In the late 1800’s, the State of California undertook a major civil works project to transform San Francisco’s Bay shoreline from a shallow tidal marsh into an urban maritime mecca. Starting in 1878 and throughout the next four decades, the State built a three-mile-long seawall out in the Bay, filled behind to make hundreds of acres land, and constructed a bulkhead wharf and a regular series of finger piers to create San Francisco’s iconic waterfront shape. Stretching from Fisherman’s Wharf in the north to Mission Creek in the south, the Seawall now forms the foundation of the Embarcadero Historic District, supports the iconic Ferry Building and Bulkhead Buildings, stabilizes filled lands containing The Embarcadero multi-modal transit corridor and Citywide utilities, and protects the City edge from erosion and flooding.
A recent earthquake vulnerability study has shed light on the considerable earthquake risk facing the Seawall and this part of the waterfront due to liquefiable fill and underlying Young Bay Mud. The Port and City are now moving forward with a project to strengthen or replace the Seawall and prepare the waterfront for new challenges, including the emerging threat of sea level rise. Immediate life safety upgrades may exceed $500 million, and full infrastructure improvements are estimated to cost up to $5 billion. This presentation will focus on the original construction, prior earthquake performance, vulnerability assessment results, and concepts to advance the project.