Turning Sea Level Rise Ideas into Reality is Last Challenge

Supervisor Kate Sears honors the P+SET team, including Shore Up Marin, for their work in Marin City
MTC chair Jake Mackenzie exhorts the crowd to make these plans real
At a San Rafael outreach fair, children designed solutions, including floating structures to cope with sea level rise
photos and post by Jen Gennari

In a former Alameda airplane hangar-turned-winery, people gathered to celebrate the culmination of a year-long effort to generate innovative ideas to prepare for sea level rise. The Resilient by Design teams—including two focused on San Rafael and Marin City—received praise for their efforts.

Large posters, displayed against the stacked wine barrels, showcased all the design concepts, from shifting sediment to floating structures. Outside, people enjoyed wine and tacos and more from food trucks, amid poles marking the differing heights of future sea levels. San Francisco was visible across acres of concrete, the remnants of old Air Force runways.

We are not dealing with climate change, but climate reality.

Among the speakers was Henk Ovink, the Netherlands’ Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, who urged us to find a platform for moving these projects forward. Another speaker, who had experienced Katrina flooding in New Orleans, warned that “the prospect of marsh to mud to open water is real and threatening.”

The designers who worked with Marin City were the standouts among the nine teams. Their success was built on real integration with local leaders, with Supervisor Kate Sears and Shore Up Marin. This article describes the challenges facing Marin City, and a call for floating home residents to support our nearest neighbors.

With 101 cities in the Bay Area and lots of “elected officials who love local control,” Jake Mackenzie, chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, acknowledged implementation will be hard. But, he vowed, the Resilient by Design concepts will become part of the action plan for Plan Bay Area. “This vision requires regional cooperation.”

The keynote speaker Liz Ogbu, a designer, urbanist, and social innovator, quoted Al Gore who says, “We are not dealing with climate change, but climate reality. And that is here, and we cannot be in denial.” Acknowledging that innovation is popular in the Bay Area, she said our creativity and energy must begin from an integrated perspective. She urged people to follow the Marin City model, “learning from us and investing in us.”

Ogbu recognized that “if this thing was easy, it would have been done already.” For all the beautiful designs, she noted, “affordability and displacement are the elephants in the room. It is a pain point.”

“We need to invest in what is shared,” Ogbu said. “This place we call Earth will fail if there are only protections for some.”

Listen to the final awards presentation.

Learn more about the Marin City plan.