Learning to Collaborate: Lessons Learned from Governance Processes Addressing the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Transportation Corridors Across California

Research Team: Mark Lubell (lead) and Francesca Vantaggiato

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: Sea-level rise is a growing concern for coastal communities in California. Flooding and erosion, exacerbated by rising sea levels, hamper the viability of transportation and other critical infrastructure along California’s coasts and bays. Adapting transportation infrastructure to sea-level rise requires collaboration and coordination among policy stakeholders and governments at multiple geographic levels.

Project Description: This study was designed to identify lessons learned from experiences of multi-stakeholder collaboration in governance processes focused on adaptation to sea level rise for specific transportation corridors/assets across different areas of California. Four transportation assets in California were selected as case studies: State Route 37 in the Bay Area; the Cardiff Beach Living Shorelines Project and the LOSSAN railroad at Del Mar in San Diego County; and the Port of Long Beach in Los Angeles County. The study methods included attendance of policy meetings; document analysis; and interviews of staff at (local, regional, and state) government bodies, transportation agencies, climate collaboratives, etc. The study identified three major governance challenges shared among these cases: (1) stakeholder involvement or collaboration with ‘unusual’ partners; (2) jurisdictional fragmentation; and (3) lack of funding. The lessons learned to address these challenges were: (a) include a wide range of stakeholders early on in the project; (b) identify an intermediary or facilitator with relevant knowledge and social capital with the stakeholders; (c) establish a forum for negotiations and information exchange; (d) draft a memorandum of understanding with the rules of collaboration; (e) appoint a project manager to tie all the project parts and stakeholders together and sustain engagement; (f) structure the collaboration in tiers from technical/operational to executive/political; (g) explore options to make any given project a multi-benefit project; (h) advocate for a multi-year stream of funding rather than a lump sum; (i) leverage collaboration for funding and highlight, to potential funders, the collaborative element as a means to increase the efficiency of their investment. Issues to consider when deriving lessons from other jurisdictions were: differences in capacity, or available resources and staff; the numbers of actors involved; pre-existing positive collaborative relationships between the actors; exposure of transportation assets to sea-level rise; existing vulnerabilities of the corridor/asset; and the economic relevance of the corridor/asset.

Status: Completed

Budget: $77,515

Policy Brief(s):