2018 National Planning Conference

Flooding on Dock of the Bay

Monday, April 15, 2019 from 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. PDT

CM | 1.25

Activity Type: Educational Sessions

Activity ID: NPC198057

Location: 2001

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  • Explore the potential threats of sea level rise to Bay Area historic sites.
  • Learn about the tradeoffs of adaptation strategies on historic resources (resiliency versus integrity).
  • Learn about financing mechanisms for historic rehabilitation and adaptation.


How can historic waterfront districts adapt to changing climactic conditions? This session explores the intersection between Bay Area cultural resources and sea level rise. In 2016 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed San Francisco’s Embarcadero as one of America’s 11 most endangered historic places. With a century-old seawall threatened by earthquakes and sea level rise, experts are evaluating adaptation alternatives for San Francisco’s iconic 3-mile waterfront. This interdisciplinary panel includes two planners, an engineer, an architectural historian, and a financing program manager to discuss transferable tools including sea level rise models, cultural resource vulnerability assessments, public engagement activities, and funding strategies. An overview of Bay Area vulnerabilities including the cultural history of bayfill development contextualizes current problems of flooding and subsidence. Adaptation options for historic resources such as piers, docks and bulkheads exposed to estuarine conditions are discussed to showcase challenges of increasing resiliency while maintaining integrity and character. Finally, as the Embarcadero is the Bay Area poster child for sea level rise and cultural heritage, proposed engineering alternatives for the district are outlined, along with financing mechanisms.

Session Speakers

Alex R. Westhoff, AICP
San Francisco, CA

Lindy L. Lowe
Port of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

James Mallery
WRNS Studio
San Francisco

Brad Benson
Port of San Francisco
San Francisco