Island Offers Places for Unique Climate Solutions

Resilient By Design    The map above shows how inlets in Alameda’s coastline could be converted to wetlands and absorb rising sea levels.

Several Alameda locations have been nominated to be part of a study that aims to provide unique solutions to locations most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.

The Resilient by Design-Bay Area Challenge is a collaborative research-and-design initiative that connects leaders in design and urban planning with local community members to tackle specific locations that are more susceptible to catastrophic damage in the event of natural disasters. The program will enlist architects, engineers, designers and students from all over the world to team with community members and local governments to find the best solutions.  

Earlier this year, the program’s sponsors received bids from the publicfor potential site ideas for the Bay Area study. Four of the 51 sites nominated for the study are located in Alameda. The four sites are Alameda as a whole, Bay Farm Island (along with the Oakland Airport), Alameda Point and West Alameda. 

The Resilient by Design team released a report of each location and described the challenges they face. The report said all four locations are vulnerable to flooding, sea-level rise, liquefaction, earthquake/earthquake fires and aging infrastructure. The reason for concern for Alameda is its low elevation at just 30 feet above sea level. 

“Estimates project flooding inundating the island approximately one-half mile during extreme storm events at mid-century” the report read. “Sea level rise will inundate the man-made beach at Crown Beach Memorial State Park, the residential areas on the perimeter of the island, the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary marshland and the former Naval Air Station runways.”

Bay Farm Island would suffer a more drastic fate if sea-level rise predictions come true. “With an additional two feet of sea-level rise predicted for Bay Farm, this area will be inundated nearly in its entirety,” the report stated. “One-hundred-year floodwaters can currently overtop the existing ground at various locations along the Oakland shoreline and roadways, Chuck Corica Golf Course and surrounding homes.” And because Bay Farm has few paths to enter or exit the city, researchers believe rapid floodwaters could block emergency and recovery efforts.

Another concern for Bay Farm is the 100-foot-long section of seawall along the north shore could potentially be breached during an earthquake or extreme high-tide event. “This would flood approximately 300 residential buildings, six commercial buildings, and the lagoons,” the report stated.

Alameda Point is vulnerable to rising sea levels also as much of Site A is at sea level. West Alameda section addresses the potential damage severe weather can have on the city’s transportation infrastructure. 

Later this month 10 of the 51 sites will be chosen for the study. The Resilient by Design — Bay Area Challenge studies will be conducted by 10 different collaborative design teams that will take on one location each. One of the teams, the Field Operation Team, initially proposed “strengthening and reimagining Oakland’s and Alameda’s Inner Harbor seawalls as state-of-the-art, seismic-resistant edges to protect sea level rise.”

Design teams toured Alameda in September where they visited Alameda Point, the Northern Alameda Waterfront, and Bay Farm Island with City of Alameda staff and residents. They also heard from Earhart Elementary School students at Bay Farm Island who were participating in the NOAA Ocean Guardians educational program.

Resilient by Design is modeled after the successful Rebuild by Design challenge that addressed infrastructure needs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut following Hurricane Sandy. 

The project is being funded by the Rockerfeller Foundation, Marin Community Foundation, Seed Fund and many other organizations. 

To learn more about Resilient by Design, visit