On February 21, 2024, the City of Foster City held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of its Levee Improvements Project – celebrating the upgraded levee that will protect Foster City residents, businesses and infrastructure from flood hazards and storms. Nearly 100 community members attended the event, which featured remarks from City officials and representatives from the state legislature and culminated in the unveiling of a ceremonial plaque commemorating the project’s completion.

The City Council cuts the ribbon to officially open the Levee Improvements Project.

The project was initiated in 2014, when Foster City received notification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that its existing levee system did not meet the minimum requirements for flood protection. To address this and avoid potential designation as a flood zone, the City launched efforts to strengthen the levee system and began a Levee Protection Planning Study in August 2014, reaching completion by February 2015.

A ceremonial plaque is unveiled recognizing completion of the milestone project.

Building upon this groundwork, in October 2014, the City hired a consultant to craft an Environmental Impact Report. Following the Environmental Impact Report process, the City finalized a comprehensive Levee Basis of Design in May 2016. By May 2017, following public engagement and consideration, the City adopted a Final Environmental Impact Report, a pivotal milestone for beginning the project, which involved extensive coordination with regulatory agencies at the federal, state and regional levels to secure necessary permits and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Community members enjoy the completed project.

In September 2017, the City initiated levee design improvements and permitting activities, marking a significant stride forward in the project’s progression. The momentum continued to mount in June 2018 as Foster City voters passed Measure P. This $90 million general obligation bond garnered nearly 81% support and enabled the city to finance the Levee Improvements project to meet FEMA standards, keeping Foster City properties out of the flood zone and allowing residents to avoid having to pay for mandatory expensive flood insurance. The Levee improvements would not only keep the City from being designated as a flood zone but would also protect essential city services during storms and protect the levee from earthquake damage.

Cap and rebar operations.

In November 2019, the City witnessed another critical milestone with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) granting permits, followed by final permit approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January 2020.  

“Foster City’s agency partners, our nearby cities, and our leaders at the county and state levels were integral to the successful completion of this project,” said Foster City Mayor Patrick Sullivan. “With the help of our legislative partners, together with the foresight and support of our community members, we’ve been able to protect the safety and resilience of Foster City, while also paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future for all.”

Foster City Mayor Patrick Sullivan gives remarks during the Ribbon Cutting and Plaque Unveiling ceremony.

With permits issued, the City hired and employed key contractors and project teams, including Shimmick Construction Company, Tanner Pacific Inc., and Tripepi Smith, to oversee construction, management and communications for the multi-year project. The City signaled the beginning of the project by hosting a groundbreaking ceremony in October 2020.

The Foster City Levee Improvements Project work spanned an approximately 6.5-mile stretch along the Bayfront. Along that stretch, the project involved a combination of three different levee types – earthen levee, hybrid sheet pile, and concrete flood wall. While the exact height of the improved levee varies depending on location, it is typically around 6 feet higher than it was before and is around 2.5 feet to 3.5 feet above the walking surface. The project also included the redevelopment and widening of the Levee/Bay Trail, to provide the community with an enhanced, more inviting recreation destination, maintaining the natural beauty of the levee and scenic views. The improvements were designed to enhance levee trail access, usability, and landscaping for walkers, runners and cyclists.

The project spans approximately 6.5 miles along the Foster City border.

As the project began and throughout construction activities, the City employed robust communication efforts to engage community members and share important updates and information. The City launched a dedicated Levee Improvements Project website to share materials, information updates and frequently asked questions. The City also produced weekly social media updates and regular construction news emails to provide project updates and highlight milestones. Recognizing the importance of addressing community inquiries and providing information, the City established a dedicated Levee Improvements Project email address and hotline to promptly respond to public questions and concerns. Communications also included virtual community workshops, in-person meetings, both live-action and animated videos, and printed materials such as detour maps, mailers and brochures.

For the project, the City adopted a phased approach to construction, with temporary closures of the Bay Trail to facilitate construction activities. During the construction process, the project team achieved significant milestones. By March 2023, Phase 1 of the project was completed, restoring public access to the Bay Trail from Port Royal Avenue to Shorebird Park. Subsequent milestones were achieved in July 2023, with Phase 2 reopening the trail up to the San Mateo Bridge, and in October 2023, when Phase 3 was finalized, the trail was completed up to Anchor Road. Following October 2023, the trail was completely open to the public, with contractors still working on ongoing punch list items to meet final completion in February 2024.

Access point excavation.

In July 2023, the City completed the construction of all flood protection elements to submit for FEMA’s future accreditation. This milestone underscored the effectiveness of the project’s design and execution in fortifying Foster City against potential flood hazards.

With the project’s final completion in February 2024, the City demonstrated its dedication to addressing critical infrastructure needs and its commitment to building resilience for the community. The new levee incorporates design features providing robust flood protection, including allowances for future sea level rise. The completion of the project will safeguard the community from storm and flood hazards, reinforce the levee against earthquake damage, and upgrade the popular regional Bay Trail for everyone’s enjoyment.

The project will provide critical safety upgrades and a popular recreational amenity for generations.

“Foster City’s improved levee will serve as a reminder of the power of people coming together for common good and our environment.” Mayor Sullivan said. “And it is my hope that our community will continue to enjoy this project by stepping away from our screens and  reconnecting with all the gifts that nature has to offer. So please, find time today to take a walk, jog, or bike ride and enjoy all the beautiful sights from our beloved Levee.”