Study: Big earthquake could severely damage San Francisco’s waterfront


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — There is growing evidence that a big earthquake could severely damage San Francisco’s waterfront.

Now, a new study claims the city’s aging seawall is in need of an upgrade.

From AT&T Park to Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s Embarcadero is a scenic and popular spot with locals and tourists alike. But this entire stretch of waterfront rests on top of mud and a nearly 100-year-old seawall that also sits on mud.

The seawall has a pyramid shape that runs the length of the Embarcadero, and it’s made up of rocks that were dumped into the Bay starting in the 19th century.

In a new report, commissioned by the Port of San Francisco, engineers studied the seawall. Their conclusion is that during a moderate-to-large earthquake, the wall could move several feet outward towards the Bay.

They said the seawall probably won’t fail, but that movement could result in severe damage to the Embarcadero and the buildings that sit on it, and also large parts of the Financial District.

“The study is really a call to action that we need to make an investment in our seawall,” Interim Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco Elaine Forbes said. “It’s time to shore it up, so that in a big earthquake, the Embarcadero is in good shape and can be an area of response in an emergency.”

On Tuesday, the study was presented to the port commission. Forbes said that they are working on a plan to improve the seawall.

Possible options include drilling through the wall and injecting cement into the mud below to stabilize the ground, or they could strengthen the wall itself with concrete and bulkheads.

Forbes said the work would probably be done in stages, rather than all at once, and as you can probably guess, it won’t be cheap or quick.

“We’ve estimated between $2 billion to $3 billion and up to $5 billion if we are also addressing sea level rise, and…we would like to see major investment in the seawall in the next eight-to-10 year period,” Forbes said.

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