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Resilient by Design Launches Bay Area Challenge

MTC-supported Initiative Seeks to Address Regional Climate Change Impacts
See list of participants below. Photo by Cosimo Bullo.

Adapted from a release issued by Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge.

Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge, an innovative new approach to prepare the Bay Area for the effects of climate change, launched yesterday with an open call for community leaders, local elected officials, national experts and residents to come together and address this critical issue. Local elected officials and regional agency representatives gathered with private sector representatives at the waterfront in Oakland to announce the initiative, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who also is an MTC commissioner. "Now is the time for cities to rise up, and for regions to collaborate," Schaaf said.

The project will develop 10 creative, implementable and long-lasting infrastructure solutions and serve as a blueprint for addressing climate change before a storm or earthquake strikes and creates billions of dollars of damage and displaces vulnerable communities.

The Rockefeller Foundation has funded this effort through a $4.6 million grant, providing the necessary support to create and scale a model of the successful New York Rebuild by Design program which was pioneered by the Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this unique collaborative approach, Design Teams will research and work in communities with local experts for eight months to offer 10 creative solutions than can be adapted throughout the Bay Area and around the world. These 10 solutions will be designed to protect shoreline communities throughout the Bay Area from increasingly severe storms and flooding that disproportionately impacts economically and socially vulnerable communities, and will tackle disparities in housing, health, transportation and the economy.

The Bay Area Challenge that was kicked off yesterday has already received broad support as a collaboration between local communities, Bay Area cities, regional agencies, environmental and business groups and The Rockefeller Foundation. Other local elected officials in attendance included Schaaf, San Mateo County Supervisor David Pine, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, along with Resilient by Design Executive Board Chair Allison Brooks, who is the also executive director of Bay Area Regional Collaborative, Sam Carter, who is the managing director of The Rockefeller Foundation, and student leaders from Rooted in Resilience. Also in attendance were Zachary Wasserman, chair of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.

Noting that the regional came together in June 2016 to pass a parcel tax that will fund the new San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, the Bay Area Council's Wunderman said the Bay Area takes pride in "getting ahead rather than falling behind" when it comes to protecting the Bay and preparing for sea level rise. 

The launch of Resilient by Design was further celebrated at a Wednesday evening reception and panel discussion at the Exploratorium’s Fisher Bay Observatory. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee addressed attendees and encouraged their innovation and cooperation. “I’m excited for our city and region to be an active participant in Resilient by Design – all of us working collectively, breaking barriers and collaborating,” Lee said. “We can help the rest of the country to be more resilient.”

Following the reception, a panel of speakers presented various facets of the resiliency challenge as part of an Exploratorium speaker series called “Conversations About Landscape.” Moderated by Kiran Jain, the chief resiliency officer for the City of Oakland, the panel consisted of Dwayne Marsh of the Government Alliance on Race & Equity, Robin Grossinger of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and Amy Chester of Rebuild by Design, the New York City program that inspired Resilient by Design. 


During the Launch Phase this summer, the challenge will kick off with an open call for community members to suggest sites where action and investment could create community resilience. The Request for Qualifications for Resilient by Design is now available at and Design Team applications are due by July 7, 2017, and 10 design teams will be selected in August 2017.

During the Collaborative Research Phase, teams will participate in a three-month exploratory research and community engagement period to develop initial design concepts based on research and community input. During the Collaborative Design Phase, design teams will engage in a five-month intensive design process working in partnership with residents, businesses, community-based organizations and political leaders to develop detailed, replicable and implementable infrastructure projects.

At the end of the challenge, an internationally renowned jury will judge 10 final designs based on the potential for future successful implementation, adaptation to the future effects of climate change and benefits that address current issues such as public access to recreation areas, access to housing and protection of vulnerable infrastructure and transportation systems.


Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is a collaborative research and design initiative that connects design leaders to community members, local leaders and national experts. In a yearlong challenge, ten teams of architects, engineers, designers and other experts will work alongside community members and local government to identify critical areas along the San Francisco Bayfront and propose exciting new solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes.

Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge will forge close ties with The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network, which seeks to help 100 cities build resilience to thrive in the 21st century. The challenge will leverage the network’s existing resources and institutional knowledge to accomplish shared goals across the Bay Area.

Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is an operating project of the Trust for Conservation Innovation. Funders include The Rockefeller Foundation, Bay Area Regional Collaborative, The Seed Fund, Santa Clara Valley Water District, City and County of San Francisco and MTC. The Executive Board is made up of leaders around the region representing: Bay Area Regional Collaborative, San Francisco Estuary Institute, Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Rebuild by Design, SPUR, State Coastal Conservancy, Bay Area Council, The San Francisco Foundation and the cities of Richmond, Oakland, San José and San Francisco.





Photo, left to right: Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley mayor; Libby Schaaf, Oakland mayor and MTC commissioner; Sam Carter, managing director of The Rockefeller Foundation; Allison Brooks, executive board chair of Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge and executive director of the Bay Area Regional Collaborative; David Pine, San Mateo County supervisor; and student leaders from the Oakland-based non-profit organization Rooted in Resilience.

Press Conference on Video

MTC videographer Mark Jones captured the bayside press conference announcing Resilient by Design on video.

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