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Forging Powerful Partnerships for ResilienceGrounding Adaptation in Community EngagementCreating Pathways for Social ResilienceTransforming the Governance Paradigm | Taking Action Under UncertaintyInvesting in Climate-Smart InfrastructureIntegrating Solutions for the Built EnvironmentEnhancing Natural and Working Lands Resilience

Transforming the Governance Paradigm Track

Track summary by Lolly Lim, Assistant Project Manager, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

As the State of California faces the “new normals” of climate change head on, governments and policies need to adapt to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of communities. The sessions within CAF18’s Governance track highlighted the challenges and needs ahead in meeting this considerable task. Several sessions demonstrated ways in which some local governments are already adapting in a structural way to better serve their communities. Sonoma County formed the Office of Resilience and Recovery in the wake of devastating wildfires in the fall of 2017. Instead of redoubling existing efforts in emergency management, the County launched this new entity to comprehensively consider long-term strategies for resilience in the region. It is considering resilience not only in the context of natural disasters, but holistically, to encompass goals around housing affordability as well as economic prosperity for residents.

The CAF18 Governance sessions also focused on the need for improvements in fire insurance coverage and access throughout the state. Private homeowner fire insurance costs are increasing, rates of non-renewals year-to-year are increasing, and is estimated that many homeowners are underinsured. The sessions underscored the need to better align insurance companies’ rate models and structures with the actions that homeowners are taking to increase the resilience of their homes. This would help ensure that insurance prices better reflect the true risks for individual properties and homeowners who have made investments in fire-protecting their homes.

Lastly, the importance of community engagement–and particularly the engagement of stakeholders who are often left out of decision-making tables–stood out during the sessions. As we plan adaptation strategies such as coastal retreat, it will be important to elevate voices of those beyond homeowners, including those who work in coastal cities, as well as beachgoers. As noted by some speakers, we should strive to ensure that existing inequities are not exacerbated due to exclusion of people in adaptation conversations.

Coding for Climate: Strategies for Developing Climate-Adaptive Ordinances

Session report by Lolly Lim, Assistant Project Manager, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Moderator: Jessica Grannis, Adaptation Program Director, Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center
Dana Brechwald, Regional Resilience Planner, Association of Bay Area Governments
Edith Hannigan, Land Use Planning Policy Manager, CAL FIRE Board of Forestry and Fire Protection
Sean Hecht, Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment; Co-Director, UCLA Law Environmental Law Clinic; UCLA School of Law
Julianne Polanco, State Historic Preservation Officer, California Office of Historic Preservation

Many climate adaptation strategies will need to be implemented on the local scale by local governments through changes in land use policies. This session focused on legal frameworks underpinning adaptation actions that may need to be taken by governments (e.g., facilitating coastal retreat), as well as the tools that are currently available to support local governments in better integrating adaptation and resilience strategies into policies.

The session underscored the ways in which local governments can embed resilience strategies into their zoning and building codes, as well as their general plan at large. It alluded to mechanisms (e.g., creation of overlay districts, encouraging relocation through tax credits or other means) that can be utilized by local governments to direct developments away from high hazard areas. Panelists also discussed the need for better aligning existing incentives and policies around building retrofits and investments (e.g., PACE financing for energy efficiency and solar PV; seismic retrofits). Programs supporting these initiatives often operate in silos even though residents may have the option to access a combination of these resources. Better aligning these program would help ensure that residents taking the initiative to retrofit their homes can do so under a coordinated strategy.

The session was uplifting in its empowerment of local governments. As noted by speaker Dana Brechwald from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), “Land use planning, zoning codes, building codes, and other local policy/regulations are powerful tools for reducing exposure, decreasing sensitivity and increasing adaptive capacity of hazards.”


The California Adaptation Forum is hosted by the Local Government Commission