necessary to support their efforts.


POLICY 4.3.9.
Develop and maintain mutual aid agreements with local, regional, and state governments as well as other relevant agencies.

Many state and local governments and private nonprofit organizations enter into mutual aid agreements to provide emergency assistance to each other in the event of disasters or other crises. The California Master Mutual Aid Agreement has been adopted by the City, as well as most cities and counties in the state. This agreement creates a formal structure for giving and receiving assistance in emergency situations. The City should expand its network of mutual aid beyond local governments to include relevant agencies such as transit providers, utilities, volunteer agencies and professional organizations for groups like health workers and emergency managers. Numerous agencies and businesses may have resources—facilities, trained staff, transportation or equipment—that can be valuable in emergencies. The City should pursue Memorandums of Understanding or other contracts with any local agencies or businesses that can be identified as resources, including the Unified School District. Discipline-specific mutual aid agreements, such as those for public works, engineering, or public information, may also be useful.

POLICY 4.3.10.
Continue coordination with water transit agencies, ferries, and private boat operators to facilitate water transportation as emergency transport.

Water transit can provide vital transportation support in response to a natural or human-made disaster. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, ferries were heralded for providing much-needed commute service and moving goods. Commercial boats can supplement the role of ferries in evacuating people and provide transit to emergency personnel and equipment in reaching disaster sites.

Vessels must be quickly deployed where most needed, and the response needs to be coordinated with land transit providers to get evacuees to/from the shoreline. The Trans Response Plan (TRP) includes a Regional Maritime Contingency Plan, which aims to establish this coordination through its guidelines and procedures for utilizing the Bay’s waters in the recovery phase of a major disaster.

The Water Emergency Transit Authority (WETA) manages the Emergency Water Transportation System Management Plan which lays out emergency response and communication procedures in the case of an emergency. WETA also has plans to add seven new routes through its Ferry Implementation and Operations Plan, and will add a number of new boats and terminals. The increase in capacity gained by these new improvements would allow the Bay Area’s ferries to carry over 20,000 trips per hour during a response to disaster, which is almost the evacuation capacity provided during the Loma Prieta earthquake by ferries. The City should support these plans and should ensure coordination is in place. While existing public transportation ferry services within the Bay Area are being transitioned to WETA management and ownership, the City should coordinate with private operators not yet transitioned to WETA, with the aim of establishing emergency aid agreements for the boats as well as the operators in the case of need.

POLICY 4.3.11.
Ensure the City’s plan for medical response is coordinated with its privately-owned hospitals.

The Department of Public Health is the City’s lead health response agency in the event of a hazard that leads to a major health emergency. They should continue efforts to coordinate with Bay Area private hospitals, community-based clinics, and community-based organizations in the Bay Area.

POLICY 4.3.12.
Develop agreements with private facilities to ensure immediate supply needs can be met.

Supplies that may be critical and in short supply after a disaster include food, water, medical supplies. Hospitals and service providers may also have difficulty in obtaining replacement equipment and medication. The City should coordinate agreements with private facilities such as hospitals, private schools, and warehouses to ensure that reasonable quantities of these necessities can be made available to the City and its people in case of a disaster. The City should also maintain its up-to-date list of rental agreements, for use of temporary supplies and facilities should they be necessary.

POLICY 4.3.13.
Develop partnerships with private businesses, public service organizations and local nonprofits to meet disaster-time needs.

The City should seek opportunities to partner with private sector businesses and organizations where possible. For example, drug stores can be used to distribute medical supplies and pharmaceuticals during emergencies. Medical institutions and university health centers can be set up to provide medical treatment such as inoculations in the event of a chemical or biological emergency.

Private and community-based organizations can assist with recovery activities, and in the dissemination of disaster information. The American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, as well as numerous local groups, can be supportive partners in providing emergency shelter, food, clothing, and physical and mental health support. The City’s relationships with these agencies and organizations should be mutually supportive. Local services, particularly in lower-income areas, such as food banks, senior centers, childcare centers, may be ill-prepared to cope with disaster. The City should assist in developing support networks for these organizations, providing them with employee response training, assisting them in securing insurance coverage and helping to develop contingency plans for their continued operations post-disaster.

GOVERNANCE AND COLLABORATION. Increase the City’s collective capacity to improve safety and resilience outcomes through effective collaboration among peer agencies, the private sector, and the public sector.

POLICY 4.4.1.
Develop centralized strategies for City safety and resilience functions that hold individual agencies accountable for their roles in disaster planning, coordination, decision-making, funding, cost-sharing, implementation, and risk allocation.

The City must be prepared to deliver life safety and functional recovery services at all times. Beyond basic life-safety functions, critical government programs need to continue in the aftermath of disaster. While it is incumbent on each City agency to do their own planning, centralizing plans across departments is needed to ensure that efforts by individual departments complement each other and provide a continuous service to the public. These centralized strategies need to systematically ensure advanced planning results in the proper preparation activities, disaster response activities, and adjustments necessary for life safety and functional recovery. These strategies must also include securing dedicated funding essential to a sustained effort with program longevity and consistent engagement and outreach to connect with the private and public sectors.

POLICY 4.4.2.
Align safety and resilience work by regional, state, federal, and tribal government bodies to expand the reach and strength of local government support in the face of all hazards.

Actions that the City take should be consistent with regional, state, and federal plans and projections. the City should take steps to assist these larger governmental agencies in meeting local needs. The City can pursue cooperative actions with other jurisdictions such as recommending localized and evidence-based strategies, exploring policy advocacy and funding opportunities for alignment, and developing mutual aid agreements.

POLICY 4.4.3.
Form effective and clear partnerships with non-government bodies, such as community organizations, institutions, private companies, and development partners to reach all people, especially Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people.

When a disaster strikes, the “all hands on deck” response requires advance collaboration and partnerships across agencies, sectors, and jurisdictions. The overall response provided by government agencies, the private sector, and the public sector must be evidence-based, timely and proportional, multi-objective, and well measured and quantified. The long-term capacity-building partnerships with major institutions, like hospitals and universities, private development partners, and community-based organizations, will support response, recovery, and reconstruction activities meeting the highest resilience strategies.

The response, recovery, and reconstruction strategies must be based on strong, local evidence in order to reach all people at the neighborhood-by-neighborhood or block-by-block level. The strategies must be acutely aware that the climate crisis is an emergency that is already impacting communities and the environment, and so there is urgent and transformative actions needed. The strategies must be developed around racial and social equity and long-term sustainability, and they must be tracked as close to real-time as possible, so that adjustments and recalibration can be made in an informed way.


Goal 5. Response

Provide San Francisco residents, workers, and visitors with the essential support and services needed immediately following a disaster for life safety and functional recovery. The first days after a disaster make up the response phase. Immediate response will focus on saving life and property damaged by the disaster and restoring functional recovery. The City has a network of emergency response strategies in place. The response activities will provide aid for the community, stabilization of day-to-day conditions, and support reestablishment of the critical economic welfare, social networks, and emotional well-being of the City.

LIFELINES. Provide critical information and services to prevent further loss of life and establish community safety during the immediate aftermath of disasters.

POLICY 5.1.1.
Ensure the City’s lifeline systems are constantly maintained to be in a state of good repair.

In 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) launched an initiative to maintain the nation’s bus and rail systems. With state of good repair, there are well maintained and reliable bus and rail systems that provide safe, dependable, and accessible services at a full level of performance. These initiatives include having an inventory of all assets; reporting their performance and performance restrictions; and managing assets for preservation, maintenance, and operation.

As example, the transportation system is infrastructure essential to disaster response, such as serving as evacuation routes to move people out of harm’s way and limit further loss of life. It is important that the transportation system is maintained to be in a state of good repair, meaning it remains in function or can soon return to function immediately after a catastrophic event. The City should coordinate with relevant government agencies, such as Caltrans and Federal Transit Administration, to preserve and expand transportation investments and financing for a well-maintained and reliable transportation infrastructure.

In San Francisco, the City can extend state of good repair principles to all lifeline systems. Lifelines are systems and facilities that provide services vital to the function of society and are important to the emergency response, recovery, and reconstruction after disaster. These systems and facilities include communication (phone, radio, television, internet), power (electric, fuel, gas), transportation (airports, highways, ports, rail, transit), water and wastewater, and more.

To extend to other lifeline systems, the City should pursue an inventory, reporting system, and asset management plan to ensure the City’s lifeline systems and facilities are constantly maintained to be in a state of good repair.

POLICY 5.1.2.
Ensure plans are in place to support people most at risk during breaks in lifeline service.

As events have repeatedly shown, from the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 to SARS-CoV-2 in 2019, the most vulnerable populations become even more vulnerable when the City is disrupted by disasters. Gaps in transit service can drastically impact immobile populations such as the elderly, low-income, and medically fragile, especially in terms of their access to medical care. Loss of electrical power can also be a problem for homebound and medically-dependent individuals. Programs to notify officials, especially power providers, of these individual locations should be developed so that patients who may be unable to help themselves during a power outage or any other emergency can get the necessary support, including continuing medical care for chronic conditions and delivery of prescription refills.

POLICY 5.1.3.
Mitigate threats posed by digital hazards, such as terrorism and communication failures, to City systems and infrastructure.

While the City does maintain some risk of terrorism, it is more likely at risk of deliberate acts intended to impact its service and communication networks. Often the objective of such acts is not destruction or death, but disturbance—a visible impact to the City’s public services, economies, and social networks. Critical facilities include the City’s communication systems, such as its fiber-optic data network and network data, its physical infrastructure, such as its water and power systems. It is important to upgrade public facilities to enhance security, through physical security measures, cyber protection measures, and tight security procedures and policies as technology and practices improve. Redundant networks will help ensure that incidental failures do not have grave impacts.

The communications asset class transmits voice and data communications by cable, telephone, or broadcasting. San Francisco Department of Technology manages a wide array of communications systems, including radio, TV, internet, City internal data network, public warning sirens, emergency call boxes, communication path for traffic signals, and the Mayor’s Emergency Telephone Systems (METS). In addition, private communication operators own TV and radio antennas, cell sites, hubs, fiber networks, and switches for TV, radio, internet, cell phone, and voice communications.

The key City-owned systems include the municipal fiber optics network, data centers, and an 800 Mhz radio system.

The private communications systems are owned by a wide range of operations, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast, as well as private fiber optics networks and data centers that these operators rely on.

POLICY 5.1.4.
Increase communication capabilities in preparation for all phases of a disaster, and ensure communication abilities extend to hard-to-reach communities.

Communication will be necessary and critical to the City in the response phase immediately following a disaster and in the recovery and reconstruction period. The City should have redundant networks in place to communicate at all levels, to coordinate internal staff and emergency response personnel, and to convey public information. The public communication should be equitably disseminated to ensure outreach to special needs populations, such as the hearing impaired or non-English speakers. The communication methods should be culturally competent, address the digital divide, and be independent from reliable cell service, such as outdoor public warning systems.

In addition, existing neighborhood organizations can develop local models that serve the same purpose. Development of a neighborhood communications plan can allow community members to keep in touch with, and keep track of, their neighbors, particularly the elderly or disabled that may be most in need of support during a time of emergency. Elements of this plan could include phone trees, text message trains, and the establishment of physical block captains to perform door-to-door checks if necessary.

The Department of Public Health’s Community Response Plan calls for community members and organizations to have the means necessary to be inform policy makers about the damage and critical needs of each neighborhood throughout the City. By having a method for communicating at the neighborhood level, community members will be able to notify officials and seek out help in areas of the City that might be difficult to reach after a disaster.

POLICY 5.1.5.
Develop a system to convey information during and immediately after a disaster.

In addition to conveying general public information about the disaster to people and the outside world, the City will also need to respond to more personal inquiries by impacted people. This can include questions about what services and aid is available, as well as inquiries about the location, health, and welfare of relatives or other community members.

The City should plan for an information system composed of a series of local Public Information Centers intended to convey more personalized information to the public. These centers should be located in accessible community locations, such as libraries, but should also be sited away from the centers of emergency activity, such as lifeline facilities. They can be outdoor public warning systems, centralized online systems, and decentralized offline systems. These centers should be connected to receive up-to-date information from law enforcement agencies, other City agencies, the school district, public shelters, local hospitals, and the coroner, and they should also be linked to regional centers in other parts of the Bay Area. During a disaster, these regional information centers should be directly linked to consumers via the 311 City phone service.

POLICY 5.1.6.
Follow the National Incident Management System (NIMS) procedures in declared emergency scenarios.

A major disaster will entail assistance from beyond the City’s borders, potentially involving assistance of other Bay Area jurisdictions, the state of California, and even the federal government. To coordinate this assistance, the federal government has developed a national approach to incident management, called the National Incident Management System (NIMS), to act as the common language and procedural guide bridging different entities. NIMS was developed so responders from different jurisdictions and disciplines could talk to each other in a common language and work together better to respond to natural disasters and emergencies, including acts of terrorism. NIMS uses a systems approach to integrate the best of existing processes and methods into a unified national framework for incident management. Its concepts and practices cover incident management; standard command and management structures; and emphasis on preparedness, mutual aid, and resource management.

The City’s various agencies, particularly those who are its first responders, are already familiar with the NIMS system and utilize its framework in the development of emergency response and other plans. The City should continue this practice, and ensure it is kept up-to-date with current NIMS practices. New approaches that will improve effectiveness are likely to result in refinement of the NIMS over time, so the City should maintain an awareness of any changes and incorporate them into its response planning and practices.

POLICY 5.1.7.
After an emergency, follow the mandates of the Emergency Response Plan and Citywide Earthquake Response Plan.

The Emergency Response Plan directs the City’s actions after a disaster, assigning responsibility to agencies and departments. Many of the immediate actions needed to begin the recovery process are described in the Emergency Response Plan, such as debris removal, emergency building assessment and repairs, and meeting the immediate needs of federal and state agencies for information.

The Citywide Earthquake Response Plan supports this plan by providing response actions for the incident of an earthquake. Both plans should be used to guide all responsibilities and activities in the case of a disaster.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS. Work with neighborhood-based organizations and trusted partners to expand disaster response activities across the City.

POLICY 5.2.1.
Work collaboratively with nonprofit and community partners to assist Environmental Justice Communities and other vulnerable people during and immediately after a disaster to ensure resumption of social services.

In addition to disrupted infrastructure, such as transit and transportation, power, water, gas and sewer, phone service, the City will also face disruptions to its social services at a time when they may be most needed. The City’s most vulnerable populations will be at risk of service disruption and delayed resumption, including seniors, people with disabilities and other functional needs, institutionalized or incarcerated people, youth who have been separated from their families due to the disaster, and residents of single-room occupancy hotels and public housing. Hospitals and clinics may be damaged or overcrowded, schools and daycare centers will be closed, and families may be separated. Centers for special needs populations may be temporarily shut down, due to damage or unavailability of employees. Local services, particularly those meeting the needs of low-income residents, may be ill-prepared to cope.

The City should have continuity policies and plans in place for its services. One way of supporting their immediate resumption would be to establish a policy clarifying that for specified City employees, their primary role as Disaster Service Workers is to carry out their everyday positions in social service provision. In advance of a disaster, processes should be established to ensure the continuity of payments to social service organizations under contract with the City.

The City is not, however, the only service provider that needs to plan for disasters. The City should assist local service providers so that they can resume services immediately following a disaster, including mental health centers, substance abuse services, homeless shelters, community health centers, and senior services. But in past disasters, lack of coordinated planning—between the City and among agencies—has resulted in gaps in aid or in redundant services.

Community-based organizations and neighborhood-level emergency planning efforts should plan for disasters and be in coordination and partnership with the City. Nonprofit groups are key players in disaster response, providing food and shelter in the short-term and assisting in longer-term recovery through services such as health care and job placement. In advance of disasters, the City can support community-based organizations by providing them with employee response training, insurance coverage, encouraging development of contingency plans, and offering opportunities for financial resources.

POLICY 5.2.2.
Identify and retain vendors and contractors to be readily available to respond immediately after a disaster.

When a disaster strikes, there will be a strain on needed goods and services, such as shelter, food, and waste removal. One way to address the urgency of post-disaster needs is to make arrangements with local and regional contractors before disaster strikes. Pre-qualifying of contractors who can respond in emergency scenarios and who have equipment to handle the work is another solution for immediate response.

The Office of Contract Administration maintains an emergency list of supply vendors. The Office should work with other departments to understand the types of supplies that may be necessary in the case of a disaster and have contracting options readily available, including an up-to-date list of qualified contractors. The list should contain sufficient sources for the kinds of goods that will be most in demand after a disaster—tents, food, etc. As-needed contracts should be readily implementable to meet emergency need, and existing contracts and franchise agreements should be reviewed for their applicability in the case of a disaster.

Public Works maintains a registry of construction-related contractors. This list can be a valuable resource after a disaster. The agency should ensure it is kept up-to-date, and that old or unavailable contractors are removed on an annual basis. The City should also explore methods that will enable small and local firms, including minority- and women-owned businesses, to take a more active role in the response and rebuilding process, it may be beneficial to develop a program to train and qualify local contractors for government-backed projects.

POLICY 5.2.3.
Develop and implement plans to accept, train, organize, and utilize volunteers in the delivery of basic emergency management tasks.

Post-disaster, it is likely that the City will see an outpouring of people willing and wanting to help with recovery efforts. The mobilization and reinforcement of these resources will require significant management by City responders. If no system is in place to harness the potential provided by these spontaneous, or “convergent,” volunteers, this resource will be lost. Volunteers are convergent when they are unexpected, typically community members who wish to render aide following a large-scale emergency.

During the City’s COVID-19 efforts, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) established an Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC) where it credentialed over 1,000 volunteers in the State’s Disaster Service Worker Volunteer Program. DHR deployed over 600 of those volunteers to perform volunteer services with the Department of Public Health. The City should ensure that the lessons learned from its COVID-19 volunteer management and response efforts are incorporated into a revised plan for organizing and mobilizing convergent volunteers. This revised plan should encourage working in concert with the City’s ongoing disaster service volunteer programs, such as the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT).

POLICY 5.2.4.
Develop strategies for cooperating with the media.

Having a media communication strategy is an important component of responding to a disaster. Beyond communicating locally and to the region, the media is the means by which the outside world understands what has happened. Media coverage leads to national, and potentially global understanding, of a disaster and its impacts. Media coverage can be a primary factor in attracting public and private aid. It can fuel demands for action and stimulate public support for actions to prevent or mitigate future disasters.

The Mayor’s Office of Communication will direct all high-level strategic messaging regarding the City’s overall emergency response. The Joint Information Center (JIC) will integrate Mayor’s Office of Communication strategic messaging into the myriad of communications produced within the JIC, including media responses, public information alerts and notifications, and proactive social and traditional media content. The Mayor’s Office’s crisis communications plan should include strategies for openly and honestly dealing with the media. Procedures for disaster media relations should also ensure that the designated spokesperson—and in the case of a disaster, this may not be the usual media spokesperson—understands the depth of the disaster and the details of its impacts. Media kits should be prepared and ready for distribution as soon as possible.

There are frequently concerns about the negative impact of media coverage on a community post-disaster. Because of the nature of media, stories can often be overtaken by a focus on deaths and damage to property. Political leaders may be concerned about the negative publicity’s impact on tourism and external investment, or fear that it could incite mass departure of business and residents. Even in the face of these fears, it is important that the City take a positive view of media operations and cooperate with the media based on a policy of openness.

Rather than restricting information, the City should work to present media organizations with a balance of information about the kinds of public actions and safety measures that have succeeded, as well as those that have failed, so that coverage can go beyond simply accounting for totals of loss. A news story focusing on the amount of earthquake damage inflicted could just as easily include information about the number and types of structures that survived because of hazard mitigation measures, and provide information about shelter locations, response and recovery efforts and priorities, and more.

HAZARD-SPECIFIC RESPONSE. Address any specific, shared, or compounding needs for community safety in the aftermath of a disaster.

POLICY 5.3.1.
Establish a plan to facilitate the continuity of permitting services in the case of a disaster for building repairs and other essential permitting services.

Rebuilding the City post-disaster can be facilitated by increasing the points of access where permitting can occur. With certain hazards, it can be challenging and infeasible to maintain permitting continuity through the San Francisco Permit Center’s in-person services. The City can offer a fully digital permitting platform and satellite, in-person permitting centers to offer one-stop City permitting services such as Building, Public Works, and Health permits. Through these accessible modes, permitting can increase building owners’ access to services for their recovery planning and can reduce the possibility of overload at the central permitting facilities at the Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection.

The City should develop a fully digital permitting process to be nimble in its continuity of permitting services and remote staffing capabilities in the event of a disaster. The digital platform can support the permitting roles and responsibilities across City agencies, such as the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, Public Works, and the Department of Public Health. These satellite centers can be operated on a temporary basis, perhaps until a targeted number of buildings are brought back online. Depending on the hazard and level of damage, the network of satellite centers may depend on building and outdoor safety, ability to congregate, or staffing availability.

POLICY 5.3.2.
Ensure historic resources are protected in the aftermath of a disaster and support post-disaster restoration of damaged historic buildings.

Preservation of the City’s historic resources is an immediate concern when damage is being assessed. The older construction techniques of historic buildings make them more vulnerable to damage, and if the damage is noted without recognition of the resource’s historic value, the building can be at risk of further damage or demolition. Having complete and accurate information to document historic resources is fundamental to ensuring they are not lost. This information can be mapped and used by assessors in the tagging of buildings post-disaster.

The Planning Department has been actively engaged in survey work through the Citywide Survey Program. The focus of the program is on neighborhoods that are undergoing long-range planning efforts or are the focus of intense development activity. The Citywide Survey Program will continue survey efforts in neighborhoods outside of Area Plan study areas as resources become available. While that Citywide Survey is underway, the City should make use of existing survey information, including privately developed property reviews, and ensure it is made available to the Department of Building Inspection and any other relevant contractors who may be charged with doing evaluations of damaged buildings.

Post-disaster assessment should include an analysis of the extent of damage to historic areas and resources. In a typical assessment scenario, assessors will attach a green tag if a building is structurally sound, a yellow tag where repairs are needed, and a red tag if the structure is uninhabitable. This system should ensure sufficient protection for historic resources post-disaster, in that all tagged buildings receive more detailed evaluation that considers survey information before any steps towards demolition are taken. The system could also include separate placards identifying the building as a historic resource. Without such identification, the buildings are at risk.

POLICY 5.3.3.
Address hazardous material and other spills by requiring appropriate clean up by property owners, per local, state, and federal environmental laws.

Spills, leakages, and releases of hazardous waste and substances can cause severe damage not only to the environment, but to public health. This is a particular issue for older industrial properties with historic contamination issues, as they convert to other uses or forms of development. In cases where environmental damage or hazardous spills have occurred, the City shall require all property owners and other responsible parties to report and to perform clean up to the level required by local, state, and federal environmental laws. Where such parties delay in this required clean up, the City, working with other regulatory agencies, shall take all measures necessary to ensure public health and safety is protected.


Goal 6. Recovery and Reconstruction

Rebuild San Francisco’s built, natural, and social assets and communities towards a more equitable and resilient future. Short-term recovery actions—ensuring reconnection of utilities and services, temporary housing—are often an outgrowth of the response phase. Long-term recovery begins once many of those short-term actions are underway or have been completed—as the rubble and debris have been cleared, major services are restored, and daily operations are reinitiated. The actual reconstruction phase typically takes 5 to 10 years, but it can be much longer. Even across the City, full recovery—return to or improvement beyond the pre-disaster state—can vary considerably from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some areas might be best repaired and rebuilt similar to their pre-disaster conditions, while other areas with pervasive damage may need new area plans applying citywide objectives. Advance planning will improve the City’s ability to make decisions quickly and equitably. Longer-term recovery and reconstruction decisions will need to be made by decision makers—including the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and others—with considerable public involvement by the people most impacted by hazards and their consequences.

BUILDINGS AND INFRASTRUCTURE. Maximize the opportunities to restore and rebuild the built environment with resilience to all hazards.

Housing Security and Justice

POLICY 6.1.1.
Support actions to mitigate the spread of homelessness pre-disaster and increase the likelihood that the City’s stock of lowest-cost housing will survive post-disaster.

Individuals and families experiencing homelessness have high exposure to risks and are especially vulnerable to hazards. They lack adequate shelter and protection from harm. Post-disaster, especially for catastrophes with potential to destroy housing, the City’s existing shortage of affordable housing will be exacerbated. A significant portion of the City’s affordable housing stock are provided by some of the neighborhoods most vulnerable to serious damage in an earthquake. Much of the City’s lower-cost housing is provided through older buildings, which are more likely to sustain damage in the case of an earthquake. Many of these older units are kept affordable through rent control. Through state-mandated vacancy decontrol, the rent of rent-controlled units may be increased when the unit is vacated, and the unit does not have to be restored if the unit is replaced. Without action, sea level rise and flood hazards may increase risk in lower-cost housing in Environmental Justice Communities. These conditions are likely to exacerbate homelessness and displacement post-disaster.

Damaged affordable housing units and single-room occupancy hotels should be repaired as expediently possible, and if necessary, replaced on a one-to-one basis. Cooperation among the private market, nonprofit agencies, and local, state or federal government sources should pursue achieving a similar level of affordability as units are replaced or made resilient to future hazards. Eviction regulations in the post-disaster period should ensure the disaster is not misused to remove tenants with lower rents.

Pursue policy advocacy at the state and federal levels to enable eviction moratoria and rental relief during disasters, such as the eviction moratoria during the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief should be available to vulnerable people, property owners, and businesses who are displaced by disasters and to facilitate their right to return. In the wake of a disaster, it may be difficult for residents, especially renters, to demonstrate proof of residency and liaise with landlords and property owners. The policy advocacy should identify inclusive eligibility criteria, robust funding sources, and have limited barriers to accessing the relief.

POLICY 6.1.2.
Provide adequate interim accommodation for residents and businesses displaced by a major disaster in ways that maintain neighborhood ties and cultural continuity.

While the City’s first priority should be to encourage and enable the retrofit of residential buildings, to minimize damage and allow residents to shelter-in-place following a disaster, the Department of Emergency Management estimates that after a major earthquake, between 20,000 to 90,000 housing units may be destroyed or substantially damaged. Many businesses that provide necessary services to residents will also be displaced. The Care and Shelter Plan establishes a framework for the provision of emergency shelter for the general population. The Care and Shelter Plan should be expanded to accommodate people experiencing homelessness at the time of disaster. Currently, no specific agency is tasked with the responsibility of interim housing, nor with finding temporary space for displaced businesses. Future implementation plans should address these issues.

The City should designate a lead agency to plan for interim housing and business needs. This agency should work in collaboration with state and federal agencies to consider City goals and advocate for the affected communities. To maintain relationships and connections within the community, interim housing and other facilities should prioritize keeping residents in their neighborhoods and near their pre-disaster homes as much as possible.

POLICY 6.1.3.
Repair damaged neighborhoods in a manner that facilitates resident return and minimizes long-term displacement, prioritizing Environmental Justice Communities and other communities disproportionately impacted by housing disparities.

San Francisco neighborhoods have distinct characteristics, and often have long-term residents, businesses, and institutions. Many neighborhoods have distinct cultural identities and provide the bonds of community for their residents. The City, in cooperation with state and federal agencies and community-based organizations, must manage rebuilding to minimize long-term displacement, retain neighborhood cohesion, and expand housing opportunities for communities disproportionately impacted by housing disparities.

As such, plans should provide opportunities for those who lived in the area to return to new or repaired homes and other facilities there. The City should explore methods of providing return rights to tenants that must vacate their unit because of reconstruction, renovation, or improvement. These methods may include the “right-to-return,” down payment assistance, lottery preference, and other financial assistance that would relate to accessing private market, below-market-rate housing, and public housing.

POLICY 6.1.4.
Protect individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the wake of disaster.

Homelessness, and the risk of becoming homeless, will be exacerbated by hazards. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged homeless shelters and numerous single-room-occupancy hotels that were an important source of housing for the very poor.

In preparation for disasters, the City should inventory its stock of homeless shelters, single-room-occupancy hotels, and transitional living facilities. The City must ensure its post-disaster plans consider major social issues like homelessness. With many properties destroyed or uninhabitable, it will be even more difficult for this challenged population to find suitable housing after an earthquake. Transition to long-term shelter will be needed for those already homeless, requiring long-term aid and greater assistance than is typically required by disaster victims. When a disaster strikes, it can be traumatizing to a community already disproportionately impacted by mental health. The City should pair long-term shelter and aid with comprehensive, evidence-based systems that offer a continuum of care, such as mental health and substance abuse care, social work, and other supportive systems.

POLICY 6.1.5.
Ensure sufficient affordable housing and workforce housing during reconstruction.

Lack of housing can have a severe impact on economic recovery. If the labor pool has nowhere to live, they are unable to work. Limited housing opportunities, particularly for low-income communities and low-wage workers, can curtail the available labor pool for construction activities during rebuilding, and the absence of permanent housing once businesses have come back online may cause local employees to seek work elsewhere.

The City should partner with the business community in restoring workforce housing for the community after a disaster. The most useful assistance local businesses can provide may be financial contributions, whether they are at-large contributions coordinated by the City or direct subsidies offered to their own workers. Some possible methods include the development of employer-directed community land trusts or rental deposit and down payment grants for displaced workers.

Reinforce Hazard Mitigation

POLICY 6.1.6.
Encourage continued and adaptive reuse of San Francisco’s existing building stock, including those with architectural and historical merit, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that may otherwise occur from new construction.

Post-disaster, the City should prioritize the repair and rehabilitation of existing buildings. As feasible, existing buildings should follow life safety and functional recovery standards, and then, be recovered as close as possible to pre-disaster conditions and use. This repair and rehabilitation of existing buildings, as compared to new development, will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, especially when reinforcing climate mitigation principles.

In addition to those with architectural and historical merit, existing bodies contain embodied energy, and thus, their preservation can be a sustainable practice when compared to new construction. The practice of reuse can reduce or completely eliminate greenhouse gasses that are emitted as the result of demolition, manufacturing and transport of building materials, and new construction—the greenest building is one that is already built. Furthermore, less environmental strain is caused from the reduced extraction of natural resources from materials development and reduced solid waste from demolition. Promoting the reuse, rehabilitation, and restoration of existing buildings can thus help to reduce the City’s carbon footprint, serving as a valuable climate mitigation technique.

POLICY 6.1.7.
Apply sustainability practices in rebuilding projects, consistent with the City’s Climate Action Plan and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

Particularly with large-impact earthquakes, buildings and infrastructure may be compromised or destroyed. Salvaging their materials not only aids in reducing the amount of debris going to a landfill and reducing air quality emissions associated with demolition, it also contributes to the local economy and supports the rebuilding process. The City should support the establishment of new businesses that can reclaim, warehouse, and resell salvaged materials. The City should also provide incentives to promote incorporating salvaged materials in construction.

One way the City could support a market for these materials is to develop policy that requires rescue and reuse of salvaged materials in new development and rebuilding projects. The City has many green building requirements already in place that should be reconsidered and perhaps expanded in light of projected post-earthquake rebuilding needs.

POLICY 6.1.8.
Ensure equitable outcomes in the consideration of design character and quality in all rebuilding projects.

A disaster may damage many of the neighborhoods and buildings that contribute to the City’s urban design character, and it is imperative that reconstruction be done in a way that will strengthen urban design character, as the city continues to grow and evolve. The City’s attitude toward rebuilding will have to balance sometimes competing objectives—the need to rebuild quickly, the need to rebuild equitably and with robust input and participation of the affected communities, and the desire to maintain or improve design character. All reconstruction should be centered in racial and social equity and should follow the framework put in place by the post-disaster recovery and reconstruction plan, as well as the urban design standards and design guidelines already in place in the city.

It is important that large-scale rebuilding does not succumb to the political pressure of property owners to rebuild, at the sake of important interests in racial and social equity, community participation and engagement, urban design, historic and cultural preservation, and hazard mitigation and resilience opportunities. While other policies speak to the need for timeliness in reviewing reconstruction projects, the policies developed must ensure humane outcomes for vulnerable communities and that design character and quality are not ignored in the urgency of rebuilding.

ADVANCE RECOVERY PLANNING. Comprehensively plan for the restoration of City function and economic activity, with flexibility to known and unknown hazards.

POLICY 6.2.1.
Before an emergency occurs, establish an interdepartmental working group to develop an advance recovery framework that will guide long-term recovery, manage reconstruction activities, and coordinate expedient rebuilding aligned with City policies.

Advance recovery planning is critical role for the City’s resilience. A framework for recovery and reconstruction can expedite decision-making based on already agreed-upon priorities and goals. The City’s history of disaster has proved that pressures for speedy rebuilding are strong. Therefore, it is critical that the governance and planning framework for recovery and reconstruction be established before disaster occurs.

To provide direction for any planning that happens post-disaster, the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors should establish an interdepartmental working group to create a framework for recovery and reconstruction. The working group should be comprised of representatives from the following departments: the Mayor’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Controller’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, City Attorney’s Office, City Administrator’s Office, Office of Resilience and Capital Planning, Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, Office of Racial Equity, Department of Building Inspection, Department of Emergency Management, Department of the Environment, Planning Department, Public Works, Public Utilities Commission, Human Rights Commission, the Board of San Francisco Travel, the Academy of Sciences, among others.

The framework should outline the City’s priorities and guidelines for the City’s post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. This framework should be tested through scenario planning before being developed fully into a post-disaster recovery and reconstruction plan. While such an effort cannot anticipate the impact of every disaster, the effort can reduce the demands of rebuilding after a disaster.

POLICY 6.2.2.
As a part of the advance recovery framework, develop and adopt a repair and reconstruction ordinance.

The rebuilding and reconstruction efforts that will need to be undertaken after a disaster will need to be swift in repairing lifelines, homes, and other resources the City depends upon. After a disaster, the Departments of Building Inspection and Planning will likely see a surge in permit applications. While the Department of Building Inspection already maintains procedures to deal with emergency repairs, the City does not have plans to deal with the sustained demand that may result from large-scale reconstruction. Upon completion of the advance recovery framework, the task force should develop a recovery and repair ordinance that help implement the framework and facilitate the repair and reconstruction of buildings following disaster.

The recovery and repair ordinance should build upon existing building and planning code standards and policies to facilitate an efficient reconstruction process, help to simplify and expedite the permitting and review process, support integration of racial and social equity and resilience principles, while avoiding a hastily administered permitting process. The ordinance should establish clear permit processing and review procedures to expedite rebuilding in the post-disaster period, while providing the amount of review necessary to ensure that reconstruction meets the City’s objectives and appropriate local policies, plans, and code standards, yet is economically feasible.

The ordinance should consider policies to address nonconforming uses and buildings, explore modifications to outdated codes and standards, consider the applicability of the City’s notification or other review procedures, and address historic buildings to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, repairs maintain the integrity of the structure without adversely affecting its historic nature. The ordinance should also revise post-earthquake building inspection protocols to identify buildings that have reached functional recovery that can be occupied safely despite damage and loss of utilities, allowing residents to safely shelter in place while waiting to make repairs.

The ordinance should create priority categories for building types, prioritizing critical response facilities first. The ordinance should also be clear on the length of time during which it is applicable. It is important that the ordinance not work in conflict with other City goals. Large-scale damage to confined areas might warrant specific neighborhood-level plans or reconstruction guidelines, and these will take time to prepare. If necessary, the ordinance should allow for periods of non-building while important changes are adopted into law. The ordinance should also include sufficient provisions to ensure that it is evaluated, and amendments can be made as needed, post-disaster, to appropriately address the disaster impacts.

POLICY 6.2.3.
As a part of the advance recovery framework, coordinate the realignment of government post-disaster, so City employees’ skills can be used effectively towards recovery and reconstruction efforts.

New roles and responsibilities for governments will emerge after a disaster strikes. It is imperative that government be nimble enough to adjust to the various new roles after the disaster. The City should be willing to reconfigure offices, departments, and services to be best serve the public after a disaster. The Disaster Service Workers program may extend into recovery and reconstruction phases.

For instance, there might be the need for the Planning Department, Public Works, or Department of Building Inspection to work together in teams and be decentralized with satellite offices set up in neighborhoods that were particularly devastated by a disaster. By placing them in neighborhoods, their time can be better spent on the ground understanding what type of reconstruction is necessary and possible, through inspections and site visits with building owners and residents.

POLICY 6.2.4.
Update the advance recovery framework on a regular basis so that it continues to be aligned with City goals and values.

The advance recovery framework should be updated as necessary to reflect changing conditions, changes in City policy and technology, and changes in state and federal regulations that affect post-disaster recovery management, financing, and other processes. The task force should set, in its creation of the plan, a schedule for regular updates to ensure it keeps up with shifting community priorities as well as to keep it present and important in the public’s mind. The community must be involved in the process to identify and develop the community priorities, along with the specific core values of recovery. The advance recovery framework can inform more targeted resilience planning processes that are place-based or site-specific, such as in Environmental Justice Communities or other areas vulnerable to disaster.

POLICY 6.2.5.
Develop and maintain broad public support for the advance recovery framework to ensure its eventual implementation.

Once an advance recovery framework is developed, its work is not over. Implementation of the framework post-disaster is its critical mission, and achieving this in the aftermath of a disaster will require vigilance on the City’s part. Community demands for rapid reconstruction will likely be perceived by many to be in conflict with calls for post-disaster planning and time needed to complete such a process.

The City should develop an ongoing program to regularly train the City’s leadership and build community support for the framework to ensure its implementation in a time-compressed and high-pressure post-disaster environment. While there will always be tensions to rebuild quickly post-disaster, the desire for haste should not preempt the implementation of the recovery framework or undermine a potentially necessary recovery and rebuilding process. The community outreach process for the advance recovery framework should provide a vehicle to strengthen community support.

POLICY 6.2.6.
Post-disaster, build upon the advance recovery framework to create a recovery and reconstruction plan to direct the City’s reconstruction activities, manage the long-term recovery period, and coordinate rebuilding activity.

Using the pre-disaster framework as the basis for all planning, the next step is turning that framework into tangible actions to direct and manage the specific impacts of an actual disaster.

Therefore, after a disaster occurs, the City shall establish a recovery and reconstruction task force to guide the planning process and plan development built upon the City’s recovery framework. The task force should be made up not only of City agencies represented in the working group, but also a range of community representatives, including business interests, nonprofits and industry leaders, policy advocates, and neighborhood representatives. The task force should also engage with and involve representatives of other counties, state, and federal agencies. The task force’s efforts should be directed by a designated lead agency or individual who can facilitate the recovery and reconstruction planning process and oversee its implementation.

The task force will be responsible for the development, drafting, and adoption of the post-disaster recovery and reconstruction plan, following the established framework and guidelines. Perversely, a disaster may present the City with a unique opportunity to physically, economically, and socially strengthen the City and the region equitably; the recovery and reconstruction plan should take advantage of this opportunity.

POLICY 6.2.7.
Rebuild after a major disaster consistent with established General Plan objectives and policies.

The General Plan has been adopted, after much public consideration, to assure the preservation, enhancement, and safety of this very desirable urban environment. In efforts to restore damaged areas of the City, existing development policies and regulations should be respected. Opportunities may be created for realizing General Plan policies, such as increasing affordable housing, improving circulation systems, and providing public or private open space. In areas with extensive building and infrastructure damage, an area plan may be the best approach to coordinate rebuilding to take advantage of opportunities for neighborhood improvement. The rebuilding process may also enable possibilities for advancing environmental justice, increasing mobility through improved and increased public transit, as well as other alternatives to the private automobile. Future Elements and Area Plans of the General Plan should be formulated with an awareness of their potential applicability in relation to disaster recovery.

POLICY 6.2.8.
Ensure that an equitable recovery and reconstruction plan is adopted that is comprehensive and consistent with already established City goals, policies, and programs.

The recovery and reconstruction plan will need to prepare the City to meet immediate changing needs after a disaster. Special services and facilities will be needed on a short-term basis, including temporary housing, commercial facilities, and health and human services. During the recovery period, it may be necessary to temporarily locate these facilities in areas not normally available for development, or at higher densities than is normally allowed. Extensive damage may warrant reconsideration of large-scale issues such as housing locations, transit, and public infrastructure such as streets and freeways. A detailed recovery and reconstruction plan may require planning at scales that exceed existing policies and controls.

The recovery and reconstruction plan should build upon established General Plan goals, objectives, and policies, and ensure consistency with City programs, policies, and regulations. The plan should include clear policies and programs addressing the following at a minimum:

The recovery and reconstruction plan may also consider potential changes to the City’s physical framework and development pattern, potentially reviewing issues such as:

While the specific uses of public lands may vary after a large-scale disaster, public lands must be preserved for public purposes. As circumstances allow, pursue opportunities for expanding public lands for public purposes.

POLICY 6.2.9.
Where necessary, use the City’s public authority to expedite repair, reconstruction, and rebuilding in a just and equitable manner.

In the aftermath of a disaster, there may be properties that lie fallow for some time. The damage may be so severe that owners without insurance simply abandon properties; absentee owners and landlords could choose simply to not return; and there may be cases where it is not economically feasible or possible for owners to rebuild.

The City maintains the authority to impose policies, rules, and regulations to protect the public welfare, order, and security. If public welfare is at stake—for example, in damaged rental properties that remain unrepaired and unoccupied, are a safety or health hazard, or have deteriorated to such a degree that they are unlikely to be restored to quality housing—the City may need to explore ways of restoring these units through partnerships with community-based organizations, neighborhood-based efforts, and other key stakeholders.

The City should carefully consider the lessons from history prior to exercising eminent domain. There have been historic misuses of the power of eminent domain that have significantly harmed communities. In the 1940s, eminent domain harmed the Japanese American community during internment with forcible loss of property and belongings. In the 1950s, the City exercised eminent domain once again and harmed the African American community during redevelopment of the Western Addition and the Fillmore. These pernicious events should be used as cautionary tales for future uses of this tool. The power of eminent domain can be used to expand public benefits, such as the Hualapai Nation of Arizona exercising its authority to reclaim land for tribal ownership and use. The City also used eminent domain to expand public benefits through the Central Subway, extending Muni light rail service.

In addition to health and safety, the City should prioritize housing equity in the community. The City can consider the return and retention of the American Indian community, Black community, and other communities of color post-disaster; the housing needs for individuals and families with experience of homelessness; the community needs for low-income and other vulnerable people; and the recovery and growth of the local business community.

EQUITABLE INVESTMENT. Pursue plans and strategies that would equitably rebuild San Francisco for everyone, starting with Environmental Justice Communities.

POLICY 6.3.1.
Develop an economic recovery strategy to guide planning and implementation before the disaster strikes.

A disaster can have a major impact on the economic landscape of the City. Previous earthquakes have resulted in dramatic losses in office space and subsequent relocation of businesses; in drops in tourism, which is one of the City’s major industries; and disproportionate impacts on small businesses, who have fewer resources with which to recover. The City should ensure an economic recovery strategy is in place to equitably foster business resumption and growth post-disaster.

In the wake of a disaster, many local businesses, particularly small businesses, will struggle to resume activity. They may have lost assets, necessary facilities or equipment, access to employees, and even their customer base. While the City’s own funds will be limited from providing direct financial assistance, there are many other things it can do to support businesses. For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the social distancing and masking requirements, as well as discouragement of sharing indoor space, made it challenging for businesses such as restaurants and small retail shops from operating normally. The City’s Shared Spaces Program supported small businesses by allowing them to expand their operations to outdoor places like sidewalks, streets, and open lots.

The City can encourage loan and grant funding from non-government sources, and further affected businesses’ ability to secure loans from local banks or unions by offering government guarantees on loans. Tax incentives should be explored to encourage reinvestment and growth of business, including temporary payroll tax exclusion, sales tax exemption and tax write-offs on replaced business equipment and furniture, and property tax abatements.

The economic recovery strategy should prioritize the elements of the City necessary to support business activity, starting in Environmental Justice Communities, such as the restoration of transit and regional roadways; utilities and services available to the business community; and housing availability for the local workforce and customers. The City should work with the business community to develop this strategy, and solicit wide advice on how to facilitate business revitalization. The strategy should use the latest assessment tools provided by the Office of Racial Equity and center the needs of businesses that are owned by and/or serve residents in Environmental Justice Communities. The strategy may include recommendations to hasten the resumption of business such as loans, funding for workplace building repair, and financial assistance. Updates to the City’s Economic Strategy, created by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, should include plans for economic recovery in case of a disaster.

POLICY 6.3.2.
Support the efforts of the Controller’s Office to ensure service continuation and financing of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The Controller’s Office is the designated lead agency for the Finance and Administration Section of the Emergency Response Plan, supported by the Department of Administrative Services and the Office of the Treasurer. These groups are tasked with ensuring employee payment and compensation, and with payment of contractor and vendor accounts, in the immediate response phase of a disaster through recovery to pre-disaster service. These elements will be critical to the continuing operation of City services.

In order to ensure continuation, the Controller’s Office has programs underway to ensure that payroll continues to be processed for all City workers, implementing off-site payroll processing if needed; that employee compensation is resumed; that financial and accounting computer systems can recover and resume as soon as possible; and that all payments, both to City workers and to outside vendors, are processed within a reasonable time.

The City should actively encourage the use of direct deposit by all City employees, and inform all employees of the potential loss of pay in the event of a disaster for those who do not use direct deposit. Additionally, the Controller’s Office should work with City employees not currently using direct deposit in order to provide backup account information that can be switched to direct deposit in the event of a disaster. The City should assist those employees without access to a bank account to open an account with a bank or credit union.

The Controller’s Office will also direct the established financial policies to guide the City in its response and recovery to an emergency, particularly as it relates to personnel time, contracts, and equipment and supplies relating to the emergency. As a part of this responsibility, the Office should work with other City agencies to determine need for contracts with vendors who do not already occur on existing approved vendor lists, and it should set up these new vendor contracts well before the emergency occurs.

POLICY 6.3.3.
Provide the basic needs of all people while lifeline support is interrupted.

Beyond the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and beyond the assurance of infrastructure with explicit life safety purpose, there may still be persistent and critical basic needs for the people of San Francisco as the City recovers from disaster. The City should make a plan and provide support to cover the basic needs for all people while systems are reestablished and communities return to self-sufficiency. The plan should include basic shelter, health, and food needs, and focused on those with the least adaptive capacity for self-care. This includes Environmental Justice Communities, people with disabilities and other functional needs, the young and the elderly, and other vulnerable people.

POLICY 6.3.4.
Explore expanding the scope of the City’s disaster relief programs.

The City provides financial relief to property owners through tax programs including disaster relief on property taxes, and participation in the state’s Section 69.3 property tax disaster relief program which enables former residents who move to other counties to maintain their previous level of property taxation prior to the disaster.

The City should review other forms of tax relief to affected residents and business owners, including reductions on other fees and taxes. There are many local taxes and fees that are under the jurisdiction of the City, and the City has the authority to waive or defer such taxes and fees in an emergency.

Educating residents about the lack of access to funds in the event of a disaster is critical. The Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector should be involved in working with financial institutions and educating the public on how to access private funds during a time when typical procedures will not be possible. For example, the City can leverage banking contracts to assist residents directly with cash payments.

POLICY 6.3.5.
Ensure effective use of public emergency funds and expenditures, and recovery of those expenditures.

The Controller’s Office is responsible for tracking expenditures for the cost of responding to, and recovering from, the disaster. This includes tracking, recording, and reporting on all payments made in response to the emergency, including personnel working during the emergency, outside contractor work, and expenses such as supplies, materials, equipment, and vehicles.

It is important that the tasks that are authorized are relevant and necessary, and that their completion is well-documented by the Controller’s Office and its supporting agencies. This documentation will be critical in submitting disaster reimbursement claims to the state and federal government and ensuring support funding is received.



This Glossary is intended to define key words and phrases used throughout the Safety & Resilience Element of the San Francisco General Plan, to guide interpretation of the goals, objectives, and policies.

adaptation, adaptive capacity
  • Adaptation is the ability, competency, and capacity of a system to adjust to variables. Climate Adaptation is the proactive measures taken to adjust the built environment and human systems to reduce harm from the impacts of the climate crisis.

  • Adaptive capacity refers to the ability to adjust functions to reduce harm. In social systems, it refers to the ability of institutions and people to problem solve and take opportunities for recovery and reconstruction. It includes the ability of San Francisco's individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks they may experience. For San Francisco this means (1) the ability to quickly respond and recovery from a disaster or large shock; (2) the ability to address systemic crises such as lack of economic mobility, inequity, poverty, and housing shortages; and (3) the ability to prepare for and address slow-moving disasters like climate change and sea level rise.

  • A disaster is a hazard that has occurred, or a hazard event. A disaster is often—but not always—sudden and causes loss of life or great damage. The terms “disaster” and “hazard” are often used interchangeably. See Hazard.

environmental justice, Environmental Justice Communities
  • Environmental justice is the equitable distribution of environmental benefits and elimination of environmental burdens to promote healthy communities where everyone in San Francisco can thrive. Government should foster environmental justice through processes that address, mitigate, and amend past injustices while enabling proactive, community-led solutions for the future.

  • Environmental Justice Communities face environmental racism and subsequently bear disproportionate environmental burdens. Environmental Justice Communities are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color. Leadership by Environmental Justice Communities must be involved in the creation and decision-making of environmental justice solutions. In San Francisco, Environmental Justice Communities are identified through the Environmental Justice Communities Map incorporated here by reference, and are defined as the census tracts with the top 30% of cumulative environmental and socioeconomic vulnerability across the City. The Environmental Justice Communities Map was developed in response to California Senate Bill 1000 (SB 1000) which requires cities and counties to adopt a map of “disadvantaged communities” and adopt environmental justice policies in their General Plan to address “unique or compounded health risks.” The Environmental Justice Map and Framework is expected to be adopted into the General Plan in 2023.

functional recovery
  • Functional recovery is a standard for buildings and lifeline infrastructure to be designed and constructed to support the basic intended functions of a building soon after an earthquake or other severe hazard, such as eating, sleeping, shopping, or learning. This standard includes maintenance and the restoration of occupancy within a determined maximum acceptable time, and goes beyond life safety standards.

green building, green infrastructure
  • The principles of green building lead building design, construction, and operation to reduce or eliminate negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on climate and the natural environment. The local context, such as climate conditions, building types and age, and cultural traditions, contribute to green building approaches. In San Francisco, these principles are supported by the Green Building Code.

  • green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. It can be effective, economical, and enhance community safety and quality of life. Green Infrastructure incorporates both the natural environment and engineered systems to provide clean water, conserve ecosystem values and functions, and provide a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.

  • A hazard is a source of potential danger or an adverse condition that could harm people, socioeconomic systems, or built and natural environments. Hazards can occur naturally and/or by human influence. As interactions between society and the natural environment are complex, it can be difficult to delineate a singular source of hazards (e.g., human-influenced ignition of fires during drought conditions, development in low-lying areas prone to flooding).

  • Geological Hazards include: Earthquake, Tsunami, Landslide, Dam or Reservoir Failure

    • An earthquake is a sudden slip on a fault in the earth’s crust, and the resulting ground shaking and radiated seismic energy caused by the slip.

    • A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by sudden movement of the sea floor, typically as a result of major earthquakes.

    • Landslide is a general term used to describe the downslope movement of soil, rock, and organic materials under the effects of gravity.

    • A dam or reservoir failure is an unplanned release of water resulting from the structural compromise or collapse of a dam or other structural element, such as the wall of a tank.

  • Weather-Related Hazards include: Flooding, High Wind, Extreme Heat, Drought

    • Flooding is covering or inundation of normally dry land with large amounts of water, can be caused by the overflow of water from a stream, river, lake, coastal body, or a water control feature such as a pipe, dam, or levee.

    • The National Weather Service defines “high winds” as sustained wind speeds of 40 miles per hour (mph) or greater lasting for one hour or longer, or winds of 58 mph or greater for any duration.

    • According to the National Weather Service, extreme heat occurs when the temperature reaches extremely high levels or when the combination of heat and humidity causes the air to become oppressive and stifling. Generally, extreme heat is 10 degrees above the normal temperature over an extended period.

    • Drought is insufficient water over a prolonged period.

  • Combustion-Related Hazards include: Large Urban Fire, Wildfire, Poor Air Quality

    • A Large Urban Fire is a large, destructive fire that spreads across one or more City streets.

    • A Wildfire is an unplanned, uncontrolled fire in an area of combustive vegetation or fuel.

    • Poor Air Quality is the condition of ambient air quality having high concentrations of air pollutants that are unhealthy to public health and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures air quality with the Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures the concentration of five pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. When AQI exceeds 100, air quality becomes unhealthy for certain sensitive groups of people, then everyone as air quality worsens.

  • Biological and Toxic Hazards include: Pandemic, Hazardous Materials

    • A Pandemic is when an infectious disease outbreak occurs worldwide, or over a very wide area and affects many people.

    • Hazardous Materials are harmful both to human health and to the environment. An accidental hazardous material release can occur wherever hazardous materials are manufactured, stored, transported, or used.

  • The assets and systems that deliver public services to a community, such as roads delivering goods and transportation options, telephone lines and fiber optic cables delivering internet, pipes and pumps delivering water, and the power grid delivering energy.

  • Lifelines are the systems, assets, and facilities that provide services vital to the function of society and important to emergency response and recovery after disaster. These lifelines include water, sewer, and power provision; communication networks such as phone, radio, television, and internet; transportation; food; shelter; health; and more. By definition, these lifelines can extend beyond City boundaries. For example, state and private agencies operate some regional lifelines, like highways or internet.

mitigation, hazard mitigation
  • Mitigation is the reduction of vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts of hazards on people, assets, and the environment. Often strategic nearer-term investments, mitigation actions can lessen the scale and intensity of potential future damage, thereby reducing response and recovery expenditures. Proactive hazard mitigation is particularly important for protecting the most vulnerable populations.

  • Hazard mitigation is a series of sustained actions taken to reduce or eliminate short- and long-term risks to life and property from hazards.

racial advantage (or privilege)
  • Racial advantage, or privilege, is the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because of their race.

racial and social equity
  • Racial equity is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races that results in equal outcomes, while recognizing the historical context and systemic harm done to specific racial groups.

  • Social equity is the systemic fair treatment of people of all social groups that results in equal outcomes, while recognizing the historical context and systematic harm done to specific groups, such as along gender identity, sex, religion, and disability status.

racial disparity
  • Racial disparity is a condition where one racial group systemically and disproportionately experiences worse outcomes in comparison to another racial group.

recovery and reconstruction
  • Recovery and reconstruction involve activities that restore and rebuild communities post-disaster—with fundamentals such as housing security, business resumption, lifeline restoration, and provision of essential services. The thoughtful rebuilding of day-to-day livelihoods can advance San Francisco towards a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient future.

  • Resilience in San Francisco describes the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within the City to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks they may experience. It is important to note that resilience is a concept that extends beyond preparation for discrete natural disasters and should be defined in connection to issues such as climate change, escalating urbanization, and other disruptions of daily life.

  • Response efforts provide critical information and emergency services during and immediately after disasters. It focuses on saving lives and preventing further injury to people and places, particularly focused on vulnerable populations. Response activities bring immediate support and relief against the social, economic, and environmental consequences of disasters.

risk, risk reduction
  • Risk is the chance that a given hazard could occur multiplied by the understood consequences of an impact on people, socioeconomic systems, or the built and natural environment.

  • Risk reduction includes regulatory controls, plans, policies, programs, projects, initiatives, and anything else employed to eliminate, avoid, or minimize risks.

safety, life safety
  • Safety is the state of being protected from harm or danger. This includes physical and mental harm from external and internal dangers.

  • Life safety refers to building performance that prevents partial or total structural collapse and limits damage to nonstructural and non-life-threatening levels.

vulnerable communities
  • For the purposes of the Safety & Resilience Element, vulnerable communities describe communities who experience heightened risk and increased sensitivity to potential harms than the City average. To be vulnerable means possessing a lower adaptive capacity to withstand stresses, and often means that these people and places are hit the “first and worst” by disasters. These disproportionate effects are caused by physical (built and environmental), social, political, and/or economic factor(s), which are exacerbated by adverse climate impacts. The specific population groups encompassed by this term vary from issue to issue, and vulnerability can be defined by a variety of factors, such as geography, demographics, health disparities, and asset ownership. For example, vulnerable communities can include seniors, people with disabilities and other function needs, institutionalized or incarcerated people, youth who have been separated from their families, residents of single-room occupancy hotels and public housing, and others. The designation does not describe any intrinsic characteristic of a group of people, but rather a failure of society and systemic actions which have rendered them vulnerable.


2022 Safety and Resilience Element adopted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Ordinance 0260-22 on 12/13/2022.