Between Land and Sea: An Approach for Resilient New Development along the San Francisco Bay


The urban edge that defines the San Francisco Bay is a contested landscape whose boundaries are continually changing, both in form and in definition. Much like the tidal flux of the Bay wetlands, the urbanized waterfront can extend and recede. Over the years, the Bay Area has seen a large portion of the historic wetlands filled or leveed off for residential, commercial, and industrial land uses. With current sea-level rise projections, it appears that the water will once again reclaim the bay lands that have been filled. To combat sea-level rise, many are calling for bigger and better levees, while still others claim that urban development in the areas at risk of inundation should be removed to allow for tidal wetlands to migrate to higher elevations with the rising sea levels. I propose that both may be accomplished by a managed retreat of existing development, enabling wetland migration, while introducing a resilient new development and infrastructure that is uniquely defined by the region’s ecological characteristics. My design research examines the potential for urban development built on levees that allow tidal wetlands to coexist between buildings. I have chosen waterfront sites at risk of inundation from sea-level rise in three counties around the San Francisco Bay. In each site, I will demonstrate the long-term benefits of a managed retreat and resilient redevelopment strategy that creates a new set of relationships between urban life and ecology, ultimately redefining the boundary of the city.

Author Information
Gabriel Kaprielian, Tyler School/Temple University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICSEEHawaii2017
Stream: Environmental Sustainability & Environmental Management: Land Use & Misuse

This paper is part of the IICSEEHawaii2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon