By Bob Walsmith Jr.
2022 President
Santa Barbara Association of Realtors

This past week, I was fortunate to attend the inaugural Smart Coast California Summit in Long Beach on behalf of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. I was joined by Reyne Staplemann, a former SBAOR President and current board member of Smart Coast California. This summit brought Realtors, legislators, land use planners, attorneys, and other interested parties together in the same room with the purpose to discuss sea level rise in California, the effects on our beautiful coastline and how to hopefully negate, or at least mitigate, the effects of sea level rise with smart and economical solutions.

Smart Coast California was established in 2019 to promote and advocate for property rights and smart land use policies affecting California’s 1,100 miles of coastline.  People from all over the world flock to live and play on our coast for its beauty and amusement.  We need to make sure we make smart decisions on how to protect our coast so those living here can continue to enjoy the use of their property and those visiting still have access to our pristine beaches for generations of Californians and tourists to come.

Smart Coast California started out as a grassroots coalition. However, in just three years,  and based on those in attendance and the number of people that spoke passionately about this topic, it will no doubt continue to grow into a force, facilitate real change and hopefully be replicated in other parts of the country where sea level rise is also a growing issue.

Sea level rise is real and something that perhaps a lot of people don’t really think too much about. However, after attending this summit, I am now acutely aware of the repercussions if we do nothing and allow this to happen. If the sea level rises, homes will be lost, in addition to vital infrastructures important to our daily lives. Things such as underground utilities, sewage systems, and more will be highly impacted and/or destroyed, causing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars of damage.

If homes are lost, then local communities lose valuable tax dollars, tourism dollars, etc. We all know how tight local government budgets are these days, but imagine if the local municipalities loses over $500 million dollars of tax dollars. What then? This is just an example of what can happen if we don’t plan now, don’t spend money now, and  if all parties don’t come together to agree on viable solutions.

The problem with any undertaking of this magnitude, is it is often difficult to spend money now, especially millions of dollars, as opposed to spending billions of dollars after we face more and more significant catastrophes. It is not popular with politicians and taxpayers alike. After this summit, I am optimistic that we can agree on solid, common sense solutions and save our coastline.

The solutions are not easy ones, and some might not be popular to many, but again, if we simply bury our heads in the sand (so to speak), and allow the inevitable to happen, we will lose something, possibly forever, that we all hold so very dear, our beautiful and pristine coastline.

There were multiple panels during the summit; one with politicians and how certain localities are trying to fight this onslaught of nature through the political process. One was geared towards attorneys (both from the private sector and the California Coastal Commission) and the delicate balance between keeping the coast as pristine as possible and the rights of homeowners to protect their valuable properties. Another panel had engineers speaking about real world solutions to this coming crisis. One other panel showcased the projected rise in the sea level and the models used to project that rise.

I left this summit very concerned about sea level rise, but also optimistic because of the number of smart and passionate people, regardless of affiliation, that seem to want the same thing and that is to protect the most beautiful stretch of coastline on the planet.

For more information about Smart Coast California, visit

Bob Walsmith Jr. is a native to Southern California and a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Santa Barbara. During his work with the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, Bob has served on the CORE Committee, Education Committee, been Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and the Multiple Listing Service Committee. He also is on the Board of Directors of the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara. Bob lives in Goleta with his beautiful wife Julie. When not working, Bob enjoys playing golf, fine wine, fine dining, and walking our beautiful coastline. Bob can be reached at 805.720.5362 and/or


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