Days after the first tropical storm in over 80 years made landfall in Long Beach, bringing record rainfall, power outages and flooding, the city’s Sustainable City Commission was presented with the city’s plans for extreme weather events in the future.

Extreme heat and flooding are expected to be two of the worst issues facing the city in the coming decades, with the number of “extreme heat days”—90 degrees or higher with elevated humidity levels—potentially quadrupling by the end of the century compared to 2008-2017.

There were only nine days per year of extreme heat during that timeframe, but that figure could rise to between 11 and 37 days annually by 2100.

Flooding is already an issue for residents of the city’s shoreside neighborhoods, and with anticipated sea level rise, areas like Belmont Shore, Naples, Southeast Long Beach and parts of West Long Beach could become even more susceptible to high tides and large storms.

The city’s Climate Action Plan calls for a number of preventative measures over the next few decades, ranging from building up the city’s beaches to using heat-reflective materials in city streets and buildings to reduce the ambient temperatures in the city.

The plan was approved by the City Council in 2022 and outlines strategies the city could use to reduce emissions in the hopes of slowing the march of climate change.

Heat islands

Areas with less green space like those in West, North and Central Long Beach could suffer more from rising temperatures because of the “heat island” effect.

The plan calls for increasing the city’s urban forest by about 20,000 trees, with a commitment to replace dead trees or those that are otherwise removed with new trees. Planting trees is a way the city could help absorb some of the carbon dioxide released into the air from vehicles, industry and other sources of greenhouse gases.

Long Beach has a program that allows residents to request the city plant a tree in their parkway, and since 2014, the city has planted over 1,500 trees through that program. Jason Gallup, a sustainability program specialist with the city, said that Long Beach has averaged planting about 175 trees per year through the program but hopes to double that mark this year now that the team is fully staffed.

Cyclists and walkers brave the summer heat on the bike path at Alamitos Beach in Downtown Long Beach Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

However, city officials said Thursday that the tree canopy expansion would be a little more targeted, with those areas of the city that are regularly hotter than other, more tree-rich areas likely to see an influx of new plantings.

Commissioner Rey Gonzalez said he was concerned that the city currently doesn’t do a good enough job to ensure that new trees are watered and taken care of while Commissioner Hilda Gaytan said that replacing mature trees with much younger ones was not a one-to-one replacement.

“You’re saying that eventually, you hope that in 20 years, it will be the same benefit of the tree that you cut down,” Gaytan said.

The city is also looking at “cool pavement” technology that has been used in cities like Phoenix to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by streets. According to the city of Phoenix’s website, its 2021 pilot program found that streets treated with the reflective coating resulted in street temperatures that were between 10.5 degrees and 12 degrees cooler than the rest of the network.

Sea level rise

The ocean could rise as much as 66 inches by 2100, but even at the projected 2030 increase of 11 inches, many city buildings and homes could be affected by intermittent flooding.

Long Beach already has a beach replenishment program that it uses to bolster its shoreline, especially near communities that have the narrowest sections of sand separating homes from the ocean, like the Peninsula. The climate action plan calls for even broader measures to protect the city from rising tides.

Some short-term actions could see the city enhance its beach dunes by replanting native plant species to help keep sand in place. The city could also relocate or raise critical buildings like fire stations and access roads to allow emergency services to be provided during flooding, according to the plan.

The city has already started to plan for this. Early plans for the Belmont Pool replacement were adjusted in 2018 to account for the projected sea level rise.

The report notes that natural beach replenishment and retreat has been upended by the breakwater and development on land, respectively. Waves are not able to bring new sediment on shore, and the beach is constrained by parking lots and surface streets.

Crews build a temporary wall in an attempt to save homes from flooding after waves broke through a sand berm on the Peninsula in Long Beach October 5, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.
Crews build a temporary wall in an attempt to save homes from flooding after waves broke through a sand berm on the Peninsula in Long Beach October 5, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

Realigning or removing beach parking lots could be an option for the city to allow sand to take over and continue to provide a buffer for rising sea levels.

More long-term plans for 2050 and beyond include things like retrofitting the sea walls that protect beach communities from flooding and constructing a berm at Mothers Beach, which would elevate the shoreline at the popular city beach that would both help prevent inland flooding and maintain beach access.

The managed retreat of areas vulnerable to future flooding is listed as something the city should continue to investigate.


Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are credited with driving climate change, and Long Beach is both a consumer and producer because of its oil operations.

In 2015, the city’s wells produced more than 13 million barrels of oil and 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to city documents, which accounts for nearly three times the city’s emissions production when accounting for processing of the oil into things like plastics and gasoline, which is then used in vehicles across the state.

Production has dropped to about 8 million barrels of oil per year, and the city plans to phase out oil production by 2035, something that could help reduce emissions statewide and the local release of methane from oil wells. Methane is about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its ability to trap heat.

An oil rig works in Long Beach. Dec. 7, 2018. Long Beach voters will decide in November whether to increase the city’s oil barrel tax. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

However, the phase-out could be sped up by a referendum vote on the 2024 ballot, which could put new restrictions on oil production in the state that would affect over half the wells in Long Beach.

Long Beach will also have to comply with a new statewide organic recycling law by the end of the year. The goal of the law is to cut the state’s methane emissions by 75% by diverting things like food scraps, yard waste and other organic compounds from landfills. The city has already started raising trash rates to account for the new program that is expected to start picking up residential organic waste in 2024.

In the immediate future, the city is looking to increase public transportation options and electric vehicle infrastructure to reduce one of the largest contributors to emissions in the city. Gasoline and diesel vehicles account for nearly all of the transportation-based emissions created in the city, which is roughly 45% of the city’s annual emissions production, according to the city.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.