Residents, public authorities, and local, national, and international experts are exploring innovative solutions to protect San Francisco and the Bay Area from flooding, violent storms, and earthquakes. The rising sea level will affect everyone – not just people who have lived in the area for decades but also the roads and airports that are so important to the infrastructure of the 9 counties, 101 municipalities, and countless companies that form the backbone of this specific part of California.
San Francisco and the Bay Area are therefore preparing for the future. Crucial questions need to be tackled, such as how to deal with the rise in sea level and how to keep San Francisco and the other cities accessible. This represents a major challenge. The renowned Rockefeller Institute has therefore organised an international design competition: Resilient by Design Bay Area. Goudappel Coffeng is part of one of the ten teams competing. It is doing so as part of the international team led by the British firm of Hassell, which also includes Deltares, Lotus Water, frog design, Originate, Civic Edge Consulting, and Page & Turnbull.
Goudappel Coffeng started by zooming in on the area south of the city of San Francisco (San Mateo County) so as to produce an overall strategy for the entire area. Consultants Thomas Straatemeier and Ilse Galama are working on the design for the future of South San Francisco. “Flooding is already a regular occurrence,” they say, “and there are so many miles of roads and car parks that you can really speak of a ‘concrete jungle’. Because Americans travel far more by car than by train, we’re definitely also looking for alternatives to driving – alternatives that do need some improvement though.”
Better access to public transport
“In doing so,” says Thomas, “we are focusing specifically on the existing train and metro systems. We need to improve the stations and make them more accessible by bicycle or on foot. The area that we’re dealing with has some specific features. To the west of the highway there are homes, schools and a dense road network, while to the east there are industrial estates, some of them hi-tech and biotech but also with low-value industry.”
Thomas Straatemeier explains: “It’s worth noting the differences to the situation in our own country. In the US, you’re dealing with public authorities that are far more sluggish and a situation in which the car is by far the dominant means of transport.” “At the same time,” says Ilse Galama, “it’s a compact area with two good public transport lines, and we can also plan various arrangements for cycling. We prefer to work from an integrated concept of what we want to achieve, how we can encourage people to cycle, reduce car use somewhat, and organise a new public transport line (already planned) as part of the solution. After all, people do need to be able to access the area. If there isn’t any flooding, it’s an area that’s highly suitable, and in our opinion there’s room for greenery, cyclists, and pedestrians. We’ve now done a commuting analysis and we know where the opportunities lie. They include more waterborne transport and getting schools involved with the topic of health and road safety. We’re also working on this with the University of California, Berkeley.”
On May 17/18, a Designing our Future summit was held, where the ten teams presented their plans. The jury included the Netherlands’ well-known “water envoy” Henk Ovink. Henk is reinforcing our country’s international water ambitions and contributing to even better international marketing of Dutch knowledge and expertise.