How to Redesign the Bay Area to Fight Future Climate Disasters

Sourced from Fast Company

When the oldest restaurant in San Francisco was built in 1861, it sat on the waterfront of a creek, serving seafood caught in the neighborhood. The restaurant hasn’t moved, but the creek was buried underground in a culvert nearby, and the marsh that once surrounded the area has been developed, built on debris from the 1906 earthquake. The building now sits on Bayshore Boulevard, a street with several lanes of traffic, sandwiched between two freeways and across from a gas station and a parking lot.

The neighborhood is one of the parts of the Bay Area most at risk from flooding from rising sea levels and severe storms and from earthquakes. It’s also one of nine areas reimagined by teams of architects and designers in a year-long competition to create a “blueprint of resilience” for the region (largely focused on climate change and sea level rise, but focused on earthquakes, as well). The proposal for the area, located in an industrial corner of southeastern San Francisco, suggests partially uncovering the creek, both to better deal with flooding and to bring green space to a part of the city that lacks it.

The competition, Resilient by Design, was inspired by the Rebuild by Design challenge held in New York City after Hurricane Sandy, and funded largely by the Rockefeller Foundation, which also helped fund the work in New York. “We thought, can we do something similar, but before we have a big natural disaster?” says Amanda Brown-Stevens, managing director of Resilient by Design. “Can we proactively think about bringing in design in a creative way to help us reduce flood risk in the future?”

Billions of dollars’ worth of property in the Bay Area is at risk from rising sea levels, including infrastructure like San Francisco’s international airport. As some parts of the city sink, one recent study found that even more land is at risk than previously thought. The low-lying communities that are most at risk as the water rises also tend to have other challenges, including poverty, asthma, and other health issues from pollution, and an increased risk of earthquake damage, especially in areas that were built on rubble on former marshes. The designers looked at resilience holistically–not just how infrastructure might reduce flooding, but how communities could become stronger to bounce back when floods inevitably happen. They also looked at solutions beyond simple seawalls, which can’t prevent flooding if part of the problem is coming from stormwater and high groundwater.

Click here to read the full article