Sea Level Rise — Resilient by Design

A partially-submerged bench at Yellow Ferry during a king tide, Jan 2016 | photo and post by Jenny Stein


Some 60 years ago, the construction of the Bay Model helped engineers and hydrologists see the big picture, and better understand the ebb and flow of the estuaries and waterways that feed into San Francisco Bay. Working with nature, and not against it, and with a real-time model, planners were able to identify and reject the more untenable ideas and focus on directions that would prove most beneficial.

Faced with the threat of sea level rise, we again have an opportunity to determine our collective future. Resilient By Design is a recently-launched Bay Area initiative that seeks to identify 10 distinct scenarios around the Bay Area, to select the most promising interdisciplinary teams from among all those who apply, and to then support these teams to come up with 10 corresponding site-specific solutions to sea level rise. I’d like to think of this project as creating 10 Bay Models (though without the hydraulics)—each solution a specific response that will inform not just ourselves but that can be shared with communities worldwide.

In this May 30 SF Chronicle article, Design teams compete for best solution to sea-level conundrum, urban design critic John King covers the groundwork and the ambitions for the project, names some of the local agencies and sponsors who have signed on, and mentions the multi-million dollar funding (from the Rockefeller Foundation) without which this project would be all talk and no teeth. He describes how the final selection of the 10 site models will vary in scope, complexity and scale, and not least that all of the Bay Area counties will be represented.

OPEN CALL FOR SITE IDEAS The criteria for nominating a site is fairly daunting, but in point of fact you don’t need to be a designer or engineer to participate. The organizers acknowledge this project needs community support to be successful, and are specifically asking for site ideas from the general public.


Rather than wait for a natural disaster, the San Francisco Bay Area is proactively reimagining a better future by creating a blueprint for resilience that harnesses Bay Area innovation and serves as a model for communities around the world.

On May 31, 2017, Resilient by Design launched an open call for teams of local and global thought-leaders, architects, engineers, public finance experts, educators, and ecologists to join forces and participate in an intensive and collaborative community-based research process.

Resilient by Design also invites community members to participate in this unique challenge and help suggest local sites that are vulnerable to the threats of climate change and where action and investment could enhance community resilience.


Led by local Resilient by Design experts, selected Design Teams will develop a deep understanding of the needs of local communities by touring suggested sites, meeting with local residents and researching our unique resilience challenges.

This process will educate Design Teams to better determine which sites can have the greatest impact and create more resilient communities, and ultimately make more informed decisions in the Collaborative Design phase that follows.


Design Teams will be matched with specific sites for the Collaborative Design phase. Putting teams side-by-side with key stakeholders and local residents, the partnership will help to generate community-driven inspiration.

During this phase, Resilient by Design will host community events for local residents to share their experiences, insights, priorities and dreams for local sites. This collaboration serves to inspire Design Teams to develop responsive plans that meet the community needs.


At the end of this year long community engagement process, local residents, community leaders and internationally renowned Design Teams with newly developed local knowledge and expertise will have created 10 final designs that are resilient, aspirational, replicable, implementable, and most importantly, have strong government and community support.

Key dates and deadlines:

• On May 31, 2017, the Design Brief was released on Resilient by Design’s website.
• On July 7, 2017, the Design Team application period (and site nominations) will close.
• In early September of 2017, the Collaborative Research Phase for ten selected Design Teams will commence.

The FHA Environmental Committee and the Floating Times will follow along, bringing you updates as the project develops. If you decide to get involved, drop us a line. With any luck, one of the locales put forward, and selected, will fall close to home.