Resilient By Design

Resilient South City

Hassell+ (Hassell, Deltares, Goudappel, Lotus Water, Civic Edge, Idyllist, Hatch, Page & Turnbull, Brown & Caldwell)

Location: South San Francisco, CA

Before it became known as the Bay Area’s ‘industrial city’, South San Francisco was the kind of place where people could walk the length of the one creek to swim in the bay. A proposal by the Hassell+ collective aims to make that possible again.

Our scheme for South San Francisco is part of the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge – a program combining the creativity, brainpower and experience of residents, public officials and local, national and international experts. Their brief? To come up with inventive, community-based solutions to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes.

Through community engagement, research and an inclusive design process, our international collective mapped out ways to make the city stronger and reverse the area’s real and symbolic separation from the water – by restoring public access to it and establishing more parks and open spaces.

Together, these ideas make it easier to reach and enjoy the creek and bay, reduce the impacts of flooding, build resilience to sea level rise and return native flora and fauna to the area.

Just as importantly, they make a healthy, active life near the water easier to imagine – and achieve.

Restoring the Watershed

  • A wider, greener creek manages flooding and creates great conditions for a sequence of new parks.
  • A new bridge serves as a walking and cycling gateway to all transport and a bold statement about community priorities, providing access across the 101 freeway.
  • An ‘eco waterpark’ adjacent to the revamped water plant becomes a teaching tool and natural shoreline swimming pool.
  • A native plant nursery helps control flooding and treats highway runoff to improve the quality of water flowing into the creek and bay.
  • A ‘living levee’ forms a wetland for restoring habitat and holding storm water in extreme tides.
  • Schools located on higher ground become hubs for water treatment and recreation.

Community Engagement

The old Bank of South San Francisco on Grand Avenue – a heritage building vacant for decades – was transformed into a community meeting place, design hub, education centre and display space.

The ‘Resilient South City’ storefront became the central spot to learn about the project, chat with the design team, hear from community partners (San Bruno Mountain Watch, Youth Leadership Institute and the South San Francisco Historical Society) and talk to city and county officials.

Visitors were invited to hear local experts talk about native plants, social history and equitable urban design, and view the historical society’s photographs of the area. A fun, interactive board game gave locals hypothetical power over planning decisions to improve and protect their city.

Social media allowed our team to reach an audience beyond the storefront.