Flood risk to fragile housing in San Rafael study area.

With a population of nearly 60,000, San Rafael is Marin County’s largest city. San Rafael’s low-lying downtown and adjacent Canal district, home to an already disadvantaged Latin-American immigrant population, also make it the most vulnerable community to sea-level rise, according to the BayWAVE assessment for the city of San Rafael.

Local students explore their shore’s hardline defenses. Photo: YESS

With a rise in sea level of five feet, a point the bay is expected to reach by the end of the century, San Rafael could see more than 2,000 acres of land and 4,700 living units inundated by daily tides, causing some $2.6 billion in property damage.

However, the Canal district could see severe impacts much sooner. The report found that just ten inches of sea level rise, which might happen within the next couple of decades, could displace thousands. If nothing is done, over time rising tides and storm surges would push water farther inland through the canal, eventually reaching downtown and the bustling San Rafael Transit Center. Eventually, more than 2,000 residential parcels in San Rafael could be at risk of flood damage.