Resilient design competition for San Francisco Bay Area

A new design competition aims to make the San Francisco Bay Area more resilient to climate change. (Sergey Novikov/

A new competition unveiled by the Rockefeller Foundation aims to make the San Francisco Bay Area more resilient to climate change. The philanthropy announced a $4.6 million grant for an “innovative design competition” to develop the best solutions for localities in the region.

The contest aims to protect critical infrastructure from floods, storms, earthquakes and other catastrophes.

It is modeled after another contest that the foundation supported in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which impacted 24 states on the East Coast of the U.S in 2012.

The award-winning Rebuild by Design Hurricane Sandy Design Competition funded projects that seek to mitigate flooding in lower Manhattan; Hoboken, New Jersey and other low-lying areas.

For the West Coast contest, the foundation will begin accepting ideas in April 2017. Regional innovators, city leaders, designers, architects and developers are among the groups expected to participate.

The foundation states here that it seeks ten “visionary, realistic, and replicable design solutions.” It expects to attract applicants from all over the world.

Each idea should be adaptable and scalable to help the nine counties that comprise the San Francisco Bay Area confront a variety of environmental hazards. They include rising tides that could leave parts of the city under water in the next century if no preventative action is taken.

The project will feature two phases. The first would involve a three-month effort to research design concepts and seek feedback from community members.

That would be followed by a five-month design phase — in partnership with local residents, businesses and community groups — to shape detailed infrastructure proposals.

In addition to climate change, contestants are urged to propose solutions for two other significant challenges: income disparity and lack of affordable housing.

The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with the San Francisco Planning Department on the project.

Participants in the design competition would collaborate with the foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network. San Francisco and two neighboring cities, Oakland and Berkeley, are part of that separate initiative.

(Disclosure: The Rockefeller Foundation is a funder of Citiscope.)

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David Hatch is a correspondent for Citiscope.  Full bio

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