About The Bay Area Challenge

After the success of the Hurricane Sandy competition, the city of San Francisco reached out to replicate the challenge. Instead of responding to a disaster, their challenge was to plan long-term for sea level rise. The premise of the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge (RbD) was both simple and audacious. As flood risks increase due to intensified severe storms and sea level rise, organizers asked the question - can the Bay Area come together to shift its course and build a more resilient region before a big disaster hits, and can we address other regional challenges along the way?

Starting in 2015, a group of forward-thinking regional leaders began to develop a plan for a proactive regional design challenge modeled after Rebuild’s Hurricane Sandy Competition. The resilience plans developed in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities effort identified a need for greater regional collaboration to address climate adaptation  - despite the looming threat of climate change, there was no comprehensive regional plan to deal with the sea level in the Bay Area. The unique hydrology of the Bay warranted the type of collaboration the design challenge could facilitate, as shoreline protections in one area of the Bay could increase sea levels or wave action in another. Collaboration on this scale could help illuminate the need for each county to consider the impacts of their decisions on the other communities that share the shoreline. With hundreds of jurisdictions and countless communities sharing the shoreline, there was ample need to catalyze and inspire collaboration.

Launched in 2017, the Bay Area Challenge inspired, activated, and informed individuals and institutions throughout the region to take seriously the threat of climate change. The regional momentum generated will continue on as communities work together to build resilience, implement Resilient by Design projects and address sea level rise and climate change impacts around San Francisco Bay. However, we know that to take on such an enormous challenge the work has only begun.

Bay Area Challenge Projects

Bay Area Challenge Resources

The Jury and Advisory Groups

Final Assessment

Given the ambitious and experimental structure of the Bay Area Challenge, the Executive Committee decided to conduct an assessment of the process and outcomes, capturing the impacts and lessons learned with a focus on understanding the overall progress the region has made toward that goal. Another purpose of this assessment is to inform the next phase of implementation. The nonprofit Consensus Building Institute conducted 29 interviews and informal conversations with agency, nonprofit, community, and design team representatives to assess the Challenge’s impact, lessons learned, and potential next steps toward a resilient Bay Area. Interview findings are captured here.




The Rockefeller Foundation, Bay Area Regional Collaborative, Coastal Conservancy, Marin Community Foundation, MT, Seedfund, Resource Legacy Fund, City and County of San Francisco, The San Francisco Foundation, Santa Clara Valley Water District