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The Estuary Commons

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Oakland, CA, USA


2017 – 2018

Principal Investigators (CCA):
Janette Kim and Neeraj Bhatia

Commissioning Agency:
Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge. The All Bay Collective: AECOM, CMG Landscape Architecture, CCA Urban Works Agency, and UC Berkeley, with David Baker Architects, Silvestrum, Skeo, and Moll de Monchaux.

Research/Design Assistants:
Liz Lessig and Cesar Lopez (Resilience Fellows), Namhi Kwun and Carlos Serrano.

Partnering community-based organizations:
East Oakland Collective, Oakland Climate Action Coalition, Scraper Bike Team, Merritt College Brower Dellums Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies, Planting Justice, HOPE Collaborative, East Oakland Building Health Communities, and Repaired Nations.

Partnering government organizations:
Oakland Planning, the City of Alameda, BART, the Port of Oakland, East Bay Regional Park District, and EBMUD.

Resilient by Design (RBD) was a year-long collaborative design challenge that selected 10 international design teams to work with local residents and public officials and create designs that support the Bay Area’s resilience to climate change.

Our team, the All Bay Collective (ABC), asked how designing for resilience might require us to think differently about the way resources and places are shared. Many coastal cities must address the urgency of social inequality alongside long-term environmental risks. This need is especially acute in the San Leandro Bay—known locally as the Oakland Estuary. Our work with stakeholders in East Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro revealed how discriminatory planning practices have led to disinvestment, making it harder for residents to access jobs, housing, transportation, and open space. The combined threat of sea level rise and groundwater flooding threatens to compound these inequities.

Our proposal for The Estuary Commons begins by addressing the everyday challenges facing residents. By putting local priorities at the center of the planning process, we were then able to design adaptation solutions that will protect regional infrastructure and produce social, economic, and environmental co-benefits. Instead of delivering a singular master plan, we focused on building alliances, design strategies, and decision-making tools that will long outlive the RBD and help stakeholders collectively manage Oakland Estuary for the benefit of all. Together, these actions will catalyze equitable economic development, adapt shorelines and creeks into protective open spaces, stitch communities to local and regional opportunities through new transportation connections, and help all residents prosper in harmony with rising water levels.

This project was recognized by the RBD Jury for “finding a way to bring culture, institutions, and the environment forward by design. Their metaphor of the Commons, which became a tangible vision, could be the platform needed to move this project forward and is an opportunity to bring everyone in.” Mayor Libby Schaaf praised The Estuary Commons’ vision for a “vibrant, equitable economy,” and wrote “I will make good use of the adopted toolkit!”