Around the globe, waters are rising. And many of the institutions
charged with doing something about it are sitting on their hands.
Those attempting adaptation planning in the SF Bay Area are reeling, paralyzed by a petrification of the progressive ethos that attempted to
"Save the Bay" in the 20th century.
Approaches aimed at curbing the effects of climate change that are mired in outmoded governance, policy and planning procedures are absurd in light of a problem characterized primarily and inexorably by passing time.
Our vulnerable, voiceless communities, and our already-imperiled ecosystems will, of course, suffer the most.
The Live Edge Adaptation Project categorically rejects postures of avoidance and resistance, and puts forth a bold new vision for a better Bay.
Designer // Builder // Artist // Activist
Image commissioned by JNR Landscape Architects and Siegel + Strain Architects.
A vision for the future Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond, Ca, Incorporating LEAP's Innovative response to SLR.
A constructed Barrier Island shadows a lagoon from wave scouring, and a marsh plain is built.
LEAP (the Live Edge Adaptation Project) is conceived as a response to this slow-moving disaster, and represents a major pivot toward embracing natural shore forms and ecological systems as sea level rise adaptation strategies. By embracing novel resource stewardship paradigms and cutting-edge ‘green’ infrastructure innovations, the Bay Shore can be remade and reimagined as a massive expansion and improvement of habitat and human spaces.
The Video from the LEAP Launch at UC Berkeley, and the Webinar from the CLimate Readiness Institute is available here :
One of the finest natural harbors on earth, the San Francisco Bay was once a pristine estuary, bursting and bustling with life. Before Europeans arrived, it was the most densely populated area in the country, home to tens of thousands of Native Peoples.
The San Francisco Bay will be remade by rising waters. A Bashore of over 1,000 linear miles, much of it lined with vulnerable critical infrastructures, the Bayshore—and the intersection of the built and natural environments embodied therein—is primed to experience unprecedented impacts. The ‘hard’ engineering solutions that were historically applied and embraced to control the Bay’s dynamics are aging, degrading, economically unsustainable and failing miserably to deliver multiple socio-cultural benefits.
The Bay Plan, magna carta to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, was conceived and drafted prior to awareness of climate change and sea level rise. It, and the McAteer Petris legislation of 1969, broadly defined and aimed to prevent “filling” of the SF Bay and set the stage for our current predicament.
It's not rocket science : the systems capable of most sustainably managing the fluctuations and flows of the natural world are those found within it. For centuries, industrialized societies all over the globe have ignored or defied this to their peril : investing in infrastructures built to function in opposition to natural forces, and commensurately doomed to succumb to them.
The Bay is a substantial body of water, over which wind travels significant distances. This energy--fetch--is converted into waves that break on our shores. Nascent marsh plains cannot survive in areas of high fetch : they require a buffer to sap the energy out of the waves that rake the Bayshore and define our coasts. By shadowing the shallows from this destructive energy, the Bay can reclaim vast areas for the creation--as opposed to merely a restoration approach--
of a novel, green infrastructure for flood protection.
Myriad agencies, jurisdictions, and countless public and private interests now vie for control of the Bay Shore. The net effect of overlapping and competing mandates, outmoded regulatory frameworks, and the brittle organizational architecture of Bay planning, policies and regulations has been a petrification of the progressive ethos that defined the SF Bay Area, and, indeed, attempted to “Save the Bay” in the first place.
The cornerstone of this approach is the tidal marsh. Decimated by hydraulic mining, damming, diking, culverting creeks and the flat-out filling of the Bay in the 19th and 20th centuries, the marsh nonetheless represents an incredibly resilient and economically feasible natural complex for reducing surge height and energy, physically retaining water and preventing inland flooding. Marshes also provide major services in stormwater management, carbon sequestration and habitat, in addition to improving quality of life in adjacent communities.
The photo above shows the metering lights at the approach to the Western span of the SF Bay Bridge, over which 250,000 people drive daily. That highly controversial half of a bridge cost $6.5 Billion, and is plagued by both suspicious structural systems and current and imminent flooding at the Oakland landing -- which will worsen catastrophically with a rising Bay.
But the tidal marsh, for all of its beneficial potential, is critically threatened. They exist only in a narrow band where the proper elevation, tidal inundation regime and sediment and organic matter cycling coexist. As the bay rises, our surviving marshes will drown without approaches intended to help them keep pace with rising waters. Moreover, the marsh’s natural reaction to a rising Bay will be to “migrate” into higher elevations—and the built environment that hugs the shore so tightly in many places will certainly not cede to this hallowed ground. Without proactive environmental engineering measures to restore and build the Live Edge — and the political will to advance these approaches — our marshes will drown and our mudflats will become open water : the most dangerous condition for a shoreline society to cope with.
By embracing novel, naturally-informed shore forms, extant marsh plains can be strengthened and expanded, and new marsh plains can be constructed in the shallow terraces of the Bay. But LEAP is also concerned with social and environmental justice, and articulates a vision of novel shorelines as community and regional assets and drivers of local economies.
It is time to invest in sustainable adaptation strategies, based on the performance of resilient natural systems. Major regional protection, enhancement and improvement is possible. The regional applications that comprise the LEAP toolkit undeniably have major implications for coastal societies around the country, and, indeed, the globe.
The dredge regimen of the Bay is a generations-long case study is resource mismanagement. The army Corps of Engineers recieves huge sums of money to move a natural resource from a place we don't want it to a place we don't need it.
The Bay is no stranger to disasters. The difference with the challenge of a rising Bay is that we can get out in front of it--and do something about it--that turns the crisis into an opportunity for a massive reinvestment in public infrastructure, open space and habitat.
Imagine an East Bay with a Live Edge open space network twice the size of Golden Gate Park.
We built our infrastructures to manage the Bay based on a static model. The Bay is not one. Our energy, transportation, storm water, flooding, and sanitation management grid is a web of systems--often placed on or utilizing low elevations-- woven together to keep the rythms of the built environment running smoothly. A rising Bay will render many of these physical structures and management models obsolete.
Silted-in drainage outflows, spec'd at an inadequate (or outdated) elevation,
ironically located at the Ora Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, on the Hayward Shore.
We can't build "hard" to get out of this predicament and attempting to do so would prove the wrong choice in time. The geographic history of global development and expansion is littered with examples of our best laid plans laid very low. More importantly, we can make spaces that do more than simply what they must : we can design and make them to do what they should.
Case studies in catastrophic failure : The Jones tract breach (left) cost $90 Million.
The failures of New Orleans levees cost over $100 Billion and claimed over a thousand lives in New Oerleans alone.
We can go "green" and embrace systems that naturally replenish, repair, rebuild and maintain themselves. Building natural shoreforms and restoring marsh plains is the tip of the ice burg and low-hanging fruit. To address this challenge we must go further, and craft a progressive paradigm of resource managemnt and land stewardship.
Zandmotor (Sand Engine) : The Dutch dumped 120 million cubic yards of sand in one place. Wind, waves, the tide and longshore currents will redistribute this sand to renourish the entire coast--and delay the disturbances on the subtidal ecosystems from which the sand was drawn--to buffer their inland communities from inundation. They also created two killer pointbreaks.
We can build beaches, and any number of other attractive kinds of places for people, using our local resources to rebuild and expand habitat while establishing human spaces that pay off -- economically, educationally, and culturally -- for future generations and as an example for myriad societies around the globe to learn from and follow.
A rich palette : These sediment samples were gatherd from a single, small local beach.
Our range of landform-building potential is wide.
This Must Be the Place. : None of these ideas mean anything if we don't deliver real benefits for the real people of the Bay : LEAP + LEARN are committed to this concept : These are places for people ! Hosting 8 of the 20 most diverse cities in America, The SF Bay Area is also a hotbed of progressive American politics, and home to the world's epicenter of innovation -- Silicon Valley. How can these assets help it address a global challenge with regional solutions?
Heroines : These women didn't decide to "Save The Bay" so they could one day swim in the Bay or eat its fish. Those were unthnkable activities to undertake in their lifetimes (and still hazardous in ours). They did it for their grandchildren's grandchildren.
Who Are We ? Two generations of regulators petrified by liability and risk assessments, competing mandates, competition for scant funding resources and the inadequate legislation that has hamstrung them have failed to make major progress on continuing and revitalizing the legacy of a progressive Bay Area culture in light of sea level rise.
The posture and perspective of inaction and avoidance isn't working us, and will doom our grandchildren if allowed to perpetuate. The time has come to remember our roots, to rediscover and remake the bay in a substantial way and to do away with the culture of avoidance and infighting that has too-long characterized the politics of the Bay Area.
We can find a way to embrace new models of social and environmental justice. But the people of the Bay Area--everyday citizens, taxpayers and voters--must find their voice in calling for a brighter future for the region and successive generations. The time is now, the place is here and the challenge is at hand. It is time for us to imagine a better way, and to come together and commit to taking the LEAP forward that can be our legacy.
The Live Edge is a Win-Win : Cultures living in harmomy with and in proximity to adjacent and integrated environmental processses and ecologies are more productive, positive and successful. LEAP imagines a Bayshore that spawns and
fosters local economies and opportunities while delivering real functional benefits to the people of the Bay.
Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Catherine Kerr.
The water in these photographs is the Bay.
Live Edge Adaptation Project
Envisioning a Living Infrastructure for Future Shorelines
Anatomy of a Barrier Island
Imagining the underutilized Emeryville Crescent Embayment, which is surrounded by multiple critical infrastructures.
By linking the Horizontal Levee to the edge of the embayment, utilizing the Mandela Parkway's wastewater to 'feed' the ecotone slope and shallowing the embayment to create a massive landform protection complex rich in cultural and ecosystem services.
The San Francisco Bay is a ~1,000 sq. mile estuary composed of several distinct embayments, linked by narrow straits to the world's only extensive inland delta. Once an arcadian vision of bounty to the Native Peoples who made 'The Bay' their home, the region now faces unprecedented challenges to its built and natural environments. Embodied in this challenge is a major opportunity for The Bay's modern society to transform itself into a nexus of innovation -- in its cultural and societal values, and the ecologies that surround them and make The Bay a place of unrivaled beauty, dynamism and diversity.