By Isaac Pearlman

There’s no easy way to describe what makes the San Leandro Bay region of the East Bay so unique. Ask a design specialist, like Claire Bonham-Carter of Resilient By Design’s All Bay Collective, and she’ll point to “massive infrastructure–the Oakland airport, the BART station, two major roadways…” On the other hand, community activist Colin Miller of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition says “It’s the people that really makes it special.” Miller and the other All Bay Collective community advocates pushed the team hard from the start to consider equity and social justice in all aspects of the project. The final result, a concept called “the Estuary Commons,” proposes to build tidal cities—pre-assembled housing units floating on excavated lagoons—but a huge part of the process was understanding how the design concepts would actually work amidst the realities that East Oakland faces. “East Oakland is the last frontier of gentrification in Oakland,” says Miller. “I think [the team] understood there was a housing crisis, but didn’t fully grasp the importance of acknowledging the potential for displacement.” Bonham-Carter remains optimistic that community interests will remain in the forefront: “We’re committed to continuing to work with the community.”

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San Leandro Bay: Three Cities Confront Common Estuary

By Isaac Pearlman

There’s no easy way to describe what makes the San Leandro Bay region of the East Bay so unique. Ask a design specialist, like Claire Bonham-Carter of Resilient By Design’s All Bay Collective, and she’ll point to “massive infrastructure–the Oakland airport, the BART station, two major roadways…” On the other hand, community activist Colin Miller of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition says “It’s the people that really makes it special.” Miller and the other All Bay Collective community advocates pushed the team hard from the start to consider equity and social justice in all aspects of the project. The final result, a concept called “the Estuary Commons,” proposes to build tidal cities—pre-assembled housing units floating on excavated lagoons—but a huge part of the process was understanding how the design concepts would actually work amidst the realities that East Oakland faces. “East Oakland is the last frontier of gentrification in Oakland,” says Miller. “I think [the team] understood there was a housing crisis, but didn’t fully grasp the importance of acknowledging the potential for displacement.” Bonham-Carter remains optimistic that community interests will remain in the forefront: “We’re committed to continuing to work with the community.”

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Resilent by Design Bay Area Challenge

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge (2017-2018) invited nine teams to design innovative shoreline adaptations to rising sea levels at nine sites around the San Francisco Estuary. The visions provided by this pre-disaster challenge — modeled on the post-disaster Rebuild by Design challenge in New York that followed superstorm Sandy — are powerful, silo-crossing conversation starters for a region now working to prepare low-lying communities, creeks, habitats, and infrastructure for a bigger Bay.
About the author

Isaac Pearlman covers sea level rise, flooding, and other topics for ESTUARY. A Bay Area native, Isaac's writing is informed by his master's degree in environmental science, as well as many adventures from living and working in South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. His stories and essays have been featured in Earth Island Journal, the Progressive Populist, and Ecosystems among other outlets. https://isaacpearlman.wordpress.com

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