Resilient by Design launched in May 2017 with an open call to engineers, architects, designers, artists, dreamers, community members and students to come together and create teams of experts willing to tackle the challenge of building resilience to climate change. Of the 51 teams entered, 9 of the selected local and global Design Teams completed the Bay Area Challenge. 

Collaborative Research Phase

(Fall of 2017) the teams explored the Bay Area, looking closely at places nominated by the community as especially vulnerable to the threats of sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. This also included studying the intricacies of the Bay Area, from the effects of gentrification and regional transportation challenges, to the unique cultural histories of local communities. 

Collaborative Design Phase

In January 2018, after each team presented 3-5 design opportunities, the RbD Research Advisory Committee assigned teams to specific locations. Over the next four months, the Design Teams developed their solutions for tackling sea level rise and creating resiliency, while working closely with community partners to ensure the concepts actually match community needs. This included collaborating with Y-PLAN, a youth engagement group that brings real life civic planning into the classroom, to draw student voices and youth perspectives into the design work.

Challenge Summit 

Finally in May 2018, the Teams each revealed their innovative designs to an esteemed Jury who deliberated and made a case for how each design makes an important contribution, as part of a constellation of approaches.Each design concept was shared as part of a larger package of how communities can approach resiliency. The key considerations for assessing the strengths of the designs included:

  • emphasis on multi-stakeholder, multi-benefit problem-solving strategies 
  • demonstration of feasibility from a technological and engineering perspective 
  • recognition of the need for a regional strategy
  • focus on equitable and measurable community engagement
  • ability to integrate ideas into existing sea level rise action plans. We’ve come a long way since the initial “Resilient by Design: Bay Area Challenge", which concluded in 2018.

Many thanks to all the generous funders who supported this innovative design challenge: The Rockefeller Foundation, Bay Area Regional Collaborative, seedfund, Santa Clara Valley Water District, City and County of San Francisco, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Marin Community Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, and Coastal Conservancy.


The work is not done. The nine design proposals serve as a catalyst for the community work moving forward and set the Bay Area on a path to a more resilient future. Many are committed to turning these ideas—invested in and created by communities—into real-world models and solutions for other cities to implement. Several of the Proposals have advanced from concepts to engineered designs with local partners. 


RbD Executive Board

Allison Brooks, Bay Area Regional Collaborative

Tom Butt, City of Richmond

Amy Chester, Rebuild by Design

Arian Covert, Bay Area Council

Amy Hutzel, State Coastal Conservancy

Kiran Jain, Neighborly

Ashwini Kantak, City of San Jose

Dwayne Marsh, Government Alliance on Race & Equity

John Rahaim, City & County of San Francisco

Laura Tam, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association

Francesca Vietor, The San Francisco Foundation


RbD Staff

Amanda Brown-Stevens

Hanah Goldov

Emma Greenbaum

Tira Okamoto

Zoe Siegel

Mirisa Villarreal


RbD Jurors

Lauren Alexander Augustine, National Academy of Sciences

Sarah Icioka, Desire Lines

Roberto Moris, Research Centre for an Integrated Risk Management

Liz Ogbu, Studio O

Henk Ovink, International Water Affairs, Netherlands

Shelley Poticha, Natural Resources Defense Council

Denise Reed, The Water institute of the Gulf

Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific

Cynthia Smith, Smithsonian Design Museum

Helle Soholt, Gehl Architects

David Waggonner, Waggonner and Ball Architects


Research Advisory Committee

Ratna Amin,m SPUR

Kit Batten, PG&E

Josh Bradt, San Francisco Estuary Partnership

Dana Brechwald, ABAG

Ellie Cohen, Point Blue Conservation Science

Tian Feng, BART

John Gibbs, WRT

Lettitia Grenier, San Francisco Estuary  Institute

Nahal Ghoghaie, Resilient Communities Initiative

Jesus Hernandez, Neighborhood Support Project-JCH Research

Jeffrey Koseff, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

David Lewis, Save the Bay

Roger Lin, Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment

Lindy lowe, Port of San Francisco

Bruce Riodan, Climate Readiness Institute

Rupal Sangvi, HealthxDesign

Parin Shah, Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Cathy Simon, Perkins + Will

Mark Stacy, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley

Rick Thomasser, Bay Area Flood Protection Agencies Association

Elizabeth Wamper, Great Communities Collaborative

Corinne Winter, Winter Consulting


Science Advisory Team (from San Francisco Estuary Institute)

Robin Grossinger

Scott Dusterhoff

Katie McKnight

Jeremy Lowe

Erica Spotswood

Lettitia Grenier

Julie Beagle

April Robinson

Finance Advisory Team

Brian Benn, Environmental Risk & Financial Solutions

Michael Paparian, Environmental Finance Consultant

Shalini Vajjhala, re:focus partners

Kathy Schaefer, UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center

Robert Spencer, Urban Economics

Mark Northcross, NHA Advisors


A Generous Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation

The Resilient by Design|Bay Area Challenge was funded through a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Building off of their investments in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco through the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, Rockefeller was enticed by the Bay Area’s overwhelming passage of Measure AA – a region-wide parcel tax aimed at funding shoreline projects that will protect and restore the Bay - a sign that Bay Area residents are ready to make the investments necessary to adapt to an uncertain future.

Local Public, Private and Philanthropic Funding Partners

Other critical funding and support has come from BARC, the City of San Francisco, the State Coastal Conservancy, the Santa Clara County Water Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Marin Community Foundation, the San Francisco Community Foundation, the Seed Fund, Autodesk, Facebook and PG&E.