The Evolution of San Francisco’s Waterfront

The Embarcadero Seawall is over 100 years old  – it’s older than the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower. The Seawall was designed and constructed before engineers understood how to build infrastructure to survive earthquakes. Most of the Seawall is built over what is called “young bay mud,” a weak, saturated, and highly compressible marine clay that tends to amplify earthquake shaking. The Seawall has aged and settled and no longer offers the same level of flood protection.

Threats to the Embarcadero Seawall – and to San Francisco

San Francisco is vulnerable to immediate seismic risks and emerging flood risks.

A damaging earthquake could happen at any time, and there is scientific consensus that a major earthquake is likely to occur in the Bay Area within the next 25 years. A major earthquake could cause most of the Embarcadero Seawall to settle and move toward the Bay.  This would prove devastating to life, utility and transportation infrastructure, property, and the San Francisco economy.

Sea level rise is also a major threat. Today, King Tides flood the Embarcadero Promenade. As sea levels continue to rise, there will be additional flooding risks, including to the BART and Muni networks and key utility infrastructure.

About the Seawall Earthquake Safety Program

The Port of San Francisco is leading the Seawall Earthquake Safety Program, a citywide effort to strengthen the Embarcadero Seawall and create a more sustainable and resilient waterfront.

Program Goals:
  • Act responsibly, transparently, and with accountability 
  • Reduce earthquake damage
  • Improve flood resilience 
  • Engage the community
  • Enhance the City and the Bay 
  • Preserve historic resources 

Seawall Messenger Videos
Seawall Brochure + Inserts
Embarcadero Seawall Document Library
Seawall and Relevant Studies
Relevant Links