Sea Level Rise and the SF Bay

in: AIACC / 2 Comments

Share this article:

Silicon Valley . . . used to be called the Valley of Heart’s Delight. It was covered with fruit orchards, which were irrigated with well water. As the water was withdrawn, the ground levels sank. The result . . . is that many geeks may join a lot of suburban homeowners in being underwater.” So notes Will Travis, Senior Advisor for the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee in a recent presentation to the Deep Green Design Alliance (DGDA), “The Look of Climate Adaptation.” The DGDA blog offers an account of his presentation, along with his script and visuals.

Will Travis

According to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, “In the San Francisco Bay Area, the estimated height of rising tides level from warming oceans is projected to rise 1.4 meters (55 inches) over the next 100 years, and as the water continues to rise, this global issue becomes a local issue with site-specific consequences.” While the particulars of such estimates vary, Travis concludes that, “Whatever future sea level you plan for, you will be wrong, but… if you choose a level that’s too high, all you have to do is wait, and you’ll eventually be right.”


Deep Green Design Alliance is a multi-disciplinary collaborative founded by Byron Kuth, FAIA. Its mission is “to identify local, environmental and civic challenges and—through visionary design and policy making—to provide solutions that integrate ecology, technology, economy and culture for the well being of our global future.” In addition to Kuth, the principal members of the alliance are Elizabeth Ranieri, FAIA, landscape architect Tom Leader, and architect and urban designer Rodolphe El-Khoury. Among its advisors are global futurist Dr. James Canton; Mark Stacey, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley; Will Travis, Senior Advisor for the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee; Brad McCrea, Director of the Regulatory Program at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC); and Tarek I. Zohdi, Chair of the Computational Science & Engineering Program at UC Berkeley.


Tim Culvahouse, FAIA

Tim Culvahouse, FAIA, is Editor-in-Chief of the AIA California Council and an architect specializing in the public communication of design ideas through his firm, Culvahouse Consulting.

More Posts

Share this article:

  1. avatar
    Darrell C

    The competition was won by SOM a few years ago and all they had was a block colored red at the Golden Gate. So, if anyone can still have commerce from shipping through a block at the Gate then its all good. But otherwise I noticed a new project designed for the City out there on a Pier and first thing I thought of was this. I sail and of course the boat loves high tide, but this is a very noticeable change, and every day when I ride the bike home along the shore I can see high tide getting higher and higher. I think it has gone up about 5 or 6 inches in the last 10 years and a few businesses by Emery Cove built up some rocks along the shore and added some soil when it flooded in under the East Ocean Restuarant on Powell Street. Its a serious matter and I presented a drawing which mirrored Design with Nature by Ian McHarg, old book nobody really bothered to read, I guess. My idea was also to start converting salt water to fresh water and store it but we’re unable to really quantify the total amount in gallons that would be needed to be taken out of the Ocean to offset the maximum difference when it really expands from temperature in 50 or 100 years, and unfortunately the Chevron Plant in Richmond where I live now, near 54′ ASL, (?) not verified} has no intentions of letting up and they are the biggest polluter in the whole state. That plant needs to be shut down RIGHT NOW. They were the one’s who had an explosion earlier this year. It is time for them to go. Otherwise, the open Flares (total of 1200 worldwide [evidently] have caused raw black soot to fall ‘all over the place’ and on the Ice Caps, so instead of white color reflecting the heat, the black sooty ice is extra warmed. Its a bit late but if they were scraped off, and the flares were ‘All Put Out’ Immediately in a world wide panic stop, and all automobiles were shut off, and all the compressed air in the tires was also “Let Out” (I know this sounds nuts) but then we would have the atmosphere and granted, no Ozone to speak of — it’s gone– but we would kind of stop where we are. I wish —I wish— I wish. Knowing this, having gathered this information, believing some or all of it, I’m not a big Al Gore type of guy, but its fairly obvious to me we are screwed if we just keep ADDING to the problem. Stupid Humanity. Well, they have made themselves nearly extinct before, so it looks to me, as a lay person, you know, that its going to happen faster than we thought. I know some think its natural and there’s nothing man can do to stop it. I don’t think that at all. I’m just frustrated. If I was the President of the World, I would Order all of this done. As an emergency. Without hesitation. This is what corporations have done to the world, and consumers egged on by advertising rampant feeding it all the more and more and more. Its very sick. Don’t Use Gas. Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t buy a new car. Just don’t. We have done that. Its toast. Thats my educated opinion.

  2. avatar
    John Englander

    While the Bay area has major issues, I can tell you that your awareness and discussion are way ahead of almost all other key coastal areas in the US. As I think Will Travis has mentioned my new book, “High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis” points to the planning work there as an example.
    In addition, I pose a futuristic scenario where an unprecedented engineering exercise could be looked at as a way to segregate the Bay from the ocean later this century as Sea level rises several feet, eventually on it’t way MUCH higher in the coming centuries. While it seems fantastical the size and value of the real estate on the Bay, combined with the relatively narrow opening at the Golden Gate brings it within the realm of possibility. No doubt this will be considered once the real scale of rising sea level over the coming centuries is understood.

2 Responses to Sea Level Rise and the SF Bay


Leave a Reply

Join the discussion!